Parsnip & Mushroom Souffle

January 3, 2016
Teenagers aren't drawn to spending New Year's Eve with their aged parents. So when ours were that age and off to their parties, we two were left to devise our own way to celebrate the turning of the calendar. Those were the days when the aged parents (that is, us) were still young enough to want to stay up for the dropping of the ball.
To occupy us until midnight, we created a little tradition of a late, light meal, accompanied by Champagne. The meal, once we decided on it, never varied: it was a parsnip and mushroom souffle from Jane Grigson's Good Things. Parsnips may not immediately appeal to you, but this souffle is both delicious and easy to make. We would accompany it with a little salad. And then we would finish up the bottle of sparkling wine, watch the ball drop, exchange a New Year's smooch, and hit the hay.
Eventually the New Year's Eve ritual was forgotten, as was the parsnip and mushroom souffle. But this year, just a few days ago, we brought it back and found that we loved it as much as we used to.
As given here, the recipe serves 2 generously.
3/4 lb. of parsnips*
1/2 pound mushrooms (about 3/4 c. when sliced)
1 clove garlic, minced
4 tbsp. butter
1 1/2 tbsp. heavy cream**
2 egg yolks
2 egg whites, beaten until stiff
Boil the parsnips until tender (see note below). While the parsnips cook, saute the musrooms and garlic together in 1 tbsp of the butter. When the parsnips are soft, peel them and put them through a food mill or a ricer.***  Stir in the cooked mushrooms, the remaining butter, the cream, and the egg yolks. Stir well.
You can do this much in advance--early in the evening, if you're planning on a late-night supper as I describe above. Then, half an hour before serving, heat the oven to 450 degrees. Beat the egg whites (a stand-alone mixer makes this easy, but you can use an egg beater or a whisk, either of which will require elbow grease).
Fold the whites into the parsnip mixture by first stirring a quarter of the beaten egg whites into the parsnips, which lightens the whole thing, making it easier to fold in the remaining whites.  Pour the mixture into two individual-sized souffle dishes (or a two- or three-cup souffle dish. Bake in the preheated oven: about 20 minutes for the smaller, individual dishes, or 30 for the larger one.**** They will have risen slightly***** and be brown on top. Serve immediately.
*When you buy the parsnips, remember that the larger the parsnip the larger its core--and the cores are tough. Best to buy medium-sized ones, and all more or less the same diameter. If the tails are a lot skinnier than the "shoulders", then cut the parsnips in half so that you can remove the skinny pieces when they are tender, leaving the hefty ones for as long as it takes.
**If I have no cream on hand, I use whole milk plus an extra tablespoon of butter.
***If you lack a food mill or a ricer, you have two choices: the food processor or a fork. The latter works just fine for the soft parsnips, mashing them into submission. They won't be as thoroughly smooth as with the food mill, but unless you're making this for the Queen herself, a bit of texture to the mash will be fine.
****And this is positively the final asterisked note! If you have made the souffle several hours in advance (except for the final beating and folding of the egg whites), then it will have cooled off to room temperature. In this case, allow an extra 5 to 10 minutes cooking time.
*****Okay, I didn't tell the truth. THIS is the final note. Because the base of this souffle is mashed vegetables, it is too heavy for the spectacular rising you might be used to with your souffles. Beating in an extra egg white or two would give more of a rise, if that's essential to you. It's just fine as it is, however.


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