savory asparagus & swiss cheese soufflé

this was my first ever home-made soufflé. terrifying? not really. the recipe takes a bit of time and i'm sure i would improve with practice, but i was overjoyed by the delicious results. here are a few tips i learned from assisting brandi's soufflé cooking class at the pantry at delancey. brilliant woman. 
1 - use room temp eggs for a perfect meringue and don't allow any fat or oil to mix in with your eggs while they whip
2 - butter your ramekins and sprinkle the walls of the ramekin with finely grated hard cheese like parmesan. this will give your soufflé some texture to grab onto as it climbs the walls of your dish. 
3 - 'sacrifice' about one third of your meringue to fold into the custard mixture. this way when you fold in the remaining meringue, the two consistencies will be a little bit closer together. 

savory asparagus & swiss cheese soufflé - great for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner!!
makes 4 servings: 

parmesan cheese, shredded
1 cup milk 
3 tablespoons butter 
1/4 cup flour 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
pinch of cayenne pepper 
1/4 pound swiss cheese, shredded 
4 eggs at room temperature, separated 

6 spears raw asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into thin 1/4 inch rounds

preheat oven to 400 degrees. position rack in lower third of oven. prepare either a large 6 cup soufflé dish or 4 individual dishes - butter each heavily and sprinkle a tablespoon or two of grated parmesan cheese in dish. tilt and toss the cheese around to coat the sides and bottom. 

melt butter in a small saucepan and add the flour. whisk constantly to dissolve lumps. cook for about 5 minutes and then take off of the heat. add milk and whisk to dissolve lumps once again. then return this mixture to the heat and cook and whisk for another 2-3 minutes. remove again from the heat, add spices and salt, then whisk in one egg yolk at a time. move this custard mixture to a large bowl, add the shredded cheese and let cool for about 10 minutes. 

(i hope you have an electric mixer... hand mixers are best as they will get to the bottom of your bowl unlike a kitchen aid) start beating your egg whites until stiff but not dry. to test for the perfect consistency, your should be able to use your whisk to stir the meringue - pull it strait up and out - turn the whisk over - if your meringue makes a firm little peak, perfect! if it flops over, keep beating. check frequently! the line between under and over beaten is very fine. 

fold 1/3 of the whites into the custard base along with the asparagus rounds. gently fold just a few times until combined. then fold in the remaining egg whites. fold slowly. do not over fold! there will be chunks of white left over, just poke at those to dissipate them. did i mention to not over fold it? it will start to get more soupy the more you mix. try to keep it pretty dry and fluffy! 

transfer batter to prepared dish(s) right to the brim. place dish(s) on a cookie sheet and place in the oven. immediately reduce the temp to 375 and bake for about 25-30 minutes. try not to open the door for the first 20 minutes! you will know it's done when the center is firm and not too giggly. serve immediately!