Maman's Cheese Soufflé
When Jacques Pepin's mother got married, she was 17 and his father was 22. She did not know how to cook, except for a few simple dishes that she had learned from her mother. Yet, she liked to cook and was willing and fearless.
Pepin's father liked cheese souffle, so his mother graciously obliged. She had never made a souffle before, but a friend told her that it consisted of a white sauce (bechamel), grated cheese and eggs...a cinch! Everyone knew how to make a bechamel, that staple of the French home cook. To this sauce she added her grated Swiss cheese and then cracked and added one egg after another to the mixture, stirred it well, poured it into a gratin dish and baked it in the oven. Voila! No one had told her that the eggs should be separated, with the yolks added to the base sauce and the whites whipped to a firm consistency and then gently folded into the mixture. As Poe said, "ignorance is bliss," and in this case it worked: the souffle rose to a golden height and became a family favorite.
This is a great recipe; it can be assembled hours, even a day ahead. Although it is slightly less airy than a standard souffle, it is delicious. It works on the same principle as cream-puff dough.