Sunday, September 8, 2013

Second Great Chef, Chuck Williams and Cheese Soufflé

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A perfect cheese soufflé!
This is the second installment in my 50 Chefs for 50 Years!  Chefs and cooks that have inspired my culinary love.  This one is my boss, so to speak.  I have been living his culinary dream for longer than a lot of marriages!  Chuck Williams, founder of Williams Sonoma.

So, back in 1971, I was skipping off to Second Grade at St. Boniface, in Clinton, Iowa, and Chuck Williams was publishing his first catalog.  He had been in the hardware and house ware business in the San Francisco area for about 20 years.  That catalog launched an empire, and I have been working for him the last 16 years.  Amazing, in so many ways.  I had the honor of meeting Mr. Williams in 1999 in Las Vegas.  He was in the Williams Sonoma store, and I had gone to the mall, specifically to check it out.  I was shocked and thrilled as there was no one in the store but a few associates.  I had a nice chat with him and he signed a book for me.

Chuck (as we affectionately call him at work) was really a visionary.  I have been reading the book of letters written between Julia Child and Avis DeVoto, and Julia, as well as Chuck, saw the opportunities bringing French implements and cooking techniques to the American home.  And he and Julia were friends.  Chuck fell in love with the copper cookware found in France, a much better quality than the lightweight aluminum pans found here.  I to have fallen in love with them.  My collection has grown over the years, and I treasure each piece for its heirloom quality.

Last year for my 15th Anniversary at Williams Sonoma, this copper soup pot was my gift!  (It's Ruffoni, Italian, but still an awesome pot!)  He also brought the French porcelain dinnerware Apilco, famous for their soufflé dishes.  So naturally, I knew this was what I was going to make, my first attempt ever at a soufflé.

A few years back, I bought a book at the store called The Merchant of Sonoma, and it is basically a biography of Chuck Williams and is full of his favorite recipes  and his very interesting life, and what a life!  He is a testament to good food, good wine, entertaining and working your passion.  In October, he will turn 98 years old.

Campari and Soda
So, in honor of my place of employment and a man who brought chefs, techniques, books, tools and cuisines to the home cook, I am pouring a Campari and Soda (Chuck and I both love this) and am making Chuck's zucchini and a cheese soufflé.  My dilemma was whether to bake it in my Apilco porcelain soufflé dish, or my very beautiful copper soufflé dish.   My first attempt I used the copper pan, which is a little too squat and big to get the big rise over the top.  But do not be fooled. it rose and was delicious.  Since I had more cheese around and the smaller soufflé, I decided to do it again!  And in true French form, the Apilco was perfect.  The soufflé, as you can see in the photo was perfection!

So here's to you Mr. Williams.  Thank you for letting me work in your amazing store for 16 years.  I have learned so much, I have made life long friends, and I have become a pretty good cook too!

Chuck's Cheese Soufflé

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons flour
1 cup milk, heated
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated gruyere cheese
1 Tablespoon Madeira Wine
salt and pepper
cayenne pepper
5 egg whites, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350˚.  If using a 1 1/2 quart soufflé, make a parchment collar and secure with string, otherwise you should be fine with a larger soufflé.

In a saucepan over med-low heat, melt the butter and then whisk in the flour and stir continuously for 2 minutes without letting it brown.  Gradually pour in the warm milk, and whisk constantly until smooth with the heat upped to medium.  Continue whisking until the sauce boils and thickens, about 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow it to cool for 5 minutes.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks until pale and yellow.  Slowly add a little hot sauce from pan to the yolks whisking constantly, continue, incorporating all sauce into yolks, and then add Madeira, cheeses and salt and peppers.

In a clean bowl or in a mixer, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form.  Gently fold into the cheese mixture with a rubber spatula.  Spoon into soufflé dish and bake until puffed and golden.  Do not open the oven!  About 35-40 minutes.  Serve immediately.

The raw soufflé.

Perfectly golden, and risen, although not over the top!

Obviously didn't need a collar!

So delicious....creamy and ethereal!

Chuck's Zucchini

Shred the desired amount of zucchini.  Do not peel, but wash and dry well, and trim off the ends.  In a large fry pan, I used a drizzle of olive oil and put the zucchini into hot pan.  Season with salt and pepper and stir frequently until the desired doneness, just a few minutes.  Squirt fresh lemon juice on cooked zucchini, and we served it with fresh grated parmesan.  Delicious!
I let mine cook a little longer to try and evaporate the moisture.  The lemon is yummy!

Don't miss my First Chef, Mom!  And Steak In a Bag!
And stay tuned.  Chef #3 will be a big surprise!

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