Happy birthday dinner with French twist

Published 1:15 am Saturday, December 7, 2013

My husband had a birthday on Dec. 6, and I cooked with my friend in North Carolina to prepare him a nice meal. Alice (a friend of 35 years) did half of the menu and I did the other half. My husband chose a French menu with six dishes to prepare and actually all the dishes can be semi-prepared in advance.

I am doing the appetizer called gougres, which are little delicate cheese puffs. They are easy to do but taste so good and impress everyone.They would be great for an appetizer for your Christmas meal or for a cocktail bite for New Year’s Eve.

Alice did a French onion soup with the wonderful cheese Comté. Our main course was a chicken with apples and apple brandy. A potato cake and a leek dish will be the side dishes for the chicken. I did the chicken dish and had to spend some time finding the Calvados (apple brandy) but finally got some in a liquor store in New Orleans.. Dessert was a Gâteau of apples, which are caramelized before being baked. Yum!

Recipes taken from ‘bon appétit’ October 2013 issue.



Makes about 50

6 Tbsp. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

¾ tsp. kosher salt

Pinch of nutmeg

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

4 large eggs

6 oz. (1 ½ cups) grated Comté cheese or Gruyѐre

½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 large egg yolk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bring butter, salt, nutmeg and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring until butter is melted. Remove from heat, add flour, and stir to combine.

Cook mixture over low heat, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon, until mixture pulls away from sides of pan and forms a ball, about two minutes. Continue to cook, stirring vigorously, until a dry film forms on bottom and sides of pan and dough is no longer sticky, about two minutes longer. Remove pan from heat and let dough cool slightly, about two minutes. Mix in whole eggs one at a time, incorporating fully between additions. Mix in cheese and pepper.

Scrape dough into a piping bag fitted with a ½” round tip (alternatively, use a plastic bag with a ½” opening cut diagonally from one corner which is what I did). Pipe 1” rounds about 2” apart onto two parchment lined baking sheets. Whisk egg yolk and 1 tsp. water in a small bowl: brush rounds with egg wash.

Bake gougѐres until puffed and golden and dry in the center (they should sound hollow when tapped) 20-25 minutes.

Do ahead: Dough can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill. Gougѐres can be baked two hours ahead; reheat before serving.


Poulet Vallée d’Auge

Named for a region in Normandy known for its apples (and Calvados), the traditional recipe combines both in a rich, creamy sauce.

6 servings

6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided

3 firm, tart apples (such as Pink Lady or Braeburn; about 1 lb.) peeled, cored, quartered

1 Tbsp. olive oil

2 3 ½ -4lb. chickens, quartered

Kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper

1 leek, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced crosswise ¼ “ thick

2 shallots, finely chopped

½ cup Calvados (apple brandy)

¾ cup apple cider

4 sprigs thyme

2 bay leaves

½ cup low-sodium chicken broth

½ lb. crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, trimmed, halved

½ cup creme fraÎche

1 large egg yolk

Heat 2 Tbsp. butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add apples and cook, turning occasionally, until golden in spots, 10-12 minutes. Transfer apples to a plate and set aside.

Increase heat to medium-high and add oil and 1 Tbsp. butter to pot. Season chicken with salt and pepper and, working in batches, cook until browned about five minutes per side. Transfer chicken to another plate; set aside.

Add leek and shallots to pot; cook, stirring often, until softened about 4 minutes. Remove pot from heat, add Calvados, and ignite with a long match or lighter. After flames die down, return pot to heat and add cider. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until slightly reduced, about three minutes.

Return reserved chicken to pot and add thyme, bay leaves, and broth. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover pot, and simmer, adding reserved apples back to pot halfway through, until chicken is cooked through, 20-25 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 Tbsp. butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook, tossing occasionally, until browned and softened, for six to eight minutes; season with salt and pepper. Transfer mushrooms to a plate.

Whisk crème fraîche and egg yolk in a small bowl. Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken and apples to a baking sheet and remove pot from heat. Whisk crème fraîche mixture into cooking liquid in pot. Gently mix in chicken, apples, and mushrooms.

Do ahead: Chicken and apples can be cooked a day ahead. Cover and chill. Cook mushrooms and finish sauce just before serving.