Starting our winter squash in the greenhouse this year has paid off—a good bit of it is already ready to harvest. So far we’ve gotten a medium-sized green turk’s turban, a small acorn squash, an enormous hubbard squash, and a small white gourd of indeterminate origin. Given that more are on the way, I felt no compunction in roasting what we had, puréeing it, and freezing it to use as baby food*. I did, however, reserve about a cup’s worth to use in a soufflé, the flavors of which turned out to be a delicious fall preview. In fact, it’s a great catch-all recipe for any winter squash you may have and not know what to do with; no need to worry about texture or flavor, so long as it’s vaguely squashlike.
*Yes, the kid already has his own baby-food stockpile area of the chest freezer. If you were wondering how the addition of a third family member was going to affect the $35-a-week plan, this should answer some questions. (Read: not much.)
-1 1/2-quart soufflé dish or ramekin
• 1 cup roasted squash puree (garden)**: $0
• 5 eggs (garden): $0
• 1 cup grated Swiss cheese (or Gruyere, if you’re living large like that): $1
• 3 T butter, plus more for buttering soufflé dish: 20 cents
• Handful of fine bread crumbs: $0
• 3 T flour: 1 cent
• 1 cup milk: 16 cents
• 1 bay leaf: 1 cent
• 1 very small shallot, quartered (I had a big bag left over from the Asian market): 5 cents
• A couple thyme sprigs (garden): $0
• Pinch cream of tartar: 1 cent
• Salt & pepper: 2 cents
• Finely chopped sage, for garnish (optional): $0
TOTAL: $1.46/2 = 73 cents/serving
**Cut the squash in half, rub with olive oil, and roast, cut-side down, for about 45 minutes at 400 F.
Scoop out the seeds and discard, then puree the flesh. (Adding a little butter and maple syrup is optional.)
To make the soufflé:
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Add the milk to a small saucepan. Add the bay leaf, shallot, and thyme sprigs, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, watching carefully so it doesn’t boil over, then cover and set aside to steep for about 20 minutes. Then strain.
Butter a 1 1/2-quart soufflé dish or ramekin thoroughly and coat with bread crumbs so the soufflé doesn’t stick to the sides and can rise freely.
Melt the 3 T butter in a medium saucepan. Once foaming has subsided, add 3 T flour and stir until a roux has formed.
Cook, stirring constantly, until roux is a light brown color, about 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in the strained milk, stirring constantly, until mixture has thickened. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 5 minutes or until very thick, stirring often. Season to taste. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese.
Separate the five egg whites into a VERY CLEAN bowl or bowl of a stand mixer (even if you think it’s clean, you may want to wash it again first; even a speck of grease can cause your eggs not to fluff up. Along those lines, if you get a speck of yolk in your whites, you’ll have to start over. I know it sucks, but I promise this is the hardest part of soufflé making, and it’ll make you really good at separating eggs) and stir four yolks, one at a time, into the base. Reserve the fifth yolk for another use.
Add a pinch of cream of tartar to the whites to stabilize them and beat with a mixer until they’re forming stiff peaks but are still glossy.
With a rubber spatula, remove about 1/4 of the whites and fold into the base to lighten it. Pour the now lightened mixture back into the whites and fold lightly with the spatula to combine. The mixture should be light and quite foamy. Pour it into the prepared ramekin and place in the oven. Immediately reduce oven temperature to 375 F and cook for about 35 minutes, until risen and top is browned. (Don’t open the oven door for the first 20 minutes.)
Remove from oven and serve immediately, as it will start to deflate as soon as you take it out. (I just scoop it out and serve it with a salad from the garden, as seen below.) Sprinkle with finely chopped sage, if desired.