Last Minute Cheese SouffleThis Mother’s Day I will be at BARDOT Brasserie inside the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas signing books and helping celebrate mothers and the special role they’ve played in our lives. Whether or not you can join me in Vegas, I wanted to share a recipe that can make your Mother’s Day meal very special; it all starts with a soufflé.

A soufflé is the perfect dish to make in lieu of Eggs Benedict – the cheese and egg mixture brings together a savory flavor and the appearance is elegant in itself, and with this recipe it’s not really as hard as you might think. 

For a complete menu, start Mom off with Parma Ham or Sautéed Mushrooms on toast and end with early season strawberries served with cream, or macerated in a bit of red wine or orange juice, and topped with chopped fresh mint. If you’re planning a Mother’s Day dinner, serve the soufflé as a first course and Boeuf Bourguignon or a grilled steak as the main course.

A soufflé secret: You can make it up to 24 hours ahead and pop it in the oven just before serving — believe it or not, it’ll re-puff up — and instead of fresh spinach, a frozen package will do just fine.

Spinach Soufflé

Serves 6

1 pound fresh spinach or 1 box frozen packaged spinach
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, finely chopped
Pinch of grated nutmeg, more for the sauce
Salt and pepper
5 egg yolks
7 egg whites

For the white sauce
1 1/2 cups milk
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups light cream
1/2 cup grated Gruyère cheese
6 ramekins, 1-cup- capacity each; 6 individual baking dishes, or one large dish

1. Discard stems from fresh spinach, wash and drain the leaves. Put the leaves in a frying pan, cover and cook over medium heat until the spinach is wilted, 5-7 minutes. Drain and let cool. Squeeze handfuls of spinach to extract as much water as possible, then chop it. Defrost and chop frozen spinach.

2. Heat the 1 tablespoon of butter in a frying pan and sauce the onion until soft. Add the chopped spinach with garlic, nutmeg, salt and pepper, Sauté stirring often, until the spinach is quite dry, 3-4 minutes. Taste, adjust the seasoning and set aside.

3. For the sauce: Scald the milk in a small pan. Melt the butter in a medium pan, whisk in the flour and cook 30 seconds. Whisking briskly, pour in the hot milk and keep whisking until the sauce boils and thickens, 1-2 minutes. Reduce the heat and simmer 1-2 minutes. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.

4. Take the pan from the heat and whisk the egg yolks into the hot sauce so that they cook and thicken slightly. Pour about a third of the sauce back into the small pan, pour cream on top to keep a skin from forming, and set aside.

5. To finish the soufflés: Butter the ramekins and heat the oven 350°F/175C°. Warm the spinach mixture until quite warm. Stiffly whip the egg whites and fold them into the spinach mixture. Fill the soufflé mixture into the ramekins and smooth the tops with a metal spatula.

6. Line a roasting pan with a dish towel and pour boiling water around the ramekins to a depth of about 1 inch. Bring the water back to a boil and set the pan in the oven. Bake the soufflés until puffed and brown, 20-25 minutes. They should be firm when you press them in the center. Let them cool in the ramekins, they will deflate somewhat.

7. Butter the baking dishes. When the soufflés are cool, run a knife around the edge and turn them into the baking dishes. Whisk the cream into the white sauce — it will be very thin. Coat the soufflés completely with sauce and sprinkle with grated cheese. To store them overnight, cover with plastic wrap and chill them.

8. Shortly before serving, set the oven shelf quite low down and heat to 425F°/220C°. Bake the soufflés in the oven until puffed and brown, 10-12 minutes depending on the thickness of the dishes. Serve them at once.