I feel like Beauty and the Beast is everywhere these days. Disney is about to release a live action version of the popular animated film, so I thought I would celebrate by making something from the animated movie. For those of you that may not have heard the story (could that be possible?), it is about a girl named Belle who agrees to live with a prince turned scary monster in order to free her dad from his dungeon. Belle and the Beast get off to rocky start but begin to fall in love, which is the key to breaking the curse on the Beast and his castle. This story has been around for a very long time but Disney made it mainstream pop culture with their beautifully drawn movie and memorable soundtrack.
One of the most famous scenes in the film is when Belle has agreed to stay at the castle in exchange for her father’s freedom, and is so depondent about being stuck with the Beast she refuses to leave her room to eat. Finally, the enchanted members of the castle staff entice her downstairs to eat by showing her (through song and choreographed dance), all the wonderful things they would like to do for her. The staff is so excited to have a guest they are compelled to demonstrate all of their hospitality skills. They are also hoping to make Belle feel comfortable and more accepting of her situation (and the Beast).
It is during the famous “Be Our Guest” song and presentation that Lumiere shows Belle a cheese soufflé ready for her to eat. I always loved the enchantment of this scene and so I chose the soufflé to make.
The soufflé is significant because it is a French dish-lending itself to the appropriate time and place of the story. It is also significant because the word soufflé comes from the French word to breathe-Belle is a metaphorically a breath fresh air in the palace and that may be why the dish is talked about at the same time as her arrival. Also, souffles are labeled as being a little difficult to prepare and delicate to handle; these characteristics mirror the early relationship between Belle and the Beast. Their situation is a precarious agreement that could “collapse” at any minute causing everyone to be cursed forever. Finally, in more recent depictions the falling of a soufflé is often a source of humour in a cartoon or show; the fact that it is featured during one of the most whimsical parts of the film may not be a coincidence.
To make this I knew I had to start with eggs and cheese, and after looking at a few generic recipes for cheese soufflé I realized there wasn’t much more to it. However, I was more confused about process with this dish rather than ingredients. So I consulted an expert: Julia Child. A lot of her cooking shows can be found on various websites, including Youtube. After watching her cheese soufflé episode 30-40 times I was ready to attempt the dish. I planned on doing it in my own way but I needed a little bit of guidance!
First, I buttered my 1 quart soufflé dish and sprinkled it with some parmesan cheese. This is so that the soufflé has something to hold on to as it rises; it also provides a delicious crust. A lot of other recipes use breadcrumbs for this part which is totally acceptable but I figure you can never go wrong with more cheese.
Next, I melted more butter in a saucepan and added flour. I let it get bubbly and then removed it from the heat. Then I added milk and whisked to remove lumps and then put it back on the heat. TIP: I warmed the milk up beforehand so that it would mix better with the already warm butter and flour. Once the milk mixture started to thicken I added my cheese and then removed it from the heat. Since the backdrop of the story is French I used one of my favorite French cheeses: Gruyere. Gruyere has a great strong woody flavor that goes great in any egg dish. To the cheese mixture I added the egg yolks and spices.
I set my cheese mixture aside and started to whip the egg whites with the cream of tarter. I used a hand mixer and blended until I had stiff peaks. This is when you stop the mixer and hold it upside down the peaks stay stiff and do not fold over onto themselves. I folded about half of the egg whites into the cheese mixture and then the other half. I poured it all into my dish and baked.
This dish was like eating a cheesy, egg-y cloud! It was so good and light! The taste was amazing! Making it, I realized that as extravagant and fancy a cheese soufflé may seem it really was a simple dish with basic ingredients. It reminded me of the film in terms of how, when the Beast is able to simplify his situation and be himself with Belle, magic happened. I am really hoping the live action version of Beauty and the Beast is just as great (and delicious) as the animated version.
Melted butter for brushing sides of dish
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese ( for dusting the dish)
1/4 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
- Dash of ground red pepper (cayenne)
- 1 cup warm milk
- 2 cups Gruyere cheese (8 ounces)
- 3 eggs, separated
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1. Heat oven to 350°F. Butter 1-quart soufflé dish or casserole. Dust bottom and sides of dish with parmesan cheese. Shake dish to properly cover and dump out excess.
- 2. Melt butter in 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until smooth and bubbly; remove from heat. Whisk in milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Stir in cheese until melted; remove from heat. Add egg yolks and spices stir until combined.
- 3. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar in medium bowl with electric mixer on high speed until stiff but not dry; set aside. Fold about 1/2 of the egg whites into cheese mixture. Fold in remaining egg whites. Carefully pour into soufflé dish.
- 4. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until knife inserted halfway between center and edge comes out clean. Serve immediately.