Mrs. Rorer’s Chicken Souffle

Katie Maxwell, Visitor Services and Design Coordinator

Today, I am feeling ambitious: I have decided to make a souffle. I have never made or eaten a souffle, but 19th-century cookbook writer and educator Sarah Tyson Rorer has yet to steer me wrong. The following recipe can be found on page 90 of Mrs. Rorer’s Philadelphia Cook Book.

She has thoughtfully written out the ingredients separately:

1 pint of cold chopped chicken*

1 tablespoonful of butter

1 tablespoonful of chopped parsley

1 pint of milk

½ teaspoonful of salt

2 dashes of pepper

1 tablespoonful of flour

3 eggs

½ cup of stale bread crumbs


*I assume this means cooked chicken. I poached my chicken in salted water on the stove before chopping.

Put the butter into a small saucepan, and, when melted,

Add the flour, and mix until smooth;

In other words, we’re making a roux. It is important to whisk constantly. (I had to learn this the hard way before.)

Then add the milk, stir continually until it boils;

It always seems to take longer for liquids to boil if I’m stirring them. The little bubbles have finally made their appearance.

Add the crumbs ; cook one minute

The crumbs have absorbed some of the simmering milk.

Take from the fire, add salt, pepper, parsley, chicken,

And the yolks of the eggs well beaten.

Since the chicken/milk/crumb mixture is still pretty hot, I’m attempting to temper the eggs by stirring a small amount of the mix into the yolks before adding them to the whole.

Beat the whites of the eggs to a stiff froth,

I generally interpret “stiff froth” as “soft peaks.”

Very carefully. Anything more vigorous than gentle folding could deflate the egg whites. (Yes, I’ve learned this the hard way too.)

Pour into a greased baking dish,

I always thought you needed a special dish for souffles. Could a buttered casserole dish be just as effective?

And bake in a quick oven for twenty minutes.

I think a quick oven is supposed to be between 375°F and 400°F.

Twenty minutes later, it definitely puffed, but I’m not sure it reached quite the height it was meant to. Oh well, now I must:

Serve immediately, or it will fall.

Not bad, though I’m not completely sold on the bits of chicken in the otherwise fluffy eggs. But I have to confess, my first thought on tasting this dish was, “this should be cheese.”