Soufflé Sandwiches – a Simple, Quick, Retro Brunch: What Would Jessie Dish? Week 9

My first impression of the title on the 3” x 5” recipe card was bewilderment.  Soufflé sandwiches?  I could not recall my grandmother, Jessie, ever making such a thing or trucking with soufflés.   Among the recipes of hers, which I had come across, this one really stood out.

First, there is the question of American cheese.  I do admit to being a tiny bit of a food snob.  American cheese processed food product?!?  Are you crazy?  I could only recall having purchased this once, at the behest of my aunt who was going to be in Vancouver, when we still had our house there,  en route to a cruise to Alaska.  My aunt demanded that I stock the American cheese – for calcium, she claimed, to prevent osteoporosis – and a bag of frozen peas, the latter of which were to be applied to her bad knee.

However, I do embrace certain very artificial candies, as childhood favourites, generally seasonal ones:  Peeps at Easter time, candy corn at Halloween, spearmint leaves and cherry sour candies often in December – you get the idea.  Many people I know are appalled by my weakness for this stuff.   Hence, I am not a major food snob.  But do I feel guilty about these things?  Not really.

As for guilt, Jessie was very adept at its practice.  Jessie’s oldest granddaughter, my cousin, sent me a recipe she had received with a letter from our grandmother.  At the time, my cousin was living in Paris:

How can you beat that last line, “Yankee, enough already, COME HOME!” for guilt?  Good thing a decade later, I lived for only a year in Paris or else I might have gotten such strongly worded epistles, too.  In case you were wondering, Jessie lived nearly 19 years after she wrote the piece above.

Guilt works, as Jessie and I attended my cousin's wedding in Chicago three years after the letter.

A guilty pleasure could be the soufflé sandwiches, when made with white bread and American cheese.  My first inclination was to substitute fontina or provolone, or the wonderful Canadian Oka cheese; they would melt well with some aged cheddar.  This would have made a creamy yet full-flavoured sandwich.  I also thought about doing a whole-grain bread.  However, I wanted to remain true to the spirit of Jessie’s recipe and avoid guilt.  I could imagine the kind of remark she might have made, e.g., “What?  You’re too good for American cheese now, Mr. Fancy-Pants?” (Jessie might never have used “fancy-pants”, but you get the idea).  Here is a link I discovered for a tempting fancy-pants version of this, if you prefer, from the always reliable and charming Sara Moulton.

Jessie enjoying a cigarette, guilt-free, on Rome's Via Veneto, in the mid-1950s.

For the soufflé sandwich critique and the recipe…

I followed Jessie’s recipe almost exactly, though I only made four sandwiches with a demi-loaf of milk-white sandwich bread (a perfect size, with just eight slices).  The advance preparation is so quick – it is refrigerated overnight, so the morning of service just requires a bain marie (“Mary’s bath”,  a bigger pan filled with water, into which goes the casserole in this case).  Also, I did forget to butter the earthenware casserole I used, but I had no trouble removing the sandwiches.   One thing I chose not to do was remove the crusts, and I was glad that I had not; this is a matter of personal taste.  My other adaptation was to sprinkle chili powder on top and use black pepper liberally.

Curried apple chutney (top), raspberry chipotle ketchup, and Sriracha sauce

For our brunch on the deck, I served the sandwiches with a curried apple chutney I had made last fall, Sriracha sauce, and a delectably tangy raspberry chipotle ketchup by my friend-of-the-blog-that-dare-not-speak-its-name (when said blog is ready for an introduction to the polite society of the blogosphere, it will be an extravaganza worthy of a special, hosted by none other than Miss Diana Ross).

Jim and Kip came over to test the results and helped with food styling for the plated sandwiches.  We all agreed that it is a toothsome dish – crisp brown edges for the crusts, with a French-toast-like interior, enrobing a molten American cheese filling, surrounded by a bit of a custard base.  There was a textural contrast worthy of a much more complicated dish.

Dress it up or down, the soufflé sandwich will suit the fancy-pants or not-so-fancy-pants in you.

Soufflé Sandwiches, from Jessie’s recipe file

Serves six

Ingredients

  • 12 slices of good quality white bread
  • 12 slices of American cheese (or, substitute a combination of one slice either fontina, Oka, or provolone and one of aged cheddar, for the fancy-pants version)
  • 6 eggs (or, for a lighter version, 4-5 would work)
  • 2 ½ cups milk
  • 2-3 ounces butter
  • freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • chili powder, to taste

