Sunday, April 28, 2013

Lunch With Love--Gougeres

The lunch is tomorrow and I have a million things to do... I did mention in my last post that I am hosting a bunch of my colleagues from the nassau county museum of art for a celebratory lunch. This extraordinary group of women stood by me, encouraged me, supported me through my post-Sandy aftermath. Many of us were affected in immeasurable ways. But we have all come out of a bad situation with grace and goodwill. So I do what I do and dine!

The cheesecake lies hidden under some wrapping. I make another dessert...a fruit salad. I roast sweet potatoes, onions and asparagus for salad. Risotto cakes are made by Shauna. Chicken kebabs make for attractive skewers. A healthy kale pesto turns the pasta a vibrant green. And that is one half of the table!

Being Indian, I figure I have to make something that says me!! So it is to be a coconut fish curry along with a vegetable pullao. Notice I said pullao, not pilaf. Semantics!! A pilaf starts with browning onions, adding spices, sautéing the rice and finally adding a meat stock in place of water. The result is an aromatic brown rice. So pilaf/pullao ... it is the eternal the tomato/ tomato. I just like to say pullao because that what I have always called it.  But I digress. Today I make a simple pullao with sauteed cauliflower, brussel sprouts, carrots and peas. The fish curry is a perfect foil for pullao. A basket of papad provides crunch. Tangy chickpea salad rounds off the Indian components.

The munchies are important. I make a refreshing tzaziki with roasted pita chip. I try my hand at gougeres. The internet is chockful of recipes, But I go to my trusty cookbook, Julia Child's The Way To Cook. It is a hefty tome, filled with eloquently detailed recipes. The choux pastry comes out exactly like the pictures! Butter bubbles. Eggs whip up like magic in the mixer. I cant find my pastry bag, but a ziploc bag works just fine. I pipe what seems like an endless amount of small blobs. A round in the oven and these little cheese puffs come out of the oven all puffed up and crisp.... little golden brown nuggets of flavor.

Makes 70 to 80 small bites

1 cup Water
3/4 stick unsalted Butter, cut into 6 pieces
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup all purpose Flour
1 cup Eggs (about 5 large eggs blended well in a measuring cup)
1 cup Gruyere, grated
1 tablespoon fresh Thyme leaves, finely chopped

Prepare the baking sheets- you will need three half-sheet pans. Line them with parchment paper or Silpat sheets.

Keep the pastry bag handy. Or use a ziploc bag. Do not cut the tip off until you are ready to use the filling.

Heat the water, butter and salt in a saucepan.

As soon as the butter melts, remove the pan from heat, add the flour, Gruyere and thyme and stir well with a stout wooden spoon. The mixture will look a little lumpy but as you stir it will smoothen out.

Put the pan back on heat for a minute more to dry out the pastry.

Transfer the pastry to a stand mixer, using a balloon whisk.

Alternately, if you do not have a stand mixer, you could use a hand held mixer. Or just your hand. Just beat the eggs vigorously as you add the eggs. Use the stout wooden spoon or a balloon whisk

Heat the oven to 425F.

Add the eggs a little at a time so that they get incorporated thoroughly. Use a spatula along the edges to push all the dough into the center.

Ladle the pastry into the pastry bag. If it is to be a ziploc bag, cut the tip off. You should cut 1/4 inch for small gougeres.

Pipe the puffs onto prepared baking sheets. You can fit almost 40 on one sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Serve them warm. Or you could freeze them and reheat them a few days later.

So many gougeres seem like a lot but as guests discover this cheesy bite it wont be long before you have to replenish the plate.

The day is here. The house is ready for friends. They come like Santa Claus, bearing gifts. A gorgeous necklace, handmade with love. Bottles of wine and friendship. Flowers and dahlias in russet tones, my favorite color. How did they know? I am thrilled to see a pot of mint. Mine hasn't recovered from its salty sea water bath! A ceramic plates in blue, yellow and brown... perfect for cookies or crackers. Gift cards and generosity. Chocolates and good cheer. I pour my current favorite cocktail, a concoction of white wine, vodka, elderflower liquor and club soda. They nibble. They imbibe. My home buzzes animatedly. The meal is eaten with enthusiastic gusto. It truly is an occasion with filled wine, women and the song of laughter. My husband, the lone male, manages adequately! As Glenna put it succinctly, it is  lunch with love.