The beta on orange soufflé

The beta on orange soufflé
Ari LeVaux - 11/23/2022

Orange foods taste better. Maybe it’s my imagination or just a coincidence. Or maybe it’s the beta-carotene that’s found in all orange foods. But probably not, because beta-carotene has no flavor. It is, however, a precursor to Vitamin A, which is good for vision. It’s also the color of autumn.

Ginger, meanwhile, is an honorary orange food. It may not look overly orange but has a feisty flavor. And ginger does, for the record, contain beta-carotene.

This all-orange dish includes carrots, squash, egg yolks, red chile and even orange, the fruit. You can’t get much more orange than that. And it’s even better with ginger. The recipe is for a savory soufflé that puffs up like a cracked balloon in the oven. This is not a dessert soufflé but one for the main course. I serve it drizzled with a tangy orange sauce.

This soufflé is actually several recipes in one. The first step is to make a beta-carotene puree, which doubles as a great soup. And the orange sauce I serve it with is useful in many ways. In addition to drizzling it on the soufflé, you can use it on roasted vegetables, chicken and anything else that could benefit from a sharp zing.

This puree is the first step in making Ginger Soufflé. Most any winter squash will work here. My favorites are butternut, kabocha, sunshine or red kuri. Whatever you don’t use can be frozen. 

Beta-carotene Puree 

Makes 3 quarts. 

1 winter squash (2-3 lbs)

4 medium carrots, peeled (about 12 oz)

1 medium onion, minced

2 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons olive oil

4 cloves garlic

5 leaves fresh sage

2 quarts chicken stock

1 piece ginger, about an inch on a side, grated

1 tablespoon paprika or chile flakes

Preheat oven to 400. Cut the squash in half from tip to stem. Scoop out the seeds and membranes. Peel the squash with a knife or a peeler. Then lay the cut sides down and cut ½-inch slices from pole to pole. Make the slices as even as possible, like you’re slicing bread, so they cook evenly. Cut the carrots into rounds as thick as the squash slices.

(With thin, edible-skinned squash like kabocha or sunshine, I toss the peels with salt and olive oil and bake them too into a crispy treat that’s as addictive as potato chips, but with more carotene. I also bake the seeds.)

Toss squash and carrot slices in 2 tablespoons olive oil and cook until thoroughly tender, about 30 minutes. The baked peels will only take about 7 minutes, and the seeds about 15.

While squash and carrots are baking, sauté onions, garlic and sage in butter and remainder of the olive oil, on medium heat. When onions are translucent, add chicken stock, squash and carrots. Bring to a simmer and then turn off and let cool.

When cooled, add the ginger and paprika, and puree.

To serve as a soup, add a splash of cream and garnish with roasted seeds and/or peels.

This soufflé is an adaptation of a butternut squash soufflé recipe by John McDonald, who writes about wine in the Cape Gazette of Lewes, Del.

Ginger Soufflé

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons white flour

½ cup milk

¼ cup heavy cream

1 cup beta-carotene puree

3 eggs

¼ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 450. Melt butter in a heavy saucepan on medium. Add flour, and whisk until combined. Add milk and cream and whisk. Finally, add puree and salt, and whisk again.

Separate the eggs. When the contents of the pan have cooled for 10 minutes, add a tablespoon of the mixture to the egg yolks and whisk it in. This tempers the yolks, so they don’t cook when you mix it all together. Add another tablespoon, and whisk it in. And another. Then add the rest of the orange mixture to the yolks, and thoroughly mix.

Beat the egg whites in a medium-sized bowl until peaks form. Gently fold the whites into the batter.

Divide the batter among four buttered pint-sized ramekins and bake until golden and well-risen – about 15 minutes. Drizzle with orange sauce, if using, and serve. They will probably collapse, like soufflés will do. But that won’t impact the flavor.

Orange Sauce

Note: I made a browner version of the sauce for more contrast with the orange soufflé. I replaced the white sugar with brown sugar, and the salt with 2 tablespoons soy sauce.

½ oz. garlic, minced or grated finely

½ oz. ginger, peeled and minced or grated finely

Juice and zest of two juicy oranges

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

4 tablespoons white sugar

1 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree. Pour through a strainer into a saucepan and cook down to about half the original volume.

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