Directions

  1. Lightly butter interior of casserole.
  2. Put six slices of bread on bottom of casserole.
  3. Place twelve slices of American cheese (or cheese of your choice) on top, two per bread slice.
  4. Place remaining six slices of bread on top of cheese.
  5. Mix eggs and milk until just blended.
  6. Pour egg-milk mixture over bread, dot with butter, and sprinkle with chili powder and black pepper.
  7. Place casserole, covered with plastic wrap or a lid, in fridge overnight.
  8. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  9. Pour cold water into bottom of an ovenproof pan larger than casserole (a bain marie, if you are curious, or serious about your culinary terminology).
  10. Place casserole dish into water bath.
  11. Bake for 55-60 minutes, until the tops of bread are golden-brown.
  12. Serve with your favourite condiment and enjoy without guilt.
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19 responses to “Soufflé Sandwiches – a Simple, Quick, Retro Brunch: What Would Jessie Dish? Week 9

  1. Maybe it’s wrong of me but that sounds so incredibly good and tasty… I love cheese toasties but this ‘souffle sandwich’ of Jessie’s is kinda what would really hit the spot right about now…

    Also that letter is hilarious. I never get guilt letters, I just get guilt-tinged speeches and looks… I think a letter would be worse.

    Jax x

    • Jax, perhaps it’s so wrong that it’s right?!? Whatever it is, this is so super-easy to make.

      Guilt letters are the gift that keep on givin’…a look or verbal comments just don’t have the same lasting power.

      Thanks,

      Dan

  2. I found this to be one of Jessie`s most intriguing recipe titles — and I love the “oozy” American cheese pic at the end. I love the idea of these, and will be indulging my secret weakness for Kraft Singles with this recipe very soon. Too bad I loathe dealing with bain maries!

    • Thanks, Theresa. I would never have guessed about your secret Kraft Single-fixation. Maybe I should fling the remaining squares over to Pender as if they were frisbees and hope you (or the Dooze) can catch them.

      I know what you mean about bain maries, as I was cooking in shorts and flip-flops and wound up splashing water on the floor near me while taking out the pans…not a finer moment of kitchen safety.

      Dan

  3. Your writing draws me in, and makes me wish I knew Jessie. The old pics are a nice touch. The sand looks dreamy.

  4. This looks like such a comforting sandwich! I loved the details about living in Paris; it sounds like something that everyone should do once, and I, unfortunately, have never even visited. Someday… :)

    • Hi, Maddie. You’re right about the comfort-food factor – this would be a great meal for a rainy fall or snowy winter day…maybe not so much mid-summer.

      Yes, you must visit Paris, if at all possible! I can give you advice on more obscure places to visit, when you plan on going.

      Thanks for your comments,

      Dan

  5. Awwwww, I loved the vintage cards and picture. And the Soufflé Sandwiches idea is genius. Looks very yummy.

  6. Oh those look and sound delectable. I’ve eaten at many Michelin stars – but have never outgrown my love of American cheese and grilled cheese in general. Definitely goes on my to-make list.

    • Thanks for visiting. I agree that Michelin-starred places are fine for what they do, but I don’t recall having come across grilled cheese on any of their menus! Do let me know what you think once you make this dish. Dan

  7. that sounds like a heart attack waiting to happen. and i want one–now! it’s really interesting how everyone used to eat american cheese but now it is scoffed at. i admit i scoff at it, but mostly because I grew up eating real cheese and not the processed stuff.

    • Hi, BB. It actually isn’t too high fat (I guess one could use the low-fat American cheese?), with 1/2 c of milk, one egg, and a little butter per sandwich – I think it’s not nearly as bad as brioche French toast with heavy cream, for instance….Thus, go right ahead and try this health food.

      Thanks,

      Dan

  8. I never ate much “American cheese” or Kraft singles. It wasn’t available in the Middle East during my childhood. They had all the imported, natural “stinky” cheeses from nearby Europe to choose from. And when I first saw Kraft singles when we moved back, I really thought it looked like melted orange plastic and missed that sharp taste and stinky smell. And everybody at school new school was puzzled that I had never seen orange cheeses before.

    Candy corn and Peeps didn’t come into the picture either until I was 12. I never learned to like them. I think these types of candies are something you have to grow up on.

    As always, I enjoy your posts about Jessie and her heirloom recipes. : ) It’s like catching up with all the quirky North American foods I missed out on during all those years my family and I were living overseas.

  9. Checked the recipe again – in your version [as opposed to Jessie's] you’ve left out the sandwich part. Presumably you put 2 slices of cheese on the bottom 6 bread slices, then cover with the other 6 slices. And then pour on the egg mix. Looking forward to this on the weekend.

  10. As one of three who actually ate this oozy sandwich dream, I must say it was well worth not doing much work once I got home.
    Growing up I only had “American ” cheese – though I thought it was Canadian. Love the real stuff now, but this sandwich was American cheese at its best…my Mom’s idea of using singles; two slices of Wonder bread with the cheese slapped in for contrast.
    Thanks Dan

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