Gougères- croque monsieur-style

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We’ve not ordered much since Christmas from the usual, Overstock.com, amazon, AllModern, ToysRUs or Lego.com as we are on a strict budget, so it was a big surprise seeing the UPS truck pull into my drive-way. I was wondering if I had ordered something by accident when pretend shopping. My pretend shopping is basically virtual window shopping where I fill my online basket with dreamy things I really don’t need, but just want. Luckily, I didn’t accidentally hit “one click buy” as it was a nice surprise gift from my mom. She sent me a beautiful cookbook written by the infamous, Jaques Pepin. I leafed through it immediately and found so many tempting recipes to try. The gougeres especially peeked my interest especially when I read that they could be cooked, filled and frozen, I thought it was perfect for our upcoming parties, not to mention inexpensive. I was a bit nervous as I’ve never made them before and always assumed it was difficult.  It really wasn’t, you just have to follow the steps.  I changed the recipe when it came for the filling.  I made the “croque monsieur-style”  with bechamel, gruyere and ham.  These little puff balls are so versatile-you could fill them with anything.

I think next time I will do a few different versions… I want to try

Blue-cheese and walnuts with a drop of honey

Goat cheese with chopped dates

Spicy jam with cream cheese

The list goes on….

Please look at this video for a little demo 🙂 and remember you can freeze these for up to a month and just heat at 350 for maybe 15-20 minutes in the oven.  Just place them in a ziplock and freeze-it’s perfect for an impromptu get-together.

For the pastry recipe from Jaques Pepin:

1 cup milk

8 tablespoons-(1 stick) unsalted butter

1 teaspoon sugar

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 cup all purpose flour

4 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, with racks in the middle.

Bring the milk, butter, sugar, salt and cayenne to a boil.

Remove pan from heat and add the flour in one stroke mixing as fast as possible.

Return mixture to the stove and stir for 1 minute more.

Place dough in a food processor or mixer for 10 seconds to cool slighting.  Break the eggs into a bowl and beat well.  Set aside about two tablespoons of the eggs in a small bowl to brush on the choux before baking.  Mis the egss and dough together until smooth.

Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil.  Using a teaspoon scoop about 1/2 teaspoon of dough  for each choux. Place them 1 inch apart.  you will have about 60 choux.  Brush each with the reserved beaten egg.

Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce oven to 350 and bake for another 15 minutes. cool in the oven with the door open for 15 minutes.

Transfer to cooking rack. Once cool cut horizontally and fill them with your favorite.  Try my croque monsieur style, it was super yummy.

 

For the Croque Monsieur filling:

3 tbsp flour

4 cups warm milk

3 tbsp butter

1 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup gruyere

1/2 cup chopped ham

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter with 3 tablespoons of flour.  Stir constantly until golden brown. Slowly add the warm milk and constantly whisk… add the salt and nutmeg and mix until it gets to the consistency of a smooth pureed soup or a thin gravy.Add the gruyere and chopped ham. Add a dollop in each opened profiteroles/choux. Place the top on and either heat up or place them in a zip lock to freeze. I had extra béchamel mixture and made croque monsieur… this is a treat too..recipe for that is easy. Next blog entry 🙂

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Will you be my Valentine?

IMG_4567When I first moved here in July, we had a housewarming party where friends brought gifts of nice bottles of wine and alcohol, flowers and local finds. Detroiters are proud of their heritage and are proud to bring anything that is locally made and I welcome it. Three different friends all brought three different bottles of vodka. One from Two James distillery in Corktown, another from Our/Detroit in Detroit and the other bottle was from Valentine‘s Distillery in Ferndale–all Detroit local vodkas. The Two James bottle was opened right away even before I got a chance to say thanks for the gift. It has a “manly” appeal with it’s old school label and metal embossed logo of two prohibition era-type looking silhouettes, of two men. The Our/Detroit bottle is much simpler and still 6 months later, hasn’t been opened. It looks as if it came out of a pharmacy or chemistry lab with it’s almost medicinal shape and simple handwritten-like font. The Valentine bottle also not yet opened, has a sexy, pin-up girl plastered on the bottle with a seductive look,whispering “Come hither” as she holds her welcoming martini glass. At first glance, I associated the pin-up girl to something cheap and assumed if the bottle looks cheap the vodka must be cheap and not all that good… wow, was I WRONG!!!!  I apologize for judging a vodka by it’s label and now understand that in fact, this lovely “Valentine” is a lot smarter than the other vodkas out there and she’s a reminder of high standards and quality. Valentine vodka has won numerous awards for quality and taste. It received 94 points of some award that I’m sorry I can’t remember, but it beat  Belvedere by 2 points, Ketel One by 3 and with Grey Goose by 4 points!

