Monday, October 27, 2008

What is it with me and second place?!

We had so much fun at the weekend before last's (I know, I know ... I'm not very timely) Fall Taps & Apps challenge, hosted by the Cudworths — the best party planners on the Plateau. Each couple (11 total; 22 individuals) had to enter a fall-inspired appetizer paired with a beer. We all voted for our first and second choices, but were not allowed to vote for ourselves. Voting was based on the use of fall-inspired ingredients and the success of the pairing combination.
I poured over recipes, trying to find the ultimate fall-inspired appetizer-beer combination, so that when the flavors combined, a spell would come over the participants and they couldn’t help but vote for us. There were great plans to test a few different recipes, but, as has happened with many of my great plans lately, I didn’t quite get around to executing.

We ended up blindly entering, i.e., this was my first try, Hickory-Bacon and Roasted Corn Gougeres, slightly modified from a slightly modified recipe (I couldn’t help myself and had to utilize all the bacon grease — it’s great for roasting the corn). They're like savory cream puffs filled with the flavors of a twice-baked potato. We paired them with Deschutes Brewery’s Black Butte Porter. Thanks to my friend Ryan for the beer recommendation.

Overall, the event was a resounding success. Although I’m having a little bit of “always the bridesmaid” syndrome with another second-place finish; we did come away with 1) two blown-out pastry bags and a new, hard-learned culinary skill; 2) very full, happy bellies and 3) really cool pint glasses adorned with mini chalkboards as our prize. For a moment, I considered throwing a tantrum and demanding a do-over, but that was mainly because the food was so awesome and I didn’t want the party to end!

I’d like to give a shout-out to Curtis and Emily Adamson (Emily works at Marx Foods, a fabulous Seattle specialty food company, making her an automatic contender), who tied us for second place. Their BBQ pulled-pork sliders with Newcastle Brown Ale really gave us a run for our money. And congratulations to Kat and Keith, who took home the grand prize with their entry of mini bratwurst burgers paired with Chimay Grande Réserve. Yum.

Hickory-Bacon and Roasted-Corn Gougeres
5 thick-cut, hickory-smoked bacon slices
3/4 cup corn (from 2 medium ears; or frozen kernels, thawed)
1 cup water
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 to 5 large eggs
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar (5 ounces)
3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
Crème fraiche or sour cream for dipping

Preheat oven to 375°F with racks in upper and lower thirds.

Cook bacon in skillet over medium heat, turning occasionally, until crisp. Drain and cool on paper towels, reserving bacon grease in separate container (I like a Pryrex measuring cup with a spout for pouring). When cooled, finely chop bacon.

Wipe skillet clean. Add corn and 1 tsp. of reserved bacon grease, and pan-roast over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until kernels are mostly golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes.

Bring water to a boil with butter, salt and remaining reserved bacon grease in a heavy medium saucepan, stirring until all the fat is completely melted (you should have at least two Tbsps. of bacon grease, making eight Tbsps. fat total, when combined with the butter. If you don’t have a full two Tbsps. of bacon grease, add more butter until the fat total equals eight Tbsps.). Add flour all at once to boiling water-fat-salt mixture, reduce heat to medium and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until mixture pulls away from side of pan, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly, about 3 minutes.

Add 4 eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. (Batter will appear to separate at first but will then become smooth.) Mixture should be glossy and just stiff enough to hold soft peaks and fall softly from a spoon. If batter is too stiff, beat remaining egg in a small bowl and add to batter 1 teaspoon at a time, beating and then testing batter until it reaches proper consistency.

Stir in bacon, corn, cheeses, chives, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or spray baking sheets with nonstick spray. Fill a pastry bag fitted with 1/2-inch plain tip with batter and pipe about 35 (3/4-inch-diameter) mounds, or spoon mounded teaspoons, 1/4 inch apart, onto each sheet.

Bake, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until puffed, golden, and crisp, 25 to 30 minutes total. Transfer to a rack (still on parchment if using). Make more puffs on cooled baking sheets. Serve warm or at room temperature with crème fraiche or sour cream for dipping.


Missy said...

They were a little piece of potato puff heaven, those little gougeres! I love Morgan's contribution in the sour cream and chive dip -- YUM!

jenny said...

What a fun party!! I'm jealous I couldn't be there to taste all these yummy appetizers- that's right up my alley!

Acme Instant Food said...

2nd PLACE! SHEESH at them!

Hillary said...

Thank you, Kevin. I think so, too. :-)