Written and photographed by Melissa Roberts
September is a month with an identity crisis. What can we depend on weather wise? Each day is a new surprise. A crisp snap of autumn one moment, the next, temps climb into the 90s. And when a holiday comes around (Sukkot, so soon?), how do we plan accordingly? Luckily, mid September continues to bring late summer’s harvest of tomatoes, corn, and fresh herbs. A menu to equal the weather’s dual nature is just the thing. Combine ingredients that carry a whiff of summer in a dish that is warming and comforting. This corn and basil souffle is just the ticket. Its flavors are fresh and summery, with a light and delicate texture that masks a substantial dish.
Don’t be intimidated by a souffle. Yes, they can be a fickle thing, but this one has a milk-flour base that gives it structure, making it almost foolproof. Almost. Remember to have ingredients at room temperature as noted, which allow efficient aeration and a better rise. And no sneaky peaks. Leave that oven door alone!
Equipment: a 1 ½ quart (6 cup) capacity souffle baking dish
- 4 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, divided plus more for greasing dish
- 3 ears corn, shucked
- 3 scallions, thinly sliced (about ½ cup)
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1 cup whole milk, warmed through (in a saucepan or microwave)
- 4 large egg yolks, at room temperature 30 minutes
- 1 cup coarsely grated extra sharp cheddar, preferably white
- Pinch cayenne (mingy or generous, as you like)
- 5 large egg whites, at room temperature 30 minutes
- Preheat oven to 400F with rack in middle.
- Generously grease dish with some butter.
- Shave kernels from corn with a large knife. Remove any silk.
- Melt 1 ½ tablespoons butter in a 10 to 12 inch heavy skillet over medium high heat until foam subsides.
- Add scallion and cook until just wilted, about 2 minutes.
- Add corn, ¼ teaspoon each kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and saute 2 minutes more.
- Remove from heat and add basil.
- In a 2 to 3 quart saucepan, melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Once foam subsides add flour and cook, whisking constantly, 2 minutes (this is enough time to remove a floury taste from finished dish).
- Slowly add milk, whisking, then continue to cook until mixture is thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add yolks, one at a time, until combined.
- Whisk in cheese, cayenne, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. It’s okay if mixture isn’t completely smooth.
- Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Cool to room temperature. **At this point, the base can be made, left covered at room temperature, for 2 hours.
- Using a standing mixer, beat egg whites with a pinch of salt on medium high speed until firm peaks form.
- Fold 1/3 of whites into cheese base to lighten. Then fold in remaining whites (thoroughly, so no white streaks are present). Fold in corn mixture until just combined.
- Place baking dish on a 4 sided baking pan.
- Transfer souffle mixture to dish and place in oven. Bake until puffed and browned in spots (it should still jiggle slightly when moved), 30 to 35 minutes.
- Remove from heat and let stand at least 5 minutes before serving.
Recipe by Melissa Roberts.