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Before yesterday’s tour of the Valentine Distillery, the bottle of Valentine’s tucked away in the back of our liquor cabinet had no chance of being opened, but now since the tour I’m dreaming of the next cocktail to serve with it at our parties or just pour a little for sipping as a night0cap.  The two-hour tour flew by. Fifteen of us from the BBNC group- a newcomer group of expats and people who have moved around as much as me, met up at 10:30AM to start our vodka tasting.  A bit early for most of us moms that had to pick up kids at 3, but it would give us enough time to grab some lunch and soak up the alcohol. I don’t think I’ve been to a bar this early in the morning since my World Cup days in NYC following my Brit, “futbol” maniac, obsessed boyfriend, at the time.  Sometimes he’d have us wake-up at 5AM, dragging me to a bar that was open on off hours, just for the match. I was foolish then!  Anyway, I quickly forgot the hour of the day because once inside Valentine’s Distillery, I was transported in time, back to a relaxed speak-easy from the years of prohibition. The building alone has so much history as it’s comprised of many different elements from that era. Everything has been repurposed from the windows to the old Packer Factory to beams from a Micihigan farm and so on. It’s real. I especially loved the tasting area, to me it had a Parisian vibe with the gorgeous velvet red sofas and soft lighting, or maybe it was the French music playing in the background that had me dreaming of quaint Parisian hide-outs. Never the less, we weren’t in Paris, but in Detroit, which was however once called, the “Paris of the Midwest.”

For my complimentary cocktail I focused on an acceptable early-morning drink and chose a Bloody Mary. A perfect choice. The local McClures pickles were spicy, the tomato juice smooth and the vodka wan’t too strong nor too weak.

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After a bit of chit-chat and socializing with the other women, Heather, the very informative bartender started the tasting. We tried each alcohol in little beakers. Our first taste was of Valentine’s original vodka. I don’t normally sip straight vodka but this was wonderfully smooth and not harsh like other vodkas. It was great. Our second tasting was my favorite –a bit more on the sweet side, the Elderberry Flower infused Vodka called White Blossom was delicious. I can’t wait to re-create a drink I saw on their menu with basil,honey and their white blossom vodka!

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We also tasted two kinds of gin–both had strong delicious notes of cardamon, which was a nice change from the typical, harsh Tanguerey or other yulky smelling gins. It was a pleasure to rediscover gin as I swore off from it 10-years ago. Finally the last tasting, the bourbon, which my husband would have loved, but he wasn’t with me so I selfishly went home with my favorite, the White Blossom Vodka. The tour of this local distillery was inspiring and made me proud to see great production, or more appropriately AMAZING production, coming out of Detroit. It was completely worth my little $20 bill and I will never buy mass-produced vodka, again! I definitely found my love for vodka, my true valentine!

http://valentinedistilling.com

http://ourvodka.com/ourdetroit/

http://twojames.com/our-spirits/?age-verified=d69bc16f56

Herb and lemon lamb chops

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Watch my video to see the recipe in action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53aHKOvgUt0

 

Lamb chops are easy to make and a great BBQ dish. However, it was too cold to cook outside so I made them in the oven.

Last night I served this with some creamed spinach on the side, but you will also see I have served it with asparagus and lemon wedges. I’m not huge on starches, but you could add a starchy dish-potatoes anyway, coucous, or even polenta would be delicious.

Turn oven on to 350

Recipe for 2 people: 6 lamb chops

Rind of one lemon

4 sprigs of Rosemary chopped

6 sprigs of Thyme (if you have it) chopped

7 cloves of garlic chopped

Coat both sides of lamb with the herb and lemon mixture. You can add 1/2 cup of bread crumbs to this if you want and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.

Place in a pan and in the oven.  Cook for 10 minutes at 350. Turn broiler on high and cook each side for 3 minutes for rare.

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