As you may have guessed, dinner wasn’t at home tonight.
I was cooking for a private event at Willow Park, a wine tasting with food paired at each station. The satay, meatballs and salmon were nothing new, but I hadn’t made gougères before. Gougères are choux pastry – cream puffs – with cheese stirred into the batter and baked into these unbelievable little cheesy puffs. That was paired with the bubbly to begin, and they were fantastic warm from the oven.
Choux pastry is actually incredibly easy to make, and there’s no need to pipe it out onto your baking sheet. Dropped from a spoon, they turn out beautifully rustic.
Mike shopped, and picked up some Swiss gruyère, which I requested and is traditional for gougères, but the theme last night was Canadian food. Oops. So I made a trial batch in the morning at home using the gruyère, and as they baked and filled the house with that cheesy gruyere smell, my 5 year old nephew, Ben, ran upstairs saying “Julie! Something doesn’t smell very good!” and then proceeded to gag and dry heave – seriously, and not even for dramatic effect – until the gougères came out of the oven and cooled down and the smell dissipated. When W tried one it quickly came back up and he tried desperately to wipe the taste off his tongue. So my point is, choose your cheese carefully. At the event, I made a couple batches using grated old Sylvan Star gouda (made in Alberta!) and they were wonderful.
Gouda or Gruyère Gougères
For pâte à choux:
1 cup water
1/2 cup unsalted or salted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 tsp. salt (if using unsalted)
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Gruyère or old Gouda cheese
In a saucepan bring water and butter to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn the heat down to low and add flour all at once, then stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture pulls away from side of pan.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl and beat in the eggs one at a time with an electric mixer on high speed, beating well after each addition. The batter should have the consistency and colour of thick pudding; thicker than cake batter but thinner than cookie dough.
Preheat oven to 375°F and spray two baking sheets with nonstick spray or line them with parchment paper. Stir the cheese into the pâte à choux and spoon about a tablespoon at a time an inch apart on baking sheets. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until puffed, golden and crisp. Gougères keep, chilled in sealable plastic bags, 2 days or frozen 1 week. Reheat gougères uncovered in a preheated 350°F oven for 10 minutes if chilled or 15 minutes if frozen. (You must serve gougères warm!)
Makes about 2 dozen.
1 1/2 lb. skinless, boneless chicken or turkey breast
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 small onion, grated (optional)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. brown sugar or honey
1 Tbsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
Cut chicken lengthwise into strips and place in a bowl or zip lock bag. Combine all the marinade ingredients and pour over the chicken; toss well to coat and refrigerate for an hour or overnight.
Thread the chicken onto bamboo skewers that have been soaked in water for at least 10 minutes. Grill or broil for a few minutes on each side, until just cooked through. Serve warm, at room temperature or cold with peanut sauce for dipping.
Makes about 20 satay.
Per satay: 46 calories, 0.7 g total fat (0.2 g saturated fat, 0.2 g monounsaturated fat, 0.1 g polyunsaturated fat), 8 g protein, 1.5 g carbohydrate, 20 mg cholesterol, 0.1 g fiber. 14% calories from fat.
The panna cotta spoons are one of my favourite things to make at functions like these; Willow Park has a drawerful of Chinese soup spoons, and so I stir up a batch of panna cotta (the easiest dessert on the planet – honestly, it’s just cream Jell-O) and pour it into the soup spoons – 1L of cream turns out about 60 of the things – and chill. When they are about halfway set, I sit a fresh raspberry in the middle of each one – just so that they don’t roll around on the surface. I learned this from experience. You end up with one perfect, slurpy bite of panna cotta.
Classic Vanilla Panna Cotta
Do these in individual martini glasses, ramekins or Chinese soup spoons. A good variation is maple-blueberry panna cotta: replace the honey with pure maple syrup and put blueberries on top.
1 package plain gelatin (or 1 Tbsp. if you buy it in bulk)
1 L half & half or 18% coffee cream
1/4 cup honey
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract or a vanilla bean
Fresh raspberries or blueberries, for on top
Pour about a cup of the cream into a medium pot and sprinkle the gelatin over the surface. Let it sit for about 5 minutes to let the gelatin soften.
Set the pot over medium heat and stir, without letting the cream boil, until the gelatin is completely dissolved. This should take 2-3 minutes. (If you are using a whole vanilla bean, cut it in half lengthwise using the tip of a sharp knife and scrape the seeds out and add it to the cream, along with the scraped pod.)
Add the rest of the cream, the honey and sugar and cook for another 5 minutes, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
If you used a vanilla bean, remove the pod. Pour the mixture into individual wine glasses, small dishes, ramekins or soup spoons. Put them in the fridge for at least 2 hours, until set. Top with berries.
Serves about 8, or makes about 60 soup spoons.