Fresh Asparagus Soufflé

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Photo by Michael Piazza / Styled by Catrine Kelty

I love this dish because it can be so fluffy and extravagant, like a cloud! It goes very well with a light fish dish for meat eaters, or as an entire entree for vegetarians (just omit the prosciutto), so it's very versatile. The prosciutto gives a nice smoky, salty flavor to the soufflé. Serve with a chilled Alsatian Riesling.

Serves 6

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into ½ inch pieces
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk, warmed
4 ounces Prosciutto di Parma, very thinly sliced and julienned
½ clove minced garlic
4 eggs, seperated
½ cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook the asparagus until bright green but still crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer to an ice water bath to stop cooking. Drain, pat dry, and separate out the asparagus tips from the stems and set them aside for garnish.

Melt the butter in a pan over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour and stir until béchamel mixture becomes paste-like and light golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add prosciutto to the flour mixture, stirring to coat (skip this step for vegetarians). Slowly whisk the warm milk into béchamel mixture; bring to a simmer and cook until thick, about 2 to 3 minutes. Season with pepper to taste, but you won’t likely need any added salt since the prosciutto and cheese are fairly salty on their own.

Place béchamel mixture, garlic, and asparagus stems in a blender and puree until smooth. Pour into a large bowl; stir in egg yolks and cheese. Generously butter six 6-ounce soufflé dishes.

Beat the egg whites in a large mixing bowl until soft peaks form. Stir half of egg whites into asparagus and cheese mixture until combined. Gently fold remaining egg whites into mixture. Fill prepared soufflé dishes about ¾ full and place on a baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven until puffed and the edges are golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Once cooled, garnish with the asparagus heads and serve.

This recipe appeared in the Spring 2016 issue.