Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Celebrate the New Year with Yvette!

As I prepare for a retro New Year's Eve celebration, with Rumaki, a mountain of crab legs, and Seven Layer Jello, I wanted to share some ideas to spruce up your cocktails! You can always pick up a bottle of the delicious French raspberry liqueur Chambord and mix 1/2 ounce with 4 ounces of your favorite Champagne, garnish with raspberries or a lemon twist for a "Kir Royale," or as I prefer to call it, a "Cham-Cham!" Or, you can go ultra-retro by picking up a bottle of once defunct Creme Yvette to make "The Stratosphere!" 

Creme Yvette is a berry and violet liqueur that was originally produced in the late 19th century in Connecticut by the Sheffield Company. Over time, it's popularity dwindled and was taken out of production in 1969. It was the base for such classic cocktails like the Aviation and Blue Moon. However, after an onslaught of requests from cocktail experts, Charles Jacquin et Cie bought the recipe and re-released it in 2009. The original Creme Yvette supposedly had a more purple color, while the new version (made in France with dried violet petals from Provence and berries from Burgundy) has a more reddish hue. So I'm not so sure how blue your Blue Moon would be? Maybe pink? Anyway, whether you are hosting or attending a New Year soiree, why not pick up a bottle that is guaranteed to impress even your most savvy cocktail-loving friends! Only one question remains, who was Yvette? Bonne Annee!


The Stratosphere

Serves 1

Ingredients:
Glass of Champagne
3/4 ounce Creme Yvette
Lemon twist (I prefer raspberries!)

Directions:
In a chilled champagne flute, add the Creme Yvette and top with Champagne. Garnish as desired and serve! Fantastique!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Glamorous Gougeres

Gougeres (goo-zhairs) are a classic French appetizer made with "pate a choux" dough (see Mon Petit Chou) and flavored with cheese, traditionally Gruyere, Comte, or Parmesan. Gougeres originated from the Burgundy region in France where they are frequently served at wine tastings. How posh! Although they may appear to be some feat of magic, they are quite simple to make. In addition, they can even be made ahead, refrigerated or frozen to be reheated just before serving. Perfect for the holidays! 

Feel free to play with the seasonings, e.g., Gruyere and a pinch of cayenne or finely chopped thyme, Roquefort and finely chopped toasted walnuts, Manchego and freshly ground black pepper, and following my Texan sensibilities, sharp cheddar and finely chopped green chiles! (I hear French people crying, "Oh la vache!") If you choose the traditional version, you can serve them alongside soup for an elegant accompaniment, cut them in half and fill them with salmon or foie gras mousse, or even make them larger and fill them with Waldorf salad, or serve them with steak as a holder for your steak sauce like bordelaise, hollandaise, or bernaise. The possibilities are truly endless! You must add these babies to your culinary repertoire! You can thank me later!


Gougeres

Makes approximately 50 bite-size gougeres or 8 large ones.

Ingredients:
1 cup milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 cup flour
4 large eggs
pinch of cayenne
1/2 cup (4 ounces) grated Gruyere cheese

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, bring the milk, butter, sugar, cayenne, and salt to a boil over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and stir in the flour, about 1/4 cup at a time, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon.


The mixture will become a big ball. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.


Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Transfer the blob to the bowl of a stand mixer, or large mixing bowl. Starting with the lowest setting, beat in the eggs, one at a time.


Don't add the next egg until the previous one has been incorporated. Beat until smooth and velvety. Stir in the Gruyere.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.

Using a pastry bag or two spoons, pipe or drop approximately 1" balls onto the sheet.


Using your finger dipped into a little milk, pat down the tips from piping, if necessary.




Bake for 25-30 minutes (or approximately 45 minutes for 8 large ones), or until puffed, medium-golden brown, and dry on the outside. (You need to keep and eye on them, and can check to make sure they are fully cooked by cutting one open.) When done, remove to a cooling rack and serve warm. (Some people recommend piercing each one with a skewer or toothpick to allow steam to escape.) 



*If making ahead, allow them to cool completely. Once cooled, they can be stored in an airtight container, refrigerated, or even frozen. To reheat gougeres, bake them in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or 15 minutes if unthawed frozen.