I’m a little obsessed with Vidalia onions. I love the sweetness with the onion edge. I buy them in bulk when they are in season, and I tie them up in pantyhose to hang in my pantry for winter storage. Really. Vidalias are sweet and smooth without any of the burn of other onions, so it is easy to make them the star of a dish. The flavor is mellow and rich, creating a unique soft onion flavor.
The slow, gently cooking of the onions brings out their sweetness, but leaves the characteristic onion taste in tact. Patience is a must here, just cook them to a soft, glossy tangle; you don’t want deep sticky caramelized onions for this. Marjoram is a wonderful complement to sweet onions with its mildly woodsy taste. If you can’t find marjoram, use thyme or oregano (though slightly less of either). Find a good, soft, salty goat cheese with lots of flavor (I use a locally made chevre).
This soufflé makes a wonderful side dish to a roast, but is also an elegant vegetarian centerpiece. This doesn’t rise up and puff the way a traditional French soufflé does, but is light and creamy and packed with flavor.
Vidalia onion and goat cheese soufflé
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, divided
3 medium Vidalia onions, finely sliced
6 sprigs fresh marjoram
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
4 ounces soft goat cheese
kosher salt to taste
5 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large, deep skillet over medium heat and add the sliced onions. Stir to coat in the onions in the butter and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are very soft and translucent, about 20 minutes. Partially cover the pot for the first 5 to 10 minutes of cooking just to wilt the onions, but stir frequently. A little browning is OK, but you don’t want to caramelize the onions, just make them really soft. If they start to brown, turn down the heat and watch carefully. Sprinkle the leaves of about three marjoram sprigs over the onions, then leave the onions to cool to room temperature.
2. Scrape the cooled onions into a blender or food processor and process until you have a rough puree, sort of like loose mashed potatoes. You should have roughly 2 cups of puree.
3. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and stir until you have a smooth, thick paste that is pale in color, about 5 minutes. Slowly add the milk, whisking away any lumps, until thick and smooth. Reduce the heat to low and cook the base for 10 minutes. Add the onions puree, stir well to combine and cook a further 10 minutes. Whisk in the crumbled cheese a handful at a time, making sure each addition is melted before adding the next. Finely chop the remaining marjoram leaves and stir in with a big pinch of salt. Leave the mixture to cool.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 2-quart soufflé dish with cooking spray or butter.
5. Beat the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer until almost stiff. Sprinkle over the cream of tartar and beat until the whites hold very stiff peaks. Stir a big spoonful of the whites into the onion base to loosen things up, then gradually fold in the remaining whites a big spoonful at a time, doing your best not to deflate the whites. Spoon the mixture into the prepared dish, lightly smoothing the top.
6. Bake the soufflé for 30 – 35 minutes until the top is light golden and puffed. Serve immediately.
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