For this year’s Oscar party, I was inspired by the weightless in the movie “Gravity.” I was a little alarmed at the sight of poor Sandra Bullock floating around in space.
It made me think of souffles, which are famously light thanks to all the whipped egg whites in them.
But how do you turn a full-blown souffle into a tasty nibble for a party?
The solution: Make each one small enough to fit into a mini-phyllo shell, which you can find in the supermarket’s freezer section. And, each of these little shells are fairly low in calories — no more than 15 calories each.
If you can’t find them pre-made, just stack four sheets of phyllo dough on top of one other, lightly spritzing each sheet with olive oil cooking spray as you stack. Cut the stacked sheets into 3-inch squares, ease the stacks into the cups of a mini-muffin pan, then bake at 375 F for 8-10 minutes, or until they’re barely golden at the edges. Let them cool before filling and baking.
For the fillingI opted for the lusciousness of a cheese souffle. I went with goat cheese, which is relatively lean even as it boasts tangy flavor and creamy texture. I also added some Parmigiano-Reggiano, because even a little of this rich bruiser delivers big impact.
To make the “cream” sauce, just thicken some 1 percent milk with a little roux (the classic butter-flour mixture), and flavor it with the cheeses and some Dijon mustard.
And here are a couple of tips about working with those egg whites:
First, it’s much easier to separate the whites from the yolks when the eggs are cold.
Secondly, separate them with your own (very clean) hands. That way you eliminate the possibility of puncturing the yolks with the sharp edges of the shell.
It’s best to beat the egg whites at room temperature. To warm them up quickly, simply put them in a metal bowl set into a larger bowl of hot water until they feel tepid to the touch. Then beat the whites until they’re barely stiff. If you overdo it, your souffle won’t be as stable or high as it could be.
When the show is over, don’t be surprised if you walk away with an award for Best Appetizer at an Oscar Party.
Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years, and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. She currently stars in public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals” and has written three cookbooks, including “Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners.”
Goat Cheese Phyllo Bites
Phyllo pastry cups are widely available in the freezer section of most grocers, usually near the pastry and frozen fruit. Makes 45 bites. Recipe is by Sara Moulton.
3 pkgs. (each package contains 15 cups) phyllo pastry cups
11/2 tbls. unsalted butter
11/2 tbls. all-purpose flour
1/2 cup 1 percent milk
4-oz. log soft goat cheese, crumbled
1 oz. finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 large egg, separated, plus 1 large egg white, at room temperature
11/2 tsps. Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Pinch of cream of tartar
45 fresh dill, tarragon or miniature fresh basil sprigs or snipped chives
1. Heat oven to 375 F. Arrange phyllo cups on a rimmed baking sheet. Set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and whisk for 2 minutes. Add the milk in a stream, whisking, and bring to a boil, whisking. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in goat cheese, half of Parmigiano-Reggiano, egg yolk, mustard, and salt and pepper, to taste, stirring until smooth. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat both egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and continue beating until they just hold stiff peaks. Stir a third of the whites into the sauce, then fold in the remaining whites, gently but thoroughly.
4. Spoon the mixture into the phyllo cups. Bake on oven’s middle shelf until they are puffed and golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a platter, sprinkle with the remaining cheese and some herbs, then serve immediately.
Nutrition information per bite: 30 calories (15 calories from fat = 50 percent of total calories); 2 grams fat (0.5 gram saturated; 0 grams trans fats); 5 milligrams cholesterol; 3 grams carbohydrate; 0 grams fiber; 0 grams sugar; 1 gram protein; 55 milligrams sodium.