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Low Mileage Kitchen: A bit of magic never hurts

With an assist from Magic Mix your Easter dinner souffle is sure be showstopper. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

With an assist from the Magic Mix, your Easter dinner souffle is sure to be a showstopper. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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The year-round Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand, 66 E. Randolph, offers Midwest-grown foods and other locally produced edibles, including those used in this recipe. Cooking classes are offered through the World Kitchen program ( Reach the Farmstand at (312) 742-8419, or go to

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Updated: May 5, 2012 8:02AM

Culinary students begin their training by spending hours learning about sauces and how to make them. They especially focus on some of the basics, called Mother Sauces because they can be used in so many ways.

Perhaps the most familiar of these is the basic white sauce, called Veloute for its velvety texture. A thinned out version becomes a gravy; a sweetened version makes a cream puff filling, and that thick cheese sauce that your mother poured over green vegetables to convince you to eat them when you were a child? It’s a basic Veloute with cheese added. With the addition of egg whites and hot air, it becomes a souffle.

I, too, spent hours learning these sauces. And whisking until my wrists hurt to be sure there were no lumps. But one day someone shared a secret that has become my version of culinary magic.

The core ingredients of a Veloute are flour and butter in equal amounts, with a proportionate amount of liquid (broth, milk or cream, even wine). But keeping the lumps out always has been the problem. This mix assures that no lumps form because the butter and flour are already incorporated. Works like magic every time! Make it ahead and keep it in the refrigerator — in mine, it is simply labeled MAGIC and draws curiosity when anyone happens upon it tucked in the back corner waiting for a recipe that needs a basic white sauce, as many do.

Right now, I’m planning an Easter brunch. As a herald of springtime, sparagus is almost a requirement. A souffle always impresses, and with Magic on hand, it’s a simple process.

Make the basic sauce ahead of time; it can stand for a couple of hours if necessary. Whip egg whites, fold in some blanched asparagus and call everyone to the table. A few minutes later accept the “ahhhs” of your guests as you tell them, “It’s not hard — I just used a little Magic!”

Judith Dunbar Hines is the director of culinary arts and events for the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture, which operates Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand.

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