Fine Dine At Home
The pleasure of fine at-home dining - you craft the dishes, we provide fine wines matching your creations.
May 17, 2020
Recipe: Cauliflower Gougère with Date and Prosciutto
Over the years, one of our signature dishes evolved from an entrée based around a cheesy choux pastry gougère. To the choux mix, we generally add a puréed roasted vegetable, such as parsnips, potato or carrots but the favourite we settled on was cauliflower.
The choux pastry mix is formed into balls and deep fried. They are delicious on their own but don't present all that well without context on the plate. We've tried many variations to the presentation, the most spectacular set them in birds nests of julienned potatoes fries. These days we usually reserve that presentation for scotch quail eggs, another of our signature entrées.
A scotch quail egg presented in a shoestring potato nest is a fun technique that makes a good visual as well as an amusing mental association - a great way to present a simple ball meal.
You need a nest maker tool to do this.
The flavours of preserved dates and prosciutto hit it off with cauliflower gougères and the colours work well too. With the help of a little cabernet jus, made from our own cabernet sauvignon grapes, it presents brilliantly.
The following recipe, despite the complicated notes which follow it, is actually simple and there is no need to try to do exactly what we do... We use the best ingredients we have available and you should too.
The key is to taste as you go to ensure what you are making will be exactly the way you want it to at the end.
for the balsamic us
1/2 cup of Balsamic vinegar (or half and half Balsamic vinegar and caramelised apple vinegar - see notes)
1 tablespoon sugar
for the gougères
½ a cauliflower (about 500 grams) chopped coarsely but fairly small
1/4 cup of olive oil
2 inch (5 cm) sprig of rosemary, stripped and finely chopped
150 mL milk mixed with 50 mL pouring cream
100 gms (1/2 cup) plain flour
120 gms aged (strong) cheddar cheese coarsely grated
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Canola oil for deep frying
1 x 2 inch (5 cmm) strip of fresh prosciutto per person (see notes)
1 preserved date per person
For the Balsamic jus
Pour the sugar and vinegar into a pot and, on medium heat, cook without stirring, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Reduce the liquid, stirring gently occasionally, to about a third of its initial volume. The liquid should be very hot and quite thick but still runny. Take it away from the heat and allow to cool and finish thickening. The sauce should be dense enough so that it doesn't run on the plate, so, if it looks too runny when it cools, return it to the heat again and reduce more. If it's too thick when cool, return it and stir in a few drops of water or a small knob of butter.
A thick jus containing sugar is a reliable preserve so you can keep any surplus in a covered small bowl in the fridge for later use.
For the gougères
Pre-heat oven to 180C. Arrange cauliflower on a baking tray and drizzle with the oil. Sprinkle the chopped rosemary over. Bake for 45 minutes until the cauliflower is golden and a little dry. Cool then purée in a food processor until smooth.
Meanwhile, place the milk & cream mix and the butter in a pot and bring to the boil. Reduce to medium heat and beat in the flour with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the mixture starts to separate from the sides of the pot. Turn heat down and stir for one minute more.
Away from the heat, break one egg into the mixture and beat it in thoroughly. Then break the second egg in and repeat the beating process.
Let the mixture cool to near room temperature, fold in the cheese, cauliflower paste and mustard, then season with sea salt and ground white pepper to taste. Ideally, the mixture should be quite dry and easy to handle.
Place a floured baking sheet on a tray and lightly dust your hands with flour. One scoop at a time, form the mixture into spheres the size of golf balls and rest them on the sheet.
Up to three hours before serving, heat a cup or two of canola oil in a deep pot or a deep fryer (set 185C). If using a pot on the stove top, please read my notes below about how to safely control the temperature.
Cook in batches suited to the device you are using. As they fry, move them around gently with a slotted spoon once or twice to ensure they cook evenly. The balls will go golden then start to brown to a perfect mahogany colour in around three to four minutes. Remove with the spoon to a bowl lined with absorbent paper. Leave in a warm place.
Before serving, place the balls on an oven tray and warm in a 150C oven for 10 minutes. Serve warm.
Re-heat the gougères.
Meanwhile, at the edge of a serving plate, lay a strip of prosciutto flat across the plate. Place a date on the prosciutto near the edge of the plate and, with your thumb, lift the end of the prosciutto and hold it against the date and roll once so that the date is now encased and the tail of the prosciutto lies across the plate.
With the gougères ready to serve, using a teaspoon, scoop a little of the balsamic jus and, as though rapidly painting, shake it crosswise across the prosciutto and plate so the jus lands in an abstract pattern. Feel free to channel Jackson Pollock while you do this. I always feel like an artistic genius when I get it right. The trick is not to use too much jus - less is more, if you get my drift.
Place a warm gougère in the centre of the prosciutto, season lightly and serve.
Makes 12 - 15 gougères
2016 Whiskey Gully Wines Montesquieu Malbec ($32)
This is a versatile dish, wine-wise. We often serve it with Montesquieu Malbec as the cherry character fits, as does the soft palate.
Another wine that went well with it - sadly we no longer have any - was the Whiskey Gully Wines 2006 EB Sparkling Chardonnay. The good news is, we have another sparkling Chard. due to be disgorged and finished in the near future.
The gugère makes a lovely light and savoury entrée which matches well with a variety of wines, including Malbec and dry sparklers.
Occasionally we form the choux mixture into quenelles using two identical spoons to create triangular profiles
The jus: The recipe recommends you make a balsamic jus out of balsamic vinegar and sugar, reduced over heat to produce a syrup. If you have a good deli handy you may be able to find a varietal dark red wine vinegar similar to the Cabernet one we make ourselves. Likewise, many delicatessens carry apple balsamic vinegars, which would also be suitable, used in combination with balsamic vinegar.
For the record, we combine our own cabernet vinegar with a thick caramelised apple vinegar made locally on the Granite Belt. The brand is called Lyrah and it is made by the Australian Vinegar Company, Stanthorpe. We prepare the jus in the same way described above
The gougères: It's best and easiest to make a decent quantity of choux pastry since the flour to eggs ratio is simple, making the the mixing and cooking predictable. The great news is that the mixture freezes well so one batch can make two or three meals. Just use enough for the people you are serving plus leftovers for breakfast next day and stash the rest in batches in the freezer.
The prosciutto: Quality matters and, whenever possible, we purchase Prosciutto di Parma or Prosciutto di San Daniele for this dish, which for flavour, texture and appearance cannot be beaten. However, you can use just about any prosciutto if needs be. Just make sure it is fresh with bright red/pink flesh and that the deli wraps it air tight for you. In Italy, especially in Parma, slicing and wrapping prosciutto is an art form. I only wish it was in Australia!
Prosciutto should be cut freshly for you and used as soon as possible. It should be bright pink (not brown). It should have white ribbons of fat (not yellow) and should smell sweet. Prosciutto is cured with salt and botanicals such as pepper and garlic. The process takes between nine months and two years.
Note on deep frying: Canola is a good oil to use. If you don't have a calibrated deep fryer to manage temperature, use a deep, heavy steel pot and, over high heat, wait until the oil just starts to smoke then drop the balls in one by one using a long handled spoon so the oil doesn't spit and burn you. During cooking, use the spoon to gently move the balls around from time to time.
Safety Note: It's dangerous to leave oil smoking and getting hotter because it can explode into flames. So as soon as it smokes, start cooking. The comparatively low temperature of the balls entering the oil will bring its temperature down just below the smoking level, which is perfect. So, once you start frying, back off the heat to medium to maintain the right temperature.