Tag Archive for french food

Rosemary and Cheddar Gougères a.k.a. “Cheesy Poofs”

I am not a chef. But I do love experimenting in the kitchen, and I’ve been doing it long enough that I’m pretty good at it. I love trying new things, experimenting, and putting my own spin on a recipe I’m testing.

I have never made Gougères before. In fact, I’d never actually heard of Gougères until a couple of months ago when I picked up the Winter edition of Edible Vancouver. I was thumbing through and looking at all the pretty photos, and I stopped dead in my tracks when I came to a photo of a cheesy french pastry. I had to make them.

I was afraid, though. Like many things French, there is a lot of technique involved, but turns out my fears were ungrounded (very similar to my recent experiences with soufflè).

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These may be the tastiest new thing I’ve made in a long time. They are perfect, warm, cheesy pillows of deliciousness. I can’t eat one without thinking about Cartman, but I think a better name for them is Cheesy Poofs, because that is what they are. However, saying  will gougèries make you sound so much more elegant and smart.

This recipe is kind of a chemistry miracle. It has no leavening whatsoever: no yeast, to baking powder or soda. It does have eggs, but that’s it. It’s made with a choux pastry, which is similar to a roux. A roux, you’ll remember, is a cooked-out mixture of butter and flour, which is used to thicken soups, stews or sauces, primarily. A choux adds one more ingredient: water. You would think something made with the base of water, butter,  and flour would be heavy and dense, but it’s quite the opposite. It’s light and airy. The name “choux,” by the way, comes from the fact that when you cut it open, the poofs have layers like a cabbage.

I made these ones with some rosemary from my garden and some nice cheddar, but you can use almost any kind of cheese in here. My next go-around will incorporate blue cheese.

By the way, my kid couldn’t get enough of these–he went completely bonkers for them. Serve them warm, fresh out of the oven–they are best that way.

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Rosemary and Cheddar Gougères or, “Cheesy Poofs”

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 4 large eggs, scrambled
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (I used a mix of sharp cheddar and applewood smoked cheddar)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 sprig fresh or dried rosemary
  • additional egg for an egg wash

Method:

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the water, butter and salt to a boil, stirring constantly.
  2. Once it comes to a boil, turn down the heat, and add all the flour at once. Stir constantly for 3 minutes. This mixture is supposed to be lumpy, but mine turned out smooth the first time. The final mixture should be thick and sticky. Remove it from the pot to bowl to cool a little.
  3. In the mean time, beat the eggs. Add the eggs, one tablespoon at a time, to the flour mixture. You can mix or beat by hand, or using a mixer. Once you’ve added all the eggs, beat for an additional 30 seconds. The final mixture should be smooth and glossy.
  4. Mince the garlic. Add a pinch of salt and the stripped off rosemary leaves and mince some more. You want this to be very fine. You may want to mash the garlic and rosemary together with the back of your knife, or in a mortar and pestle. The final result needs to be very, very fine. Add the rosemary, garlic and the shredded cheese to the choux and fold it in.
  5. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees, and line baking sheets with parchment. Using your handy-dandy Cookie Scoop, scoop balls of the dough onto your cookie sheets. Brush with egg wash. Top with more cheese if desired. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the pan and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes. Serve warm.

Ze Bite

Last week was a really tough, slog-through-the-work kinda week. By the time I got to Friday, I was pooped, and I felt like I’d earned a treat.

So got dressed up and headed out to meet my friend Raj for lunch. Now, Raj is turning 35 this year, and she has a list of things she wants to get done before she does. One of them is “have lunch in Paris.” Now, we didn’t actually go to Paris, but we dressed up in our best French outfits and ate crepes, so it was pretty darn close.

Raj and I make funny faces and eat crepes. It's Friday.

Raj and I make funny faces and eat crepes. It’s Friday.

Ze Bite is a food truck that has been operating on the streets of Vancouver for about two years. The owner, Mathieu Gicquel, also had a “before a I turn a milestone birthday” to-do list, and it included living abroad, owning a business, and learning to speak English. He knocked off all three with Ze Bite (although his English has a charming Parisian accent that influences the names of the dishes he makes, and if you want to practice your French, he’d be happy speak en francais with you).

Gicquel grew up in kitchens, namely his grandmother’s kitchen in France. Restaurants are in his family, both his sister and his uncle have them. Gicquel, however, became an engineer. But after moving to Canada at the age of 31, he decided he wanted to own his own business, and food seemed like a natural fit.

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Ze Bite, which promises to be “a taste of France in one bite,” offers crepes and baguette sandwiches. There is also a soup (Mediterranean tomato) and a salad available.  You’ll mostly find them in the 800-block of West Cordova.

Gicquel’s menu is heavily influenced by Morrocan spices, especially on Ze Moroccan. It’s chicken marinated with cumin and other moroccan spices, and served with mint, hummus, greens and grainy dijon. You can have it on your choice of a baguette (Gicquel sources his baguettes from Baguette and Co) or a gluten-free buckwheat crepe, which he makes right in front of you. Click here for a Gluten-free, Vegan Buckwheat Crepe recipe.

Other menu options include Ze Pig, a citrus and spice braised pork with crispy apples and spicy jalapeños, or Ze Francais, which rosemary ham, tomato sauce, dijon, and greens. I had the vegetarian option, Ze Provencal, with tender roasted eggplant, zucchini, and peppers, finished with greens, tomato sauce, dijon, and herbs du provence.

For dessert, there are many sweet crepe options, like Nutella, salted butter caramel, Raspberry Jam, or the classic sugar/butter combination.

Gicquel is also incredibly passionate about spreading his love for French food to the younger generation. He has a program where he brings the truck to high schools and teaches the kids how to make crepes.

Ze Bite is worth tracking down–it’s the taste of France, right here in downtown Vancouver. Find them onine at ZeBite.ca.