It’s always tricky to approach reviewing a cookbook because of course, cooking your way through it is the absolute best way to figure out if it’s the real deal or not. Dorie’s latest is over 500 pages and nearly every recipe is one I want to make. Ok, then. Enter French Fridays with Dorie – what better way to work your way though a book than with a group of like minded Dorie groupies? I signed up immediately, loving the fact that you can post as much or as little as your life allows and I especially loved the fact that Dorie chose the recipes for the first month.
Our first assignment was gougères (pp 4-6). What’s a gougère, you ask? Well think a cream puff/profiteroles but savoury and cheesy. Its a savoury choux pastry with cheese. A pre-dinner snack found all over France, the gougère is a specialty of Burgundy where it’s often served with one of my favourite apéritifs of all time, a kir.
Now I’ve made profiteroles before with some success so I approached this fairly casually. In fact I made them after returning home from the Savour Stratford festival, so I was dead tired and they still worked out. Dorie’s recipe must be failproof if I managed it in that state… She claims the recipe makes 36, I halved the recipe and it made 30 – and I used a piping bag to ensure my measures were even. No matter, 30 golden puffs of cheesiness using only a very few ingredients is definitely a good deal I used half Gruyère, half blue cheese because that’s what we had in the fridge and they were perfect.
Problem is… they’re excellent warm but even if you try really hard, it’s difficult to finish 30 of them between two of you. I tucked them away in an airtight container and racked my brains for a use for day-old gougères. Flipping through AMFT (as one is wont to do – it is a fascinating read with stories interspersed through the recipes), I happened upon Dorie’s onion soup recipe (pp 56-57). I love a good French onion soup and wondered if I could substitute bread croutons for the day-old gougères??
I had some onions on hand so decided to go for it. Dorie’s recipe calls for a long, long caramelisation of the onions over a very low heat (mine took nearly 2 hours and they still weren’t as dark as I am sure Dorie meant them to be but it was bedtime!!). She also uses chicken stock – I normally use beef. As you can see in the photo below, the soup is not as dark as you might expect a French onion soup to be but the flavour was spot on – you can tell that the onions cooked for a long time. I placed some gougères in the soup and topped it with cheese (not the best choice – Parmesan – again, the only thing I had on hand) and popped it under the broiler (that’s the grill for you, mum) for about 5 minutes.
And how did it taste? I really liked the flavour the gougères brought to the soup – for one thing it meant you could use less cheese – don’t you hate it when you order French onion soup and it’s just overloaded with cheese? Well Dorie’s version isn’t but this was a most excellent use of leftovers, if I do say so myself…
What I really liked? That it was so easy to remove each little gougère topped with cheese and pop it in your mouth. Sometimes large bread pieces can be cumbersome to eat (not to mention messy) – this was a slightly more elegant version in terms of ease of eating.