When Alex Roberts began cooking in some of New York City's top restaurants, including Bouley and Gramercy Tavern, Don Roberts hoped he might one day supply his son with ingredients, like the Swiss chard for this Italian-style soufflé. He already had a working relationship with Alex's twin brother, Aaron, a carpenter, who helped his father with construction around the farm. "Continuity is important in my life," Don says.
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1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (1/2 cup)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup freshly grated young pecorino cheese, such as Pecorino Toscano Fresco (1 1/2 ounces)
3 large egg yolks
1 1/2 pounds Swiss chard, stems and inner ribs discarded
4 large egg whites
How to Make It
In a small bowl, cover the porcini mushrooms with hot water and let stand until they are softened, about 20 minutes. Lift the porcini from the water, squeeze dry and coarsely chop.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°. In a medium saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter over moderate heat. Stir in the flour until blended. Gradually whisk in the milk until smooth. Bring the béchamel to a boil over moderately high heat, whisking constantly until slightly thickened. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, whisking often, until no floury taste remains and the béchamel is very thick, about 20 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Transfer the béchamel to a large bowl and, while it is still hot, whisk in the pecorino and egg yolks.
In a large skillet, cook the Swiss chard over moderately high heat in batches, one handful at a time, until the leaves are wilted, about 2 minutes per batch. Transfer the chard to a colander to cool, then squeeze dry. Coarsely chop the chard.
In the same large skillet, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter. Add the Swiss chard and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until it's heated through and coated with butter, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir the chopped chard into the béchamel along with the porcini mushrooms, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper.
Butter an 8-cup ceramic soufflé dish. In a large stainless steel bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until firm peaks form. Fold one-third of the beaten whites into the chard mixture, then fold in the remaining whites. Scrape the batter into the prepared dish and run your thumb around the inside of the rim to help the soufflé rise evenly. Bake until the soufflé rises and is golden brown on top and slightly soft in the center, about 1 hour and 5 minutes. Serve right away.
The soufflé batter can be prepared through Step 4 and refrigerated overnight. Bring the batter to room temperature before proceeding.
This dish evokes the flavors of northern Italian regions like Friuliwhich is why a Tocai Friulano, a distinctive local grape, pairs so well with it. The grape produces minerally whites that cut through the richness of the pecorino and eggs in the soufflé.
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