Saturday, April 12, 2008

Dark Days: Rutabaga Souffle

Some time ago I promised Jennifer the Baklava Queen that I would share my recipe for rutabaga souffle. Well, here it is, Jennifer.

This also marks the end of the Dark Days Eat Local Challenge. This was a great idea of Laura's at the Urban Hennery blog, encouraging bloggers to eat locally during the winter when cooks would not normally be looking for local ingredients. Well, we did, and we found more than you might think and much of it right here in our own kitchen garden in the District of Columbia, one mile from the White House. My only regret is that this wonderful rutabaga dish missed the cutoff. Maybe next year....

I've been madly trying to harvest all my overwintered rutabaga before they go to seed and become inedible. Some of you apparently have never tried rutabaga before, or have been unable to find any worthwhile recipes for rutabaga. Here's a start.

Rutabaga is a close cousin to the turnip. Turnips are fairly bland and have an almost bitter flavor. (They are much better fresh out of the ground. Try growing your own.) Rutabagas have a fruitier flavor with more depth. They taste almost like their color--a pale, yellowish orange.

Transforming rutabaga into a souffle is a snap. You can turn almost anything into a souffle, which is basically whipped egg whites folded into a flour-based sauced flavored with fruits or vegetables. And if you're a lazy cook like me and don't like a lot of fuss and bother at meal time, you can make your souffle ahead of time. Either refrigerate or freeze the souffle before baking it. When the time comes, bring it back to room temperature, then put it in the oven. The eggs will hold their puffiness just fine.

I learned about this rutabaga and cheddar souffle from a February 1991 issue of Gourmet magazine. I lost my copy of the magazine, but the basic outlines of the recipe stayed with me. Recently, a friend provided me with a photo-copy of the original magazine version and I realized I had been missing some critical details that really infuse the souffle with flavor, such as using the rutabaga cooking liquid instead of plain milk in the base sauce. Just remember that souffles are not as hard as they look, although you will get a few utensils dirty.

The original recipe calls for fitting a collar made of tin foil around the souffle dish. I don't use the collar and I haven't experienced a problem, but that may hinge on the size of your souffle dish. Not using the collar gives the souffle a more rustic look, as opposed to a perfect restaurant version. It is important to butter the inside of the souffle dish well and dust it with bread crumbs so that the souffle can rise.

The recipe:

1 1/2-quart souffle dish buttered and dusted with bread crumbs

1 pound rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

6 large eggs, separated

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

6 ounces grated sharp Cheddar cheese (preferably white cheddar cheese)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Fit the souffle dish with a doubled band of tin foil six inches wide so that it extends about 3 inches over the top of the dish. Butter the foil and dust with bread crumbs.

Cook the rutabaga in a large saucepan of salted water until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain the rutabaga through a sieve over a bowl, reserving the cooking liquid. Set rutabaga aside.

In a saucepan, melt butter and add flour. Cook the roux, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups of the reserved cooking liquid, whisking continuously. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. In a food processor, blend the roux mixture with the cooked rutabaga until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and whisk in the egg yolks, one yolk at a time.

In another large bowl, whisk the egg whites with salt and cream of tartar until they just hold stiff peaks. Stir one-fourth of the egg whites into the rutabaga mixture, then gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Pour the mixture into the souffle dish, place in oven on a baking sheet and cook for 50 minutes, or until souffle is puffed and golden.

Can you think of any more elegant way of putting a stake through the heart of Old Man Winter?


Joanna said...

I've really been enjoying your love letters to rutabaga - but I haven't the faintest idea what it is, because we clearly call it something else on this side of the Atlantic ;)

Could you show us a photo of the plant and/or the uncooked veg? the souffle looks good, and I love turnips ...


Ed Bruske said...

Brassica napus, Joanna. There was a picture of the rutabagas on Friday shortly after they came out of the garden. In the store, they're usually rounder and without the hairy roots. I think you call them Swedes in England, or Swedish turnips.

The Baklava Queen said...

Thanks, Ed! Now I need to track down some rutabagas to give this a go!

jasmine said...

Do you think this would be good with turnips (even ones that have been overwintering in my crisper drawer?) I have been trying to use up all my stored veggies before spring veggies start appearing in force and seem to be over run with turnips and don't have many recipes

Ed Bruske said...

Jennifer, I am still seeing plenty of rutabagas in the Whole Foods. I think they store pretty well.

Jasmine, turnips are a bit thinner in the flavor department. But give it a try. Maybe boost the cheddar cheese a little.

Me said...

Important step missing from your recipe is when to add the cheese. I consulted another online recipe and put it in after the egg yolks. This was my first ever souffle - thanks for sharing the recipe!