Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible, I promise!
This weekend has been hectic. Firstly we have been filing our papers for the court case against the bank and this is no small feat in itself. Secondly, Paul has been ill with a small bug that my Mum has also been inflicted with, so I have been tending to two migraine ridden patients with upset stomachs but raging appetites. It seems that I am impervious to this stomach bugs and rightly so; after suffering with stomach issues for all of my adult life, I feel that I should be given a break somewhere along the line.
Anyway, our diet has been mostly tea and biscuits (me), cereal (Paul) and popcorn and BLTs (both of us). Not the healthiest of diets but sometimes life gets resolutely in the way of living.
But. The case against the bank is being officially filed at the court today and Paul has made an almost complete recovery, so hopefully things can get back to normality or, at least our skewed version of it.
This started last night with me making a dish from one of my favourite-but-never-cooked-from-it-cookbooks, the Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers. This book has been one of the most enlightening reads for me in some time and has clarified some ideas that I had pondered upon but never questioned out loud.
The first thing was to always salt meat or fish or poultry several hours before cooking. Anyone who has eaten marinated meat, knows how tender and flavoursome it is and pre-salting is just a simplified marinade, or dry rub. I have tried brining with chicken on a number of occasions and it always works with great success, ensuring, not just incredibly moist meat, but more flavourful than you could imagine chicken to be. Whilst I always advocate eating organic chickens for their flavour, this is not always possible unfortunately, and brining offers a good way of bringing flavour to a bland meat.
I have also used salt as part of a dry salt cure for belly pork. My curing time wasn’t as long as the recipe indicated but the flavour infused and enhanced the meat quite miraculously. And I mustn't forget making Corned or Salt Beef just before Christmas...
The second revelation involves making stock and the tedious skimming process. The author, Judy Rodgers is staunchly against skimming off the fat for that is where the flavour is. Oh, and she also mentions salting your stock. Another one of those: “Of course! Why didn’t I think of that?” moments.
But, enough blathering about the book. Just go out and buy it.
Meanwhile, whilst marvelling over these facts, I made the New Years Eve Gougeres from the Zuni Cookbook. Obviously, it wasn't New Years Eve in our house last night, but these little cheesy puffs are so easy to make that you don't need to have a celebratory reason to make them.
For the uninitiated, Gougeres are large balls of choux pastry, flavoured with cubes of Gruyere and sometimes Mustard Powder, baked in the oven until golden and engorged. They are often split and filled with a variety of savoury fillings. This is what the Zuni recipe recommends and who am I to argue? Well, actually, being slightly contrary by nature, I did fiddle around with them a little. Paul has just made the aforementioned BLTs and I got to thinking: a tangy mustard and tomato sauce with some bacon and crispy lettuce tucked up inside the warm, cheesy Gougeres. I got to work and produced this little beauty (above). Looks pretty cute, huh? The final verdict from the man who knows (i.e. Paul, BLT afficionado) was that he preferred the Zuni version. Ah well, who am I to argue?
What is particularly desirable about the Choux dough is, not only is it incredibly versatile (remember the Beignet Souffle?), it is so much easier than it is given credit for. I whisked (or rather beat) up a batch of the dough in less than 10 minutes. There is no cooling off period like regular pastry, no worries about it being too flakey. It is far less temperamental than shortcrust pastry and it lends itself to all manner of sweet and savoury applications. Next stop for me and Choux: Paris Brest. Watch this space.

NEW YEAR'S EVE GOUGERES - adapted from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook
Makes 12 large ones or quite a few smaller ones.
1 Cup Water
3 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup FLour
4 Large Eggs
Black Pepper
2 Ounces Gruyere cut into small cubes
Bacon, cut into small chunks
Pickled Onions, thinly sliced
Salad Leaves
Preheat the oven to 200c.
Line a couple of baking sheets with greaseproof paper.
In a large saucepan, gently bring the butter, salt and water to the boil.
Once boiling, throw in the flour and beat like the fury for a few minutes until the mixture forms a thick, glossy ball. The beating of this dough is the hardest part of making Choux Dough so if you regularly work out, you'll find this a breeze.
Remove from the heat and beat in the eggs, one by one. It seems like the butter and flour mixture won't absorb all of that egg but with patience and brute strength, it will go.
The mixture should be slightly shiny and sticky and thick, a bit like a stodgy cake batter.
Now stir in the cubed Gruyere and a good grinding of black pepper.
Using a couple of teaspoons (one to dole out the mixture, the other to scrape it off the other spoon), heap little piles of the dough onto your prepared baking sheets. Take care to leave 2 inches between them as they will spread and double in size during cooking. Of course, you can make them smaller if you are making them for a large crowd of people.
Place them in the oven and cook for about 25 minutes (for the large Gougeres, less for the smaller ones). To check, remove from the oven and slice one open. It should be dry inside, the dough not at all wet any longer. If it is, put back in the oven for another 3 minutes or so.
Once cooked, carefully remove the tops and fill with some of the pickled onions slithers, some lettuce and bacon.


Brilynn said...

You can come make those at my place anytime you'd like!

Kate said...

I just love gougeres and make them in several forms, but filled with gorgonzola and popped into my mouth warm from the oven is my favorite!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Don't know when or how but I really do want to try these.
And now you've left me craving the BLT!!!
Hope things work out well!
The skewed version of normality is always best!

Kelly-Jane said...

They look great, and so light too.
I better not show this to hubby these or he'll want them NOW!!


Joyce said...

Now you've taken my favorite wine snack and brought it to a new level! Thanks for the book recommendation,too. While I SAY I'm not buying anymore food books, I find it very hard to break a 20 yr habit. It was easier to give up cigarettes!

Kathryn said...

WOW!!! They look just amazing. I want one, now!

Good luck with the bank. I'm sending positive vibes:).

Kathryn x

Callipygia said...

Wow are these tempting looking, especially as a bacon holder. I just might have to make these tomorrow, gouging on gougeres.

Toni said...

These look like they could be made into perfect appetizers, thereby feeding the multitudes. With the kind of beating you have to do, it would make it seem even more worth the effort if you had enough for a large party.

tigerfish said...

Gougers. I think that's creative.

Gattina said...

Freya, I haven't tried my hand at making choux dough as the regular sweet filling just doesn't appeal to me... but now seeing your gougeres, I can't wait!
and hope everything works out well!

Steven said...

I'm one of the uninitiated you mentioned with regards to gougeres. I've made choux pastry before but for profiteroles stuffed with custard not the savoury fillings you made. Another idea to try sometime.

Patricia Scarpin said...

Freya, I've never had gougeres but I've seen many recipes around - yours look amazing!
I'd love to have some. ;)

Sarah said...


Everything you make looks so gourmet! You're doing a great job, despite being on a limited budget. The gougeres (I have no idea how to say it!) look so yummy. I'm glad Paul is feeling better and things are rolling with filing papers. You're in our thoughts and prayers!


Helene said...

Hope things turn out good for you guys.These look wonderful, especially filled with meat and pickles!