This is not only a diversion from my usual cheese soufflé, but it’s the first soufflé I’ve ever made with store-bought eggs. Words cannot describe how much I hate this. The days are now officially too short for chickens to lay without artificial light, and I’m not about to risk burning the house down—or the coop itself—with an extension cord snaked hither and yon through the yard. I know it’s a natural biological process (the lack of eggs, not the house burning down), but I still hope that somewhere deep in the chickens’ tiny pea brains they feel a little bit ashamed.
The annals of soufflé wisdom suggest store-bought eggs are actually preferred to farm-fresh, as the whites are more easily separated from the yolks, but this soufflé—while texturally perfect—didn’t even clear the edges of its container, so you be the judge.
This particular recipe is adapted from one in the Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook, with a few significant technical changes. I’ve made it several times in the past; the comforting, hearty texture of the grits make it a great winter soufflé.
It serves 2.
• 1/2 cup grits (stone-ground are best, but I admit I used instant this time): 33 cents
• 1/4 cup half-and-half: 16 cents
• 12 cloves garlic, unpeeled: 36 cents
• 1 T olive oil: 6 cents
• 6 eggs: 72 cents
• 1/4 cup grated Parmesan: 40 cents
• Salt: 1 cent
• Freshly ground black pepper (I recommend a generous amount): 1 cent
• Pinch of cream of tartar: 1 cent
• 2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary (garden): $0
• 1/2 T butter for soufflé dish: 3 cents
• 1/2 cup fine bread crumbs for soufflé dish (if you made your own, you’ll probably want to re-process them so they’re super-fine): $0
TOTAL: $2.10/2 = $1.05/serving
Toss the unpeeled garlic cloves in the olive oil.
Place in an oven-proof dish covered tightly with foil and roast at 400 degrees for about 20-40 minutes. Check on them a few times; you want them to be soft, but not burned. Peel them from their skins and mash them into a paste, either in a mortar and pestle, on a cutting board with the flat part of a knife, or by processing them in a small food processor.
Prep a 1 1/2-quart soufflé dish: Coat the inside with butter and dust with bread crumbs (tap out any extra); this way the cooking soufflé doesn’t stick to the sides.
Cook the grits in 1/4 cup half-and-half and 1 3/4 cup of water and cook for the time instructed on the package. If you’re using stone-ground grits, increase the amount of half-and-half to 1/2 cup and the water to 3 cups and cook for about half an hour, in both cases stirring often.
Reduce oven temp to 350 degrees. Carefully separate the eggs: You’ll be using 2 of the yolks and 6 of the whites. Reserve the extra yolks for another use; a seasonal crème brûlée for dessert, perhaps?
Beat the 2 yolks in a bowl; slowly add 1 cup of the grits to temper the yolks, whisking constantly. When the mixture is smooth, add it to the rest of the grits, again stirring constantly. Add the cheese, garlic paste, rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste; stir to distribute evenly and melt the cheese. Be forewarned: At this stage it’s very difficult not to scrap the whole plan and eat this otherworldly pot of roasted-garlic cheese grits by itself. But keep with it—the extra effort is worth it.
In the totally spotlessly clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or a large spotless bowl with a handheld beater or whisk), add the egg whites and a pinch of cream of tartar and beat until they reach stiff-peak stage. They should be quite stiff and glossy, but not so stiff they look dry and get all bunched up around the beater, although if this happens the soufflé will still be fine, it just won’t rise. I’ve read somewhere that they’re ready when they can support the weight of an egg, but I’ve never tried this.
Scoop out about 1/4 of the whites with a rubber spatula and fold into the grits mixture to lighten it. In the scooped-out space, pour the rest of the grits into the bowl with the whites and fold gently to combine. Don’t overmix; it’s OK to have some streaks of white, but you don’t want any big pockets of plain grits.
Pour the mixture into the prepared dish. If you’re worried about it overflowing, either tie a tall parchment-paper collar around the container or put it on a cookie sheet.
Bake on the middle rack for 35 minutes, or until it’s starting to brown on top. Scoop out portions (if you did it right it should be fluffy, as below) and serve immediately.