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Recipe: Rose Elliot's Leek Souffle

This recipe is from Rose Elliot's "New Complete Vegetarian," featured in today's Buffalo News. Like many of her recipes, Elliot's souffle instructions have made a touchy dish as foolproof and unpretentious as possible. 

Rose Elliot's Leek Souffle

The chunky pieces of leek in this souffle give it a delicate flavor and interesting texture. Try to find really thin leeks if you can, then they can be sliced into nice neat pieces that will stay firm when they're cooked. I think this souffle is best served with just one well-cooked vegetable such as buttered baby carrots, sprouts or peas.

SERVES 4

3-4 thin leeks (weighing 12 ounces (350 g) before you trim them)

3 tbsp (40 g) butter

3 tbsp (40 g) flour

1 1/4 cups (275 ml) milk

4 egg yolks

salt and freshly ground black pepper

a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

6 egg whites


Prepare a 6 cups (1.7 liter) souffle dish by greasing generously.
 
Trim and clean the leeks and cut into 1 in (2.5cm) lengths. Cook in 1/2 in (1 cm) boiling water until they're just tender (about 7-10 minutes). Drain and set aside.

Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan and put in the flour; cook for a few seconds then add the milk. Stir the mixture over a high heat until it first goes lumpy then smooth and very thick.

Transfer the sauce to a large bowl - this cools it slightly ready for adding the egg yolks and is more convenient later when you want to fold in the egg whites. Beat in the egg yolks one by one then gently stir in the leeks. Season the mixture with salt, pepper and nutmeg - be fairly generous because the egg whites will "dilute" the flavor. You can now leave this mixture until just before you want to cook the souffle - I have kept it for several hours in the fridge and it has been perfect.

When you're ready to cook the souffle place a baking sheet on the middle shelf of the oven.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

Whisk the egg whites until they're thick and standing in soft peaks but don't let them get hard and dry.

Stir a generous heaped tablespoon of egg white into the leek sauce mixture to loosen it, then add all the egg white on top of it and gently fold it in with a metal spoon. When it has pretty well all been incorporated, pour the mixture gently into your prepared dish - it needs to come up almost to the rim, but no higher; if it is lower it will still taste good even though it won't look so impressively high and puffy, but if it is piled above the rim it will overflow.

Put the souffle on the baking sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes or until it looks firm when you move the dish slightly and a knife or skewer pushed gently down into the souffle comes out clean. If it's done before you're quite ready, turn off the oven and the souffle will keep for 4-5 minutes longer although it won't be quite so puffy.

(From Rose Elliot's "New Complete Vegetarian," Sterling, 400 pages, $30.)

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