Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cheese and Herb Souffle

As I stood in my kitchen late Saturday afternoon, about to turn on my mixer to beat the egg whites into stiff peaks, I had a brief flash in my mind. Am I crazy to be attempting this with two toddlers in the house?

Well, too late to back out now.

Cheese & Herb Souffle (serves 4 as a main dish)

1 cup milk
1/2 small onion, peeled
bay leaf
3 eggs, separated, plus 1 egg white
3oz shredded cheese
a handful of fresh herbs, finely chopped
Parmesan for dusting
salt & pepper

A little bit too brown, as in the process of calling everyone to the table, it was discovered the little one needed his diaper changed. And souffle isn't something that really makes males flock to the table. Now, call out "Steak's ready!" and it's a different story.

I had envisioned a nice green salad on the side, but Hubs forgot to buy lettuce on his errands, so we just had fresh chopped veggies instead.

My first souffle! Easier than I thought. And the kids were only locked in the basement for 30 minutes.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Yum, Yum, Pyrohy

Before Christmas, I loaded my oldest son, a pail of flour, baking sheets, a rolling pin, freezer bags, and myself into the car, picked up my mother-in-law, and drove out to my folks' home for an afternoon of pinching pyrohy. Perogies. Varenyky. Dumplings. Little half-moon doughy pudgies filled with potato and cheese. The anti-Atkins.

My mother-in-law is French Canadian. But she has wholeheartedly embraced her husband's culture over the past 4+ decades. Major kudos to her for that. I kind of wish she had held on to some of her own traditions a little more tightly, but that's her decision.

Anyway, she makes fantastic perogies. But in our family, there never seem to be enough to last for any stretch of time. The boys love them, as does Hubs. And I, well, let's just say I've eaten my fair share. Boiled or fried, but always accompanied by butter, onions, sour cream, and bacon bits. Mmmmm...

And, let's face it. It not a food that you whip up a dozen or so from scratch right before dinner. You could, but the effort expended makes them more suitable for an evening of cooking potatoes, a morning of making dough, and an afternoon of assembling them by the tens of dozens and lining them up on cookie sheets to be frozen. Which is why winter is such perfect perogy-making weather, just stick the trays on your back porch and let the weather do its job.

So it was, that the three (four) of us assembled to assemble (haha) on one of the coldest days of December. My Mum had made the fillings the night before (potato and cheddar for me, potato and saurkraut for her), and was busy fighting with her stand mixer and too much dough when we arrived.

I'll post a dough recipe below. There are many, this one is very good, easy to work with. The one we worked with on that day, however, has sour cream, which makes it very tender. Wow. From Elizabeth Baird's cookbook.

Perogies are one of those things that (I think) you need to do with someone who's experienced once before attempting it on your own. Like cooking with your Grandmother, or Baba in this's all by feel.

My mother-in-law swears that the best technique is to pull off little bits of dough, roll it into a ball in your hands, and then roll it out with a rolling pin, and pull it out with your fingers (like a tiny pizza). Fill with a little ball of filling, pull the circle of dough around the ball, and pinch the edges tightly together. Make sure it's tight! Otherwise they open when they hit the water, and then you get soggy perogies.

Varenyky (Pyrohy) Dough
5 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp butter
1 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup water, as needed (save water from when the filling was cooked for this)

Combine flour and salt in a large bowl and form a well in the middle. Add the butter and milk and mix lightly until flour is absorbed, adding water as needed.

Knead until dough sticks together, cover and allow to rest for a few minutes, then knead until smooth (like a baby's bum - as my mother-in-law would say). Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn, and cover for 30 minutes before using.

The dough may be wrapped in plastic and refridgerated for a day or so. Bring to room temperature before using.

Our favourite filling is potato and cheese. Other good ones are potato-onion, saurkraut, and mushroom. My Mum sometimes makes little mushroom "tortellini-style" dumplings to add to the borscht for Christmas Eve dinner. I recently read too that because potatoes weren't common in Ukraine before the 19th century a common filling was turnip-onion.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Thyme Gougere

I've made these a couple of times now, and while they aren't the prettiest gougere I've ever seen, they sure do taste fantastic. (I'm sure I just need to work on my execution) The first time I made them, they were giant, and I ended up serving them instead of dinner rolls with our late Thanksgiving dinner. The second time, I made them a day in advance, piping them out of a pastry bag, and reheating them in my Mum's warming oven for Christmas Day hors d'ouveres. While I like traditional, Gruyere gougeres, the addition of thyme gives them a fresh, savoury bite that just seems to work.

Thyme Gougere (makes 45-50)

6 Tbsp butter
1 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup flour
3 large eggs
4 oz Gruyere cheese, coarsely grated
small handful fresh thyme, chopped
milk for brushing

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a heavy saucepan, heat the butter, water, salt and pepper to a boil. Pull from the heat.

Dump the flour in all at once and beat until smooth with a wooden spoon. You will see the mixture pull away from the sides of the pan and form a ball.  Put the pan back on low heat and beat for a minute, drying the paste a bit. Remove from heat and let cool for a couple of minutes.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating vigorously with a wooden spoon after each addition. Look for a smooth, glossy and soft paste that falls easily from the spoon.

Stir in the cheese and thyme.

Using a pastry bag, or spoon, form 1" balls onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush with milk. Bake approximately 25-35 minutes, until puffed up and lightly browned.

Enjoy! Little bites of airy yumminess.