Fellow Knoxville food blogger Kevin has been working on a project after my own heart, because it extolls the virtues of one of my most favorite vegetables. Every Monday you can find a round up of the most sublime asparagus recipes at Kevin's Asparagus Aspirations, and after days and days of wracking my brain for the perfect entry, I came up with this puffy wonder.
This souffle was a very proud achievement because I worked off of no pre-existing recipe, a daunting task when dealing with finicky egg whites. Armed with my vague knowledge of ingredient proportions and some extremely fresh spring asparagus, I set to work.
The results were better than I had dreamed. I managed to maintain the bright green color (that was my first concern, that I would end up with muddy greenish-brown puffs), and each bite truly tasted of asparagus first. The additional ingredients simply served as the supporting cast for this impressive dish. And, should you worry that you are wasting half of your asparagus stalks, I refer you to this recipe for a cold asparagus soup that makes excellent use of the woody stalks.
While I made two larger souffles, I think this would make a lovely first course for four people, served in demitasse cups or small ramekins. Feel free to try different cheeses--I think chevre or Gruyere would be quite nice as well. And of course, if you prefer perfect, flat-topped souffles, knock yourself out and smooth the surface evenly. I like the pillowy, free form mounds, myself.
3 large eggs, separated
1 lb. asparagus
2-3 Tbsp vegetable or chicken stock
freshly ground pepper
.25 tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the asparagus stalks in half, for this recipe you only need the most tender green ends. Boil the asparagus in lightly salted water until just tender--about 3 minutes. Drain and let cool. Chop the blanched spears roughly and toss into a blender or food processor. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, and some of the stock and pulse until smooth. You may need a dash or two more of stock, you want a very smooth green puree. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, cream the egg yolks, flour, mustard, Parmesan, and asparagus puree until well combined--about 3 minutes. With the bowl sitting over a pan of simmering water, whisk until paler in color and quite thick, roughly 5 minutes. Replace on mixer stand, and cream for an additional 3 minutes, until light and beginning to cool. Transfer to a clean bowl and set aside. At this point you can wait up to 2 hours before completing the souffles.
In a clean mixing bowl, whip the egg whites until they hold a stiff peaks. Be careful to not over beat the whites. Whisk one third of the egg whites into the asparagus mixture until well combined, then carefully fold in the remaining egg whites. Scoop the souffle mixture into ramekins or tea cups, leaving about.5 inch at the top, and making sure to not deflate the fluffy mixture.
Place ramekins onto a baking sheet and bake until puffy and golden brown, 10-12 minutes. Garnish with an asparagus spear (if desired) and serve immediately.