This was the most successful New Year’s Eve hors d’oeuvre of the last decade, outselling foie gras, oysters, caviar, crab salad, and little truffle-laden pizzas. Many tables ordered several more after they had had one. A gougère is a savory, cheese-studded cream puff pastry; for this dish, you split and stuff the puffs like sandwiches.—Judy Rodgers
For Carol’s pickled onions
12 ounces firm yellow onions, preferably no more than 2 1/2 inches in diameter
1 1/4 cups Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
1 1/4 cups water
2 generous tablespoons sugar
2 bay leaves
1 small dried chili
A few whole black peppercorns
For the batter
1 cup water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt, a little more if using kosher salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large raw eggs, cold
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
2 ounces (about 1/2 cup) Gruyère cheese, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
To stuff the gougères
10 to 12 bacon slices
About 1 1/2 ounces arugula, carefully washed and dried
1 cup Carol’s pickled onions, drained
For the pickled onions
1. Peel and slice the onions into rings about 1/8 inch thick, discarding the end cuts; a mandoline will make this job very easy. The slices will tend to fall into rings on their own, but you may need to separate the tight centers. Discard any green sprouts or pithy or discolored rings.
2. Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, bay leaves, chili pod, peppercorns and a few pinches of salt in a small saucepan. If you like things spicy, break the chili pod in half before you add it. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, then turn the heat up to medium and add the onion rings. Gently stir the crowded onions as they return to a simmer. Simmer for a little less than 1 minute.
3. Pour the hot onions and brine into a wide bowl or directly into jars. The skinny rings will turn glassy as they cool. Cover and store refrigerated.
For the gourgères
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
2. In a 2- to 4-quart saucepan, bring the water, butter, and salt to a simmer over medium heat. Add the flour all at once and stir vigorously until the mixture masses and detaches itself from the sides of the pan. Reduce the heat to low and cook, beating constantly, until the batter is very stiff and almost shiny, usually a few minutes.
3. Off the heat, add the eggs one by one, beating thoroughly with a wooden spoon to completely incorporate each egg before adding the next. The mixture will initially resist each addition; you’ll find yourself cutting through and slapping together slabs of slippery, warm paste until it gradually absorbs the egg and becomes sticky again. The final mixture should be no hotter than tepid. Add the pepper to taste and stir in the Gruyère.
4. If you are proficient with one, transfer the batter to a pastry bag, and pipe 2-to 3-inch-long bands onto a parchment paper-lined (or nonstick) baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Otherwise, use a spoon to scoop out a heaping tablespoon of batter per gougère and a second spoon to scrape it into a peaky mound on the prepared baking sheet.
5. Bake until firm and a rich golden brown, about 25 minutes. Inevitably, some bits of cheese will ooze and form a delicious, crispy bib on the edges of the gougères. To check doneness, remove 1 gougère and pry open. The interior strands of dough should be tender and moist, but not mushy; if they are, close the gougère and return it to the oven to bake with the rest for another few minutes. If you are concerned they may over brown, simply turn off the oven and leave to finish cooking in the ambient heat.
6. Meanwhile, cut the bacon into 1 1/2- to 2-inch segments and panfry or roast to your taste. Drain on towels.
7. Serve the gougère warm from the oven (or reheated), split through the middle and overstuffed with a few pieces of bacon, several leaves of peppery arugula, and a few ringlets of the pickled onions.
Recipe © 2002 Judy Rogers. All rights reserved.