Vive l'independence

The Front Burner

July 07, 2011|By Donna Ellis

Yes, the Fourth of July is behind us. But that doesn't mean you can't find other celebratory themes to help inspire your culinary creativity. If the Fourth was all-American, then July 14, Bastille Day, is all Française.

Our "ooh-la-la" carte for eight, is designed to help us mark French Independence Day. We've tried to do it in the French mode, but "nouveau," of course, which is fitting for the season and for our American approach to things culinary.

Gougeres Gruyere

Ever had a cream puff? Well, gougeres are actually savory cream puffs. In this case, the pastry contains the French version of Swiss cheese. And you're actually going to make them!

They're best made the day you plan to serve them, preferably warm. You can reheat them gently in a 300 degree oven, if you have made them in the morning. Relatively low humidity on party day is a big plus. But, we can't do much about the weather.

A pastry bag is a big help with the little puffs, but you can use a couple of tablespoons to scoop the dough.

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, well chilled, cut into small pieces

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups water

1 3/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

8 large eggs, preferably at room temperature

1 1/2 cups freshly grated imported French or Swiss Gruyere cheese, divided

Prepare 3 baking sheets: Use softened butter, sprinkle with flour and shake off excess flour.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium saucepan, over high heat, combine butter, salt and water and bring to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon. Quickly remove pan from heat and add flour all at once. Beat vigorously with a large wooden spoon to create a smooth dough. Reheat for 1 minute over medium heat, stirring continuously to allow dough to dry out a bit.

Quickly transfer dough to the bowl of an electric mixer. Add all of the eggs and half of the grated cheese and beat at medium speed until eggs and cheese are thoroughly incorporated into dough. Dough should still be warm. It will be the consistency of very thick mayonnaise and rather sticky.

Spoon dough into a pastry bag fitted with a 3/4-inch tip. Squeeze dough into 2 1/2- to 3-inch mounds two inches apart onto prepared baking sheets. If puffs don't fit on the two baking sheets, use a third and bake when the other two sheets are done.

Sprinkle remaining grated Gruyere on puffs. Bake until puffs are an even golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. If the two trays of puffs are not baking evenly, don't switch them on shelves; rather, wait until one tray looks done, remove it to a cooling rack, and continue baking until the second tray until done.

If need be, bake a third tray of puffs when the first two are done.

When you've removed trays from oven to cooling rack(s), use the tip of a very sharp knife to make a couple of slits in each puff, to vent some of the steam that's built up inside them (helps keep them from getting soggy).

Makes about 56 to 64 gougeres.

Garlic aioli

Pronounced "a OH lee," this homemade mayo will serve as a dunk for your crisp and colorful fresh vegetable sticks, aka crudités ("croo dee TAYS"). Try it as a sandwich spread, too.

6 large, fresh garlic cloves, peeled, cut in half lengthwise

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large egg yolks, at room temperature

1/4 teaspoon saffron threads

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Cayenne pepper, to taste

Remove the little green nubbin from the center of each garlic clove half. Place garlic and salt in a mortar (or plate) and mash with a pestle (or fork) until garlic gives up its juice and salt dissolves and the two form a paste. Remove to a blender. Add egg yolks and saffron and a couple of drops of the olive oil and puree mixture well. With machine running, add remaining olive oil in a slow steady stream until mixture emulsifies/thickens to the consistency of mayonnaise, then do not add any more oil. Remove to a bowl, taste for seasonings, and add cayenne pepper to taste. Makes about 1 cup.

Thon grille

Thon (pronounced "ton," is French for tuna. Grille ("greel-AY") is self-explanatory, we hope.

Try a Cotes-du-Rhone (red) with the main course.

You might have to go to a seafood market to get the tuna as thick as you want it.


6 tomatoes, peeled, cored, seeded and chopped

About 3/4 cup olive oil

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

6 garlic cloves, minced

Sea salt, if using

Coarsely ground black pepper

About 2 tablespoons each, minced fresh chives, flat-leaf parsley and tarragon, plus a few sprigs of each, for garnish


2 to 3 pounds fresh tuna steak, 2 inches thick

Olive oil, for brushing

For the sauce, in a large bowl, combine well the tomatoes, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic. Taste for salt and pepper and add if needed. Cover and let stand 1 to 2 hours so flavors can marry. Hold the herbs; add them to tomato mixture just before you cook the tuna.

Prepare grill for high heat. Brush tuna with olive oil and grill for 2 minutes on each side. Tuna will be charred on the outside and pink on the inside.

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