This day was one of settling back into a schedule...sort of. I had work, and Bug had an afternoon lesson. He and I discussed items he will need for the upcoming school year, and the house is now vacuumed and (mostly) dusted. Only a few more weeks before life takes on the disciplined schedule of the academic year. But, still, a little time to day dream.
My first dinner of the planned two year sequence will be on Sunday 30 October. This day I began to think about what needs to be put up and planned out for that meal. Corn needs to be frozen, and broth made from the bones. Peaches need to be stored in a light syrup. Herbs need to be processed in oil and frozen in cubes. Eventually my mind turns to the dish I already know I will be serving. Savory Cream Puffs. NomNom. I get excited just thinking about making them again.
The one real piece of advice I can give anyone who loves to cook, and would like to learn how to cook better: Find cookbooks that you love to read. Not just browse through, but that catch you and bring you in. That is where I started. At eleven, I made my first popovers from my mothers beloved Fannie Farmer cookbook. The beginning. Later in life I moved onto The New York Times International Cook Book from 1971. An excellent primer for cooking basics and flavor palattes of regional cuisines. It is the book my husband has turned to for his own education.
The pâte à choux recipe that follows can be found within its pages, lifted from page 532, St. Joseph's Cream Puffs. That has been Jim's gift to me on Mother's Day for so many years, I have forgotten when he began.
The formal dinners I do have also been gifts. It is the best way I know to give thanks to the people that are in my life that give me so much in the knowing of them. Each dinner is made grander through the use of the stuff around me: the produce and products of people I see and talk with. People who are frequently at the table. Each dinner is an experience to be savored, long after the meal is done, the kitchen is clean, and our next days have begun. Each dinner brings together the people and our terroir, and makes us richer than we were before.
I hope you enjoy the process, as much as the final product.
Pâte à Choux
1c. All Purpose Flour
Pinch of Salt
Oven to 400 degrees F.
Put butter and water in medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
Combine the flour and salt and add to the butter/water all at once. With wide wooden spoon, on heat: Mix well. Cook, stirring constantly until the mixture forms a smooth dough.
Remove from heat.
Add eggs, one at a time, incorporating fully after each addition.
Drop by teaspoonfuls two inches apart on a greased baking sheet, or silpat.
Bake until brown and set, about 30-35 minutes.
Cool completely on racks.
Chicken Liver Pâté
1lb. Chicken Livers: Trimmed
1 Small Onion: Sliced Thin
2 Clove Garlic: Smashed
2 Bay Leaves
4 Allspice seeds: In teaball
1.5c. Butter: Room temperature. Cut in large cubes.
Necessary Item: Food Processor
In a medium saucepan: Combine chicken livers, onions, bay, thyme, and allspice in teaball. Cover with water, you may need more than 1.5c. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until livers are just cooked: They should be just a bit pink inside, 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat, cover pan and let rest for 5 minutes. This will complete the cooking process.
Remove bay and teaball.
Transfer livers, onion, and garlic to food processor. Pulse-process until puréed coarse: With food processor on: Drop butter cube by cube until fully incorporated. Add cognac.
Remove pâté from the food processor, and into a medium bowl. Add coarse salt and cracked pepper to taste. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing wrap down onto surface of pâté. Refrigerate until chilled and firm.
You can also place pâté into several ramekins, top pâté with a thin layer of melted butter, allow butter to solidify, then cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for a week, or freeze for 2 months.
Whipped Mustard Cream
1c. Whipped cream
2tbl. Coarse Ground Mustard
Fold mustard into whipped cream. That's it!
Champagne Vinegar Mignonette
1/4c. Champagne vinegar
2tbl. Shallots: Minced
2tbl. Fresh Thyme
Mix together well. Let sit for at least half an hour.
Puffs: Cut a small angled slit from top 2/3 of the way through puff.
Place a generous teaspoon of paté in open space of puff.
Top with a generous teaspoon of whipped mustard cream. Place 1/4tsp mignonette on side. I also placed a small, sliced sour pickle on the side.
It is very, very good. I suggest pairing the dish with a dry white wine.
Picture of Bug in Stripes and Gas Mask by Auntie Nanca (Nancy Anderson)