A beloved French classic, soufflé is an elegant meal to make any day of the week, despite what you think you know about soufflé. Made with eggs, flour, milk, and your choice of filling, a soufflé is ultimately a very simple and, in fact, quite easy dish to make. Mild in flavor and silky in texture, a soufflé is the perfect setting for tender flakes of wild salmon and a handful of fresh herbs.
Here’s how to make a simple salmon soufflé, enough to serve two to three people as a meal or up to six as a side.
What You Need
- A good whisk
- A 1.5 quart (6-cup) ceramic soufflé dish (aka a ramiken)
For the soufflé dish:
- Enough butter to grease it
- Enough fine breadcrumbs or grated parmesan to coat it
For the batter:
- 4 tbsp butter
- 4 tbsp white flour
- About 1 ½ cups milk
- 6 egg whites
- 4 egg yolks
- ¼ cup softened cream cheese, mascarpone, or creme fraiche
- 6 ounces seasoned and poached salmon, or 1 cured/smoked salmon (basically, salmon that is ready to eat, already tasty, and won’t dry out when it’s cooked in the soufflé)
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
To prep your soufflé dish, lightly grease the bottom and sides of the dish with butter — you don’t need a lot, but you want total coverage so that the soufflé doesn’t end up sticking to the dish. After it’s greased, add enough breadcrumbs or grated parmesan to the dish to coat the bottom and sides, rotating the dish to get total coverage. These bits help the soufflé batter to rise up in the dish, and also will form a golden crust on the sides of the finished soufflé.
Into a separate bowl or container, flake or chop the salmon into bite-sized pieces so that it’s ready to go when you need it, and mince or chop any other ingredients that you plan to mix into the batter.
Set the dish and salmon aside for now.
Make a Bechamel
Melt all 4 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat until it just begins to pick up a little color. Using a whisk, incorporate all 4 tablespoons of the flour into the butter to form a paste, and cook this for a few minutes so that it’s no longer a raw mixture: This is your roux.
Once the roux is cooked, steadily add the milk to the pan, whisking constantly so that the ingredients come together smoothly; adding the milk too quickly or dumping it all in at once will produce a lumpy bechamel. Continue to stir with a spoon or spatula while you bring the mixture to a simmer, allowing it to thicken for a few minutes, just until it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Generously season the finished bechamel with salt and pepper and transfer the sauce to a large bowl. Keep in mind that the sauce will be hot, so avoid using something like a thin metal bowl that will conduct heat — you want to be able to handle the bowl later without burning yourself.
Separating and Reuniting the Eggs
Carefully separate the whites from yolks from 6 eggs. You’ll be using all 6 of the egg whites for the soufflé, but just 4 of the yolks, so save 2 yolks for another use. The whites need to be completely free of yolks so that they can be whisked into a light fluff; traces of fat from the yolk inhibit this process. For now, set aside the 6 egg whites in a large mixing bowl.
In a separate bowl, whisk the 4 egg yolks together, adding in a spoonful of warm bechamel to temper them. Basically, you are gently trying to bring the yolks to meet the temperature of the bechamel so that they don’t turn into scrambled eggs; warming up the yolks first allows them to be integrated smoothly into a custardy base for your soufflé. Once the eggs are tempered, whisk them and ¼ of softened cream cheese/mascarpone/creme fraiche into your bowl of bechamel until the eggs, sauce, and cheese are thoroughly combined.
Using a clean whisk or a handheld mixer, whisk the egg whites until they’re frothy and fluffy enough to form firm peaks. Not soft peaks, not stiff peaks, but peaks where only the tips fold over. For a visual guide to what this looks like, check out the first slide in The Kitchn’s guide to peaks in egg whites. Soft peaks don’t offer enough structure to the soufflé, while stiff peaks will limit the lusciousness of the dish. Some people add a big pinch of cream of tartar to the egg whites before beating them together to prevent them from being over-whisked, but it’s not necessary.
The Finishing Touches
Mix the flaked, cooked salmon and herbs/scallions into the bechamel-yolk batter, then whisk in a third of the egg whites so that you’ve formed a smooth mixture. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Pour this combined batter into your prepped soufflé dish, and transfer everything to the oven. In about 35 minutes, the soufflé will be fluffy, perfectly browned, and fully set. If you want it to have a little more color, let it cook for another 5 minutes.
Enjoy the pillowy, custardy, golden puff of wild salmon soufflé immediately!