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Simple ‘souffle’ makes for easy weeknight meal

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    A cheese sandwich souffle is photographed in New York.

Many years ago I was riffling through my grandmother Ruth’s box of handwritten recipe cards when I pulled up short at this recipe, for a cheese sandwich souffle. Souffle? Fancy! But reading the details, I quickly understood that this was nothing more or less than the wedding of a ham-and-cheese sandwich and French toast.

Once I actually made the recipe, however, the title didn’t seem like such a stretch. Fresh out of the oven, these sandwiches puff up in a souffle-ish way. Similarly, they boast the moistness and airiness of a souffle.

But what I especially loved about the recipe was how ridiculously easy it is, making it the ideal candidate for a weeknight meal. Just know that you’ll have to plan ahead; the sandwiches need to soak in the egg/milk mixture for a full hour before you pop them into the oven.

This recipe can be customized in all sorts of ways, and not just in the choice of meat or type of cheese. Vegetarians in the family? Say goodbye to the meat and hello to a hearty vegetable like grilled eggplant or sauteed portobello mushrooms. Want to make a slimmer version? Use low-fat cheese and nonfat milk.

However you roll, all you’ll need to flesh out the meal is a side salad or vegetable. These sandwiches are plenty hearty.

CHEESE SANDWICH SOUFFLE

  • Butter for baking pan
  • 8 slices white or whole-wheat bread, crusts removed
  • 1/4 pound thinly sliced cheese (Gruyere, cheddar, provolone or mozzarella)
  • 2 ounces thinly sliced ham, prosciutto or smoked turkey
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups whole milk

Lightly butter an 8-inch-square baking dish. Arrange 4 slices of bread flat on the bottom, trimming them if necessary to fit snugly in one layer. Cover each slice with one-fourth of the cheese and one-fourth of the meat, then top each with another slice of bread to form a sandwich.

Beat eggs lightly with salt. Add milk and beat well. Pour mixture over sandwiches, cover and chill 1 hour.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake sandwiches on middle shelf of oven uncovered until brown around edges and just set in center, 40 to 45 minutes.

Serve right away. Serves 4.

Approximate nutritional information, per sandwich: 454 calories, 23 g total fat, 11 g saturated fat, 223 mg cholesterol, 1,113 mg sodium, 36 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 9 g sugar, 26 g protein.

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