Friday, June 23, 2017

Gougeres With Quail Eggs - The French Breakfast Sandwich

Hi, I'm a recipe for gougeres filled with quail eggs. I am what you desire most for breakfast. I am what you should make for brunch this weekend. I am your friend.
I'm writing this post on a Friday night. A wild Friday night. I've got a scoop of gelato and a slice of flourless chocolate cake made from Audrey Hepburn's recipe (I feel like that almost makes up for the bizarre reality that Kim Kardashian just bought Jackie Kennedy's Cartier watch). Close at hand is a monumental stack of cookbooks. I love my cookbooks so much. I love flipping through and reading bits of them and looking at all the lovely things there are left in the world to make. And then, even when not cooking, I like to have them next to me, sort of cheering me on as it were. Julia Child (Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1) and Audrey Hepburn (Audrey at Home: Memories of My Mother's Kitchen) and Andie Mitchell (Eating in the Middle: A Mostly Wholesome Cookbook) and Renee Erickson (A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus: Menus and Stories) looking at me from their gorgeous hard covers, telling me my ideas are valid. You know, because everyone gets confidence boosts from their cookbooks. It isn't that I expect to ever be as good at cooking as the men and women who wrote the cookbooks I love, but I enjoy the silent, talented host. I enjoy knowing that when I open Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1 I'll have Julia there convincing me that there is nothing easier than making quenelles now that we have food processors. I like that. It feels like having access to a sort of culinary throne-room. If I read the steps and follow the steps and don't try to cut corners, things will go all right. It works inversely too - when I do have a unique idea, I often check it against these cookbooks to see if it (or something similar) has been done. For these reasons, among others, I will never fully give up flesh-and-blood cookbooks and maybe neither should you.

This week's culinary triumph was something I didn't realize I had always wanted in my life. Don't you love when that happens? It turns out that it takes quite a lot of effort to use up two dozen quail eggs and I knew that I wanted to do something....something cute with them for lack of a less basic term. My mind lazily blew back through memories of flipping through one of my cookbooks and seeing a recipe for gougeres. I've never eaten gougeres before but, being under the vague impression that they were sort of like a cream puff, but cheesy, I had a vision of savory puffs filled with quail eggs instead of pastry cream. My recent binge-watching of The Great British Baking Show is good for something - it has taught me the terrors of putting too much moisture into things that oughtn't to be moist at all. I knew that if I was intending to bastardize gougeres, I would need to do it well. And that meant not creating a dreaded soggy-bottom with the puff base. Here I turned both to Renee's and Julia's books (mentioned above) and between the two I was able to clap together delicious, cheesy puffs. When cooked, the tops are cut off and set aside, any superfluous interior plucked away (cook's treat!) and the quail eggs cracked inside. The gougeres are then put into a 425 degree oven to get nice and toasty (they legitimately taste like Cheez-Its at this point) and when the white is just set and the yolks are still runny, you take them out, clap a spig of thyme onto their faces, and eat the whole thing. Let me explain something: imagine the yummiest croissant breakfast sandwich you've ever eaten and multiply that satisfaction by about fourteen. Then realize you can have about four of these for the same amount of calories. Yes, your life has been brightened by the light of a quail-egg cheese-pastry. Mine has been too. Let us thank both French cookery and tiny little quail eggs. God bless 'em both. If the idea of making a stove-top dough that is then supposed to actually puff well intimidates you, be encouraged by Julia Child's notes:
"You cannot fail with puff shells - as mounds of pate a choux puff and brown automatically in a hot oven..."
Remember to pierce the side of each puff when you remove it from the oven to release extra steam and they'll be right as rain.

Gougeres With Quail Eggs
makes two-dozen gougeres
1/2 cup salted butter
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 Tablespoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
5 large eggs at room temperature
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
Flaky sea salt
2 dozen quail eggs*
a handful of thyme sprigs
*you may fill as many or as few gougeres with eggs as you wish. The amount called-for is presuming you would like to fill all of your gougeres. However, the desired number of gougeres may be filled and the others frozen until needed.

