Another week, another riffle through Great-aunt Helen’s recipe box. (New to this series? The preceding link brings you up to speed.) Having thus far only made sweets and snacks from Helen’s decades-old recipe collection, I wanted to make a main dish.
There was much to intrigue: Rinktum-dity (??). Brazilian chuaracha. Silesiss Chuacaes. (Or was it Slesische Kresetachen? Helen’s writing could sometimes be hard to read.) The Cheese Grits look like fun as do both of her Ratatouille recipes. Mexican Chicken and Chop Suey wouldn’t grab much attention now, but flash back to the ’60s and ’70s and they were plenty exotic. On the flip side are mains I won’t be trying, which include ham loaves, goulashes, and hotdish casseroles. Helen’s recipe collection is Eclectic with that capital E.
Her Cheese Soufflé seemed the best pick for my first main and I assembled it the night before baking so it could refrigerate overnight per recipe instructions.
I’ve no idea when Helen might have served this, but it was clearly an affordable meatless main dish. Helen lived frugally, not so much out of necessity but because she was a child of the Great Depression. With no spouse or children and by living modestly, she had money to share. Helen gave generously to charities as well as family. Her great-nieces and nephews, of which I was one, were gifted with money for college and I owe much of my education to her. Helen may have been frugal, but she had a big heart and was generous in big ways.
Back to the soufflé, then, which is also frugal at first glance, but a generous (though not overly exotic) dish in the end. I’ll admit to taking a few liberties with her recipe, starting with a decision to make two smaller soufflés instead of one larger dish. I still used the six slices of bread (without removing the crust), but divided the eggs, milk, cheese, and seasoning amounts in half.
Each 2-cup mini-casserole was sprayed with nonstick spray, then layered three times with 1 slice bread, a generous sprinkle of cheese, and enough egg mixture to soak. The casseroles chilled overnight, then were baked the next evening in a water bath as directed on the back of the recipe card.
Expecting to fall head-over-heels for this recipe, I found that I liked it, but didn’t love it. This was less the traditional lighter-than-air soufflé than it was a cheesy bread pudding. And while I love dessert bread puddings, the savory version didn’t excite me. For one, it seemed a bit one-note. Bumping up the seasonings might have made a difference and I’d use more cheese as well. Using half as much liquid but the same amount of bread surely accounts for much of my disappointment. Some things are best left as-is and this recipe is likely one of them.
Despite its faults, this was a satisfying dish especially on a cold winter evening. A better side than main, it would also make a nice lunch served alongside a tossed green salad. And a lovely cocktail would of course sweeten the deal. We’ll see to that next post!