This post is a wee bit longer than usual, due to the fact that Veronica, who writes the fantastic blog Supermarket Serenade, was nice enough to give me an award. Actually, I believe that the proper blog-speak verbage is "Veronica tagged me with a meme," but seeing as I have no idea what a meme is, or how it is pronounced for that matter, I don't really feel comfortable using that terminology (anyone care to enlighten me?) Anyhow, it turns out that this award comes with a few duties, specifically, I need to share some facts about myself with the world. Some categories were much easier than others to fill out. I probably could have gone on for days about my favorite foods, but I seemed to get stuck on "7 Things That I Say Most Often." Feel free to skip down past these 35 riveting pieces of information and go straight to the recipe. There is nothing in between here and there that best selling autobiographies are made of.........at least not yet.
7 Things That I Did Before
1. I was a contestant on Wheel of Fortune when I was 17. I made it to the bonus round, but I didn't win the big money. My dad still thinks that it was fixed.
2. I used to be a pretty good figure skater, taking lessons 3 or 4 days per week. During my first big ice skating show, I stepped out onto the ice, and I was so busy looking for my parents in the audience that I promptly fell on my behind. I always did know how to make an entrance!
3. When I was little, I was afraid of the car's windshield wipers, and I thought that the tall pointy building in New York City was called the Vampire State Building.
4. I attended UNLV for my undergrad degree and Duke for grad school. I met my husband, Eric, while at Duke. We were at an "80s" party, and I was dressed like Madonna.
5. I won a trip to the 2008 SuperBowl through a tailgating recipe contest. I also won "wife of the year."
6. Growing up, I did quite a bit of musical theater, singing, and dancing. I still sing and dance, but this usually occurs in the comfort of my own home (the dogs do not pass judgment.)
7. I created and ran a specialty foods store called Julie Anne's (think smaller version of the Barefoot Contessa) for a few years after I graduated from business school.
7 Things That I Do Now
2. I have two dogs, both rescued from the SPCA. One is a rottweiler named Cameron. She wasnamed after Cameron Indoor Stadium at Duke. The other dog is a golden lab named Fenway, after Fenway Park in Boston. It's ridiculous how much we spoil them. See pictures to the right--that pretty much sums up their days.
3. On a whim, I started entering cooking and recipe competitions a little over a year ago, and I was hooked after I won my first prize (a trip to NYC for the Manischewitz cook-off.)
4. I do the New York Times crossword puzzle every Sunday (or at least I attempt it!) It is a great way to keep my mind sharp and I have learned countless new big, impressive vocabulary words as a result (although I never can seem to work them into the conversation when I want to show them off.)
5. I try to avoid watching too much T.V., but there are certain shows that I really enjoy, such as: Mad Men (my current favorite), 30 Rock, Entourage, The Office, CSI, The Today Show, Mad Money (this is actually Eric's favorite, but he got me into it), The Travel Channel, Ellen, Food Network........O.K. Maybe I do watch too much.
6. I work out almost every day, something that I have done since college. I am not blessed with a fast metabolism, but I enjoy food, so I need to burn it off somehow! I am usually on my beloved treadmill (watching the shows listed above), but I also take the occasional torturous Bikram yoga class.
7. I spend quite a bit of time working on this blog, something that started out as a hobby "when I have time." I do love it though. I also read quite a few blogs, a few of which I am going to pass this award on to:
- A Duck in Her Pond, by my friend Blond Duck, a very talented and funny writer.
- Julie Jams: You gotta love the name!
- One Perfect Bite, by Mary, a fellow cooking "contester."
- Family, Friends, and Food: Patsy K. just posted some addictive looking spiced almonds!
7 Things That I Would Like To Do
1. Live in a rustic Provencal house, a la Peter Mayle in A Year in Provence, for a summer.
2. Buy an airplane for my brother, Jay. He has been a flight instructor for years, and he could really use one, but those darn things are expensive!
3. Have my first cookbook published.
4. Host my own cooking show.
5. Find a loving home for every homeless, abandoned, or abused puppy dog.
6. Speak fluent French (I'm about halfway there!)
7. Have my mom's gift for interior decorating and my dad's gift for public speaking.
7 Foods That I Love
1. Stacy's Pita Chips with homemade roasted red pepper hummus
2. Butternut squash
4. Freshly baked bread (I've never met a bread basket that I haven't liked.) I like it with really good salted butter or with raspberry jam made by my mom's friend, Sherry.
5. Fruity, unfiltered extra-virgin olive oil
6. Charred grilled octopus salad from Fiamma or B&B Bistro.
7. Huge antipasto platters with meats, cheese, and marinated vegetables
8. My mom's molasses brown bread (I know, I listed 8, but I couldn't decide!)
7 Things That I Say Most Often
1. Who's a good dog?
2. I'll be on the treadmill.
3. I'll be in the kitchen.
4. I'll be working on my blog.
5. Does this make me look fat? (Eric loves this question!)
6. Can you please bring all of those glasses on your nightstand downstairs and then put them in the dishwasher?
7. I love you.
So there you have it--35 tidbits of information about me. It's no easy task for me to talk about myself that much, so let's move on, shall we?
Pancetta and Roasted Corn Gougeres (goo-zhares)
Every Halloween, as the trick-or-treaters ring our doorbell, Eric and I would take turns answering the door while the other person would hold onto the dog, so as not to scare the children. This year, we have two dogs, weighing in at a total of 140 pounds, neither of whom respond very well to "sit" or "stay" when the doorbell chimes. We'll likely try last year's strategy with the first few visitors, but then we'll give up and just leave the candy on the porch with a note. As far as dressing up the dogs, yes, we've tried that too. One usually ends up eating her costume, and the other is too big to even fit into a costume. Halloween is just not their holiday.
While we await trick-or-treaters, we'll probably turn on last night's 30 Rock and The Office episodes (what did we do before DVRs?) and snack on these gougeres, which I whipped up this afternoon. I first tried gougeres, which are savory profiterole-like pastries with cheese, at a French restaurant in New York, and I was so crazy about them that I made a batch of my own a few days later. I love to serve them at parties, either as an hors d'oeuvre or as a replacement for bread. Gougeres leave room for interpretation too, allowing you to mix in various cheeses, herbs, diced vegetables, nuts, or meat. This version adds charred corn, crisp pancetta, sharp cheddar, scallions, and a touch of salty Parmigiano-Reggiano--delicious! Here are a few extra tips for making these addictive appetizers:
- Pancetta is an Italian bacon that has been cured with salt, pepper, and various other spices. Pancetta only comes from the belly of the pig, as opposed to American bacon, which can come from the sides or the belly. Most grocery stores keep pancetta in stock.
- Smoked bacon can be substituted for the pancetta. Cook whole strips of bacon in the skillet until crisp, and then finely chop it after it has drained. You can also use finely chopped prosciutto (no need to cook the prosciutto.)
- Minced fresh chives may be substituted for the scallions.
- Feel free to replace the cheddar cheese with another variety, such as shredded gruyere, gouