Wine matching: Twice baked Bleu d’Auvergne soufflé

Pennautier viognier jpgColombo RedonneContours de Deponcins, Domaine F Villard NV

The recipe

Unlike its once baked cousin, the best thing about this bistro classic is that, thankfully, you don’t need to worry about the soufflé sinking. This makes the light, cloud-like dish a breeze for making at home as the first-cooking can be done a day ahead and then finished off just before serving as they bounce right back up on the second cooking.

The word soufflé comes from the French souffler and means ‘puffed up’. Although this one is left to cool it is made in exactly the same way as if served straight from the oven. It begins with a ‘roux’ sauce where butter and flour, and then milk are cooked together until thickened. Then the egg yolks are stirred in, and finally whisked egg whites are added to lighten the mixture. From here you can fold in other flavourings, which can be sweet or savoury, and in this case it is blue cheese.

You can use any type of cheese here, and this varies seasonally as well as regionally in France. I have plumped for a combination of blue cheese and grated Parmesan as I find this gives the finished soufflé a lovely rich but not overtly blue cheese flavour. I also prefer to use a less robust blue cheese sometimes such as St Agur; however if you are a true blue cheese aficionado then by all mean substitute Roquefort.

Often a twice-baked soufflé is served covered with cream and heaps of extra cheese especially in the winter months when we hanker for comfort food. I prefer it as it is here; a lighter dish served with a salad of rocket leaves, toasted walnuts and a slightly sweetened mustard and cider vinegar dressing. This balances the richness of the soufflé perfectly. It is ideal as a starter or it could just as easily be served as a light lunch with some crusty bread.

A few tips when cooking this and other soufflés… Make sure you grease the insides of the ramekins well (and here dust evenly with Parmesan). Once the mixture is in the ramekin dishes run a knife around the edges of the soufflé before it goes into the oven as this will ensure it rises evenly. Don’t be tempted to open the oven before the designated time to ensure a lighter result.

Serves 6

60 g butter, plus extra for greasing
75 g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
500 ml milk
4 large eggs, separated
125 g bleu d’Auvergne, crumbled
60 g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
50 g rocket leaves
50 g walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180c. Lightly grease 6 x 200 ml ramekin dishes and dust the insides of the dishes with 2 tablespoons of the grated Parmesan. Transfer dishes to a deep baking tin.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan, add the flour, mustard and salt and pepper and stir well until the mixture comes together – this will almost be immediate and beat over a low heat for 1 minute. Gradually pour in the milk, whisking constantly until the mixture comes to the boil. Simmer very gently for 2 minutes stirring until the sauce is thickened. Cool for 5 minutes and beat in the egg yolks, one at a time. Stir in the blue cheese and half the Parmesan and transfer to a large bowl.

Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl until soft peaks form. Fold a spoonful into the cheese mixture to loosen slightly and then fold in the remaining whites until evenly combined. Spoon into the prepared dishes and run a knife around the edges. Pour boiling water into the tin to come half way up the sides of the dishes and bake for 20 minutes until risen and browned. Remove soufflés from the dish and leave to cool.

Run a small palette knife around the edges of the soufflés and invert into a greased baking dish. Scatter over the remaining Parmesan and bake for 15 minutes until golden. Meanwhile whisk the dressing ingredients together. Arrange the soufflés, salad leaves and nuts on serving plates and drizzle over the dressing, serve at once.

The wines

Marquis De Pennautier Vin de Pays d’Oc Viognier 2014 (£10.49, Thirty Fifty)

If there’s one type of food that can produce the most divine – and disastrous – wine matches, it’s cheese. Different varieties of cheese call for specific styles of wine, and when it comes to blue cheese, sweet wines often work well. An apricot-flavoured white like Sauternes would normally be a good option, but it would be too sweet and luscious if the cheese is prepared in a soufflé.

The rich Viognier grape also offers stone fruit aromas but is usually dry despite its rounded texture, making it a more balanced match. The impressive Château de Pennautier in Cabardès in the Languedoc has been in the de Lorgeril family since 1620, and this Viognier is a honeysuckle-scented, medium-bodied example.

Jean-Luc Colombo Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc ‘La Redonne’ 2013 (£12.99, Waitrose)

The Viognier grape originally comes from the Rhône Valley, but is now planted all over the world. Unlike Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc which have found worldwide success, Viognier rarely performs as well as it does on home turf. It can be heavy and overly alcoholic when grown in the wrong places.

Rhône stalwart Jean-Luc Colombo makes this delicious example that retains a sense of freshness alongside its classically full, ripe character. It’s blended with one third Roussanne, another local Rhône grape that gives the wine a touch of pear and honey alongside the ripe apricot fruit that would work well with this dish.

Domaine François Villard ‘Les Contours de Deponcins’ 2012 (£14.99, Berry Bros. & Rudd)

The village of Condrieu is the original home of Viognier; a jumble of steep, corrugated granite terraces at the northern tip of the Rhône wine region. The terrain makes for backbreaking work, and plantings of the variety nearly died out completely in the 1950s. Thanks to a dedicated group of growers it was brought back from the brink and is now flourishing. Condrieu is one of the world’s greatest, most distinctive white wines. Unfortunately for us it has prices to match.

François Villard is one of the masters. This particular wine, however, is made from vines that lie outside of the official Condrieu demarcated area, so is similar in style but not quite so pricey. It’s rich and concentrated, with fresh, juicy peach and ripe apricot fruits with a touch of almond. It would make a luxurious match for the soufflé.

Recipe based on a version by Louise Pickford. First published in Living France magazine.