Flavourful but light enough for a summer day.
1 cup whole milk or half-and-half
4 egg yolks
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tbsp thinly sliced fresh chives
1/2 cup Ricotta cheese
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
6 fat asparagus spears, blanched
4 egg whites
2 tsp finely chopped basil
2 tsp finely chopped chives
2 tsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Step 1: Butter a 10" baking dish and set it aside.
To Make The Béchamel:
Step 1: Whisk together the milk and egg yolks and set aside. Add the butter to a medium saucepan or skillet (don't use a nonstick pan).
Step 2: When it's sizzling, add the flour and whisk constantly over medium heat until the mixture shows just a little colour. Don't let it turn brown. Keep whisking while you slowly pour in the milk-egg mixture. It's fine if the butter and flour seize up when you add the liquid. Just keep whisking.
Step 3: Add the chives and, while whisking, let the mixture cook over medium heat until it thickens slightly, about 1 minute. When the mixture has a velvety texture, stir in the ricotta, salt and pepper. Set the mixture in the pan aside to cool to room temperature (so the eggs won't curdle when you add the warm, blanched asparagus).
To Make The Soufflé:
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Step 2: Cut the blanched asparagus stalks into thin rounds all the way up to and including the tip of each spear. Set aside.
Step 3: With an electric mixer on medium-high speed or with a whisk, whip the egg whites until they hold a gentle peak. Don't overbeat or you'll break the proteins and the whites won't expand as much during cooking. Gently fold the basil and chives into the beaten whites.
Step 4: Touch the béchamel to be sure it's at room temperature. Stir the asparagus into the cooled béchamel. Gently fold in about half of the egg whites. Very delicately fold in the last of the egg whites and pour the mixture into the buttered pan.
Step 5: Cook the soufflé for 7 minutes and then decrease the heat to 400°F. Cook until the soufflé is lightly browned on top and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 10 - 12 minutes more.
Step 6: Sprinkle the parsley over the top and serve right away.
Many people like to dunk their asparagus in ice water as soon as it comes from the pot. We prefer to blanch the stalks until they're not quite as tender as you'd like them to be. Taste while you blanch, and watch the vegetable's colour: when it turns bright green, take a stalk from the pot and taste. If it's almost tender with just a hint of crispness, it's ready. As soon as you take the stalks from the water, dry them quickly with a paper towel or clean kitchen towel and then dress them with extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. The asparagus absorbs the seasonings better if you do this while the stalks are still warm. Very fat asparagus can sometimes have a woody stem. Use a vegetable peeler to lightly peel off the skin just from the point where the stalks seem woody.
Corn Variation: If you can find both good sweet corn and tender asparagus at the same time, this soufflé is even better if you add about 1 cup corn kernels when you add the asparagus. Don't bother measuring. Just cut all the kernels off one large ear of perfect corn. You don't need to cook the ear or the kernels beforehand. The raw kernels will cook perfectly while the soufflé bakes.
See more recipes from Cowgirl Creamery Cooks.
Reprinted with permission from Cowgirl Creamery Cooks (2013, Raincoast Books).