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Never-fall souffles.

* Victor Scargle, chef at San Francisco's Grand Cafe, offers up these puffy, golden polenta souffles as a hearty first course. Paired with a salad, they make a handsome, satisfying entree for lunch or a simple supper. Although moist and light, the souffles are more like spoon bread than the classic puffer. This deviation is a blessing because, unlike a temperamental true souffle, which demands careful timing, these polenta souffles endure. You can even bake them ahead, then reheat.

Polenta Souffle and Salad

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 55 minutes

NOTES: You can also bake these souffles in 12 muffin cups (2 1/2 in. wide, 1/3-cup capacity); butter the cups and dust lightly with grated parmesan cheese (1/4 cup total), then fill cups, mounding batter slightly. Bake as directed (step 5). Ease the baked souffles free with a thin knife, tip them out of the pan, and serve hot (3 per serving). If making up to 1 day ahead, let cool (in souffle dishes or out of muffin cups); reheat several at a time in a microwave oven on full power (100%) until steaming, 1/2 to 1 minute for each batch.

MAKES: 4 servings

About 1/4 cup (1/8 lb.) butter or margarine

2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

2 cups milk

1/2 cup polenta

About 3/4 teaspoon salt

4 large eggs, separated

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

About 8 cups rinsed, crisped butter lettuce leaves

Mushroom dressing (recipe follows)

Cambozola fondue (recipe follows)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

1. Butter 4 souffle dishes (1 1/4- to 1 1/2-cup size) and dust with the parmesan cheese.

2. In a 3- to 4-quart pan, mix milk with polenta and 3/4 teaspoon salt; add 1/4 cup butter, cut into chunks. Stir over medium-high heat until mixture boils, then reduce heat to medium and stir until polenta is thick enough to hold a clean path for a few seconds when spoon is drawn across bottom of pan, 8 to 10 minutes; remove from heat.

3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, with a mixer on high speed, whip egg whites until they hold distinct, moist peaks.

4. Stir baking powder into polenta, then add egg yolks and stir to mix well. Add about 1/4 of the egg whites and stir to mix. Fold polenta mixture into remaining egg whites. Spoon batter equally into souffle dishes. Set dishes slightly apart in a shallow 10- by 15-inch pan.

5. Bake in 375[degrees] regular or convection oven until souffles are well browned, 30 to 40 minutes. Set each on a plate and mound lettuce leaves beside the dish. Spoon warm mushroom dressing equally onto lettuce. Spoon cambozola fondue equally over souffles and salads; sprinkle with chives. Add salt to taste.

Per serving: 700 cal., 59% (414 cal.) from fat; 31 g protein; 46 g fat (26 g sat.); 42 g carbo (5.7 g fiber); 2,035 mg sodium; 320 mg chol.

Mushroom dressing. Rinse 3/4 pound mushrooms; trim and discard discolored stem ends, and thinly slice mushrooms. In a 10- to 12-inch frying pan over high heat, frequently stir mushrooms; 1 tablespoon each butter or margarine, olive oil, and minced shallot; and 1 teaspoon minced garlic until mushrooms are lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons port and 3/4 cup condensed beef broth; stir often until liquid is evaporated, about 4 minutes. Add salt to taste. Use hot. If making up to 1 day ahead, cover and chill; reheat to serve. Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 96 cal., 61% (59 cal.) from fat; 3 g protein; 6.6 g fat (2.3 g sat.); 5.8 g carbo (1.1 g fiber); 341 mg sodium; 7.8 mg chol.

Cambozola fondue. In a microwave-safe container, combine 2 tablespoons fat-skimmed chicken broth and 1 cup firmly packed cambozola cheese (about 1/2 lb.), cut into chunks. Heat in a microwave oven on full power (100%), stirring occasionally, until cheese is melted, 1 to 2 minutes. Rub mixture through a strainer into a bowl; discard residue. Use hot. If making up to 1 day ahead, cover and chill; reheat in microwave oven. Makes about 1 cup.

Per 1/4 cup: 201 cal., 81% (162 cal.) from fat; 12 g protein; 18 g fat (12 g sat.); 0 g carbo (0 g fiber); 783 mg sodium; 50 mg chol.
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Article Type:Recipe
Date:Jul 1, 2001
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