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Cheese Souffle (Souffle au Fromage)

3 Tbsp butter
4 Tbsp flour
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
1 pinch grated nutmeg (optional)
4 large egg yolks
5 egg whites
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
a big pinch of salt
3/4 to 1 cup grated Swiss cheese or cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400 F. Butter inside of souffle mold heavily with
1 Tbsp butter and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp grated cheese. Over low heat
melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in the flour with a wooden
spoon and cook until the butter and flour foam together for 2
minutes, not allowing it to brown. Remove from heat; when mixture
has stopped bubbling, pour in all of the cold milk at once. Stir
thoroughly with the spoon or wire whip. Beat in the seasonings.
Return over medium-high heat and boil, stirring with the wire whip
for 1 minute. Sauce will be very thick. Remove from heat.
Immediately start to separate the eggs. Place the whites in a mixing
bowl. Beat egg yolks one at a time into the hot sauce, using the
wire whip.

Add an extra egg white to the ones in the bowl and beat with salt
and cream of tartar until very stiff peaks form. Gently stir a
big spoonful (about one quarter of the egg whites) into the sauce.
Stir in all but a tablespoon of the cheese. Delicately fold in
the rest of the egg whites with a rubber spatula. Be careful not
to over fold. Turn the souffle mixture carefully into the center
of the prepared mold, which should be almost 3/4 full. Tap bottom
of mold lightly onto table, and run a knife blade around the rim
so that your souffle will rise evenly. Sprinkle the remaining
cheese on top. Wait until your guests arrive before putting the
souffle in the oven.

You may set it aside in a warm place free from drafts. Cover it
with a big empty pot or soup kettle. As long as it is protected,
it will not begin to collapse for an hour.

When ready to bake, set on middle rack of preheated 400 F oven and
immediately turn heat down to 375 F. (Do not open door for 20
minutes.) In 25-30 minutes, the souffle will be nicely puffed and
brown. Leave it 4 to 5 minutes more to firm it up, then serve at
once.

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