  1. In a large saucepan over low heat, heat the butter, milk, salt, paprika, and nutmeg until the butter has completely melted. Add the flour, stirring/smearing constantly until a film forms over the bottom of the saucepan and the dough has come together and left the sides of the pan.
  2. Remove saucepan from heat and allow the dough to cool for ten minutes. With a large wooden spoon (or a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment), beat in eggs one at a time, stirring until each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. Beat for a few extra moments after adding the final egg to be sure your dough is well mixed. It will be thick, about the consistency of sugar cookie dough - this should take about five minutes or until your arms fall off.
  3. Add grated Gruyere cheese at this stage and mix well.
  4. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Butter two large baking sheets, or line with parchment paper. Spoon your dough into a pastry bag, a ziplock with the corner cut, or simply use two spoons and form mounds on your trays, about 1" long and about 1/2" high. You want your gougeres to be compatible with the size of your quail eggs for an even distribution of filling, so don't form them too large. Sprinkle tops with flaky salt.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes, then drop the temperature to 375 for an additional 20 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Remove from oven, then bring oven temperature back up to 400 degrees F.
  6. Allow the gougeres to cool on the tray for five minutes. Slit the side of each puff to allow steam to escape. When partially cool, cut the "lids" horizontally from gougeres. Crack one quail egg into the hollow interior of each gougere and then return trays to oven. Bake for 5-6 minutes or until the whites of the eggs are just set. Remove from oven, top with fresh thyme, and serve immediately.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Tea-Infused Marbled Quail Eggs


From one end of the world to another for centuries upon centuries upon centuries, quail eggs have been and are still considered a delicacy. And though they are to ancient taste, they are to modern taste as well. In good restaurants (or on Instagram if you'd rather) one can have quail eggs on toast. Salad with hard-boiled quail eggs. Quail egg (shells) filled with chocolate. Tiny, fried quail eggs. Poached quail eggs.  You can do pretty much anything to a quail egg that you could do to a chicken egg...provided you can afford them. These diminutive, speckled eggs are a delicacy so delicate that, in fact, I've never had the financial stamina to buy any. Last I checked, hoping the words "delicacy" and "expensive" had divorced ways, the eggs of quail were going for $6.99 per dozen (or was it per fifteen?). My hopes were, of course, put on hold. I would just have to keep doing without adorable, miniature eggs on my toast. That is until my mom texted me this past weekend while I was in New York City: 
"I bought you a present at the farmers' market. Wanna know what it is???"
Next came a photo of two dozen darling quail eggs packaged neatly in cartons. "$3 for two dozen." 24 perfect quail eggs for a third of the price (give or take) of those sold anywhere else I'd looked. Apparently the seller is married to an Asian woman who is fond of the eggs. "She sort of pickles them" he told my mom. "But I don't know what else anyone would want to use them for." And so, bless his logic, he sells twice as many tiny eggs for the same price as a dozen hen-eggs. I'm just praying the guy continues along in his blessed ignorance and never comes to the realization that most people would ask at least ten dollars more. Inspired by the egg seller's Asian wife (and the fact that we didn't have any soy sauce with which to try Momofuku's soy sauce eggs) I decided to marble some of my quail eggs with Assam tea. To make tea-marbled quail eggs, you simply boil the eggs, crack their shells all over with the back of a teaspoon, and then simmer the cracked eggs once more in a strong brew made of tea and spices. The process is simple, the effect stunning and somehow...I don't know...antique. You can eat the eggs by themselves, dip them in a spiced salt blend, or even slice them into salads. I love the slight smoky-spice flavor imparted by the tea paired with the silky quail eggs. But if you don't have a lucky egg seller, don't worry! This recipe will work just as well with ordinary chicken eggs. Trust the spice blend and, if desired, throw in some star anise and actual cinnamon sticks. The spicier you make it, the more mysterious and cunning the final flavor will be.






