- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Asparagus shines in this golden entree that is so perfect for spring — a souffle. When you serve a souffle, your guests will be impressed and feel honored. Don’t be intimidated by the mystique surrounding this ethereal dish. It’s really quite simple.

One key lies in beating the room-temperature egg whites to just the right consistency — until soft peaks form and just a tiny amount of liquid is left in the bottom of the bowl.

Another key is to fold the beaten whites into the thicker, cooked mixture with a deft hand, gently but firmly.

Oh, and there’s a third key: Make sure your guests are ready when the souffle emerges from the oven so it can be admired by all.

You will need a bit of equipment for this: a standard 2-quart souffle dish, two large bowls, a whisk, a rubber spatula, a wooden spoon and an electric hand-held mixer.

The perfect accompaniments to dilled asparagus souffle? Hash browns, a bowlful of strawberries, and a crisp white wine. That’s all.

Dilled asparagus souffle

6 large eggs

1 pounds asparagus

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

cup finely minced onion

teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon dry mustard

teaspoon dried tarragon

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

4 tablespoons flour

1 cups warm milk

3 tablespoons minced fresh dill

cup (packed measure) grated medium-sharp cheddar

Separate the eggs, placing yolks in a small bowl and whites in a very large one. Cover each bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set aside to bring to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly spray the insides of a 2-quart souffle dish with nonstick spray. Set a large saucepan of lightly salted water over high heat and bring it to a boil. Have a colander ready in the sink.

Break off or peel the bottom inch or so of each asparagus, then cut the spears into -inch diagonal pieces. When the water in the saucepan boils, drop in the asparagus for about 10 seconds, then drain in the colander. Rinse with very cold water and drain again.

Dry the asparagus with paper towels and set aside.

Melt butter in a medium-size saucepan. Add the onion, salt, mustard, tarragon and pepper. Stir and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent.

Turn heat to low, and stir constantly as you sprinkle in the flour. The mixture will become quite thick, but keep cooking and stirring for another minute or two.

Drizzle in the warmed milk, whisking constantly. Cook and stir over medium heat for 5 minutes or until you have a thick, smooth sauce. Transfer to a large bowl.

Beat yolks with a fork until smooth and runny, then drizzle them into the hot sauce as you beat the mix with a wooden spoon. Stir in the asparagus, dill and cheese.

Beat egg whites with an electric hand-held mixer at high speed until they form soft peaks.

Slice the beaten whites onto the first mixture, and fold the two together using a rubber spatula, scooping in a circular motion from the bottom of the bowl. The mixture does not need to become uniform.

Transfer to prepared pan, and bake undisturbed in the center of the preheated 375-degree oven for 40 minutes or until solid in the center when shaken gently.

Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.


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