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Cheese souffle

Today's Dinner Together represents a sort of penance for me. You see, when I was little, for some reason my mother made cheese souffle for dinner a lot. And I hated it.

I know I complained, probably loudly. I didn't like cheese as a child, unless it was melted on a pizza or a grilled cheese sandwich.

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I've grown out of that, of course, which gives me hope as a parent with finicky kids. It also made me wonder if they, in some Freudian fashion, would actually like the food I detested at the same age.

And what do you know? Leah actually liked this -- after I told her the story of my own childhood distaste for it. (Sam didn't.) Can a child psychiatrist weigh in on what all this means?

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Unfortunately, my mother didn't leave me her recipe (wonder why?), so I used the one that follows from Julia Child. It was puffy and tasty...

Cheese Souffle

Serves 4 to 6

1 teaspoon plus 3 tablespoons butter (divided use)

1 cup grated Swiss or Parmesan cheese (divided use)

3 tablespoons flour

1 cup boiling whole milk

1/2 teaspoon plus 1/4 teaspoon salt (divided use)

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Pinch cayenne pepper

Pinch nutmeg

4 egg yolks

5 egg whites

Butter the inside of a 6-cup souffle mold with 1 teaspoon butter and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the cheese. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Set a rack in the middle of the oven.

Melt the rest of the butter in a saucepan. Stir in the flour with a wooden spatula or spoon and cook over moderate heat until butter and flour foam together for 2 minutes without browning. Remove from heat; when mixture has stopped bubbling, pour in all the boiling milk at once. Beat vigorously with a wire whip until blended. Beat in the 1/2 teaspoon salt, the peppers, and the nutmeg. Return to moderately high heat and boil, stirring with the wire whip, for 1 minute. Sauce will be very thick.

Remove pan from heat. Drop an egg yolk into the center of the hot sauce, then beat into the sauce with the wire whip. Repeat with the other yolks. Correct seasonings if necessary.

Beat egg whites with 1/4 teaspoon salt until stiff (a dollop will stand up and hold its shape at the top of the whisk). Stir a big spoonful, about 1/4 of the egg whites, into the sauce. Stir in all but a tablespoon of the remaining cheese. Delicately fold in the rest of the egg whites. Be careful not to overfold.

Turn the souffle mixture into the prepared mold, which should be almost 3/4 full. Tap bottom of mold lightly on the table and smooth surface of souffle with the flat of a knife. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Put the souffle in the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 375 degrees.Do not open oven door for 20 minutes. In 25 to 30 minutes the souffle will have puffed to about 2 inches over the rim of the mold, and the top will be nicely browned. Bake 4 to 5 minutes more to firm it up, then serve at once.

Adapted from "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," by Julia Child

Per serving (based on 6): 213 calories, 11 grams protein, 15 grams fat, 9 grams saturated fat, 6 grams carbohydrate, 0 grams fiber, 177 grams cholesterol, 394 milligrams sodium

(Photo by me)

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