Tea-Infused Marble Quail Eggs

1 dozen fresh quail eggs
2 bay leaves
1 Tablespoon black peppercorns
1 Tablespoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 Tablespoons loose leaf black tea (I used and Assam blend)*
*you may substitute four large tea bags for the loose-leaf tea

  1. Bring water in a small saucepan to a rolling boil on the stove, then add quail eggs. Hard-boil, about 3 minutes. Rinse in cold water until cool enough to handle.
  2. Crack the egg shells with the back of a spoon all over, careful not to displace the shell. You want to shatter the shells but keep them intact.
  3. Bring four cups of fresh water to boil in a large saucepan. When boiling, add the tea leaves, salt, and spices. Then add the quail eggs. Simmer on low for 40 minutes.
  4. Either strain eggs out or (for a deeper color), allow to steep in the brew for at least 4 hours in the fridge, or overnight.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Disney Recipe: Creme de la Creme a la Edgar

Who else grew up in the era where Disney was king and nothing was a better mark of promising intellect than whether or not you could sing all of Bert's rap-style flattery from "It's a Jolly Holiday With Mary"? Like any other 90's kid, I wore my fair share of primary colors, horizontal stripes, and mysterious things such as "jelly shoes" and “stirrup pants.” And like any other 90's kid I watched Disney movies till I could quote every line and sing every song. Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, and Beauty & The Beast were stock favorites, but I also wept my heart out with Fox & The Hound, was mildly disturbed by Dumbo, shouted the lyrics in a gravel-y voice to all the Oliver & Company songs and watched The Jungle Book and Robin Hood religiously to see all the reused voices and dance scenes. Yes, Tumblr. We knew about those before you. There's a distinct reason that the casting of all Robin Hoods ever since have failed to satisfy me. Say what you will, none of them look quite enough like a red fox – can I get an amen? I know I am not the only Disney kid who always wondered what “the gray stuff” (it's delicious) tasted like. My vote was always something remarkably like gray pudding flavored like artificial grape soda. Apparently the “delicious” bit of that description failed to make any impression. Fanta-flavored pudding it was and I planned to opt out.
Creme de la crème a la Edgar, however, was a different case entirely. For as long as I can remember (and I can't remember a time when I had not seen The Aristocats) I wanted dibs on some crème de la crème a la Edgar. I didn't really care that it had sleeping powder or that it was not exactly culinary genius. I didn't care that it was made for cats or that it looked for all the world like peppered milk. It had to be delicious because A) its name was French, B) duh. Marie loved it. And while it seems kind of ridiculous for a girl who's almost twenty-five to develop a recipe based off an attempted murder weapon from a favorite childhood movie...I gave it a go anyway.

 The inspiration for this rendition of Edgar's creme de la creme comes from eggnog and a simple childhood drink called "hot vanilla" which is essentially a hot chocolate, sans chocolate. The resulting drink is smooth, rich, and perfectly "aristocat-ic." And the most important bit? It is thick enough to film over the back of a spoon which means it's definitely thick enough to film over the back of a cracker or cookie just like Roquefort. Maybe the biggest requirement of all! I love the fact that this is free from refined sugars, full of milk and honey (sleep-inducing things apart from the omitted sleeping pills!), and can be made dairy-free by substituting full fat coconut milk for the milk + cream.


Creme de la Creme a la Edgar
comfortably serves four

2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 egg yolks
2 Tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
sprinklings of nutmeg and cinnamon

1.) Heat milk, cream, and honey in a medium saucepan on the stove over medium heat.
2.) In a small bowl whisk egg yolks. Ladle out a spoonful of the hot milk and add slowly to the egg yolks, mixing carefully to bring heat them slowly.
3.) Gradually add the egg yolks into the hot cream, then stir gently until slightly thickened. Stir in vanilla before scooping into mugs, then top with a pinch of cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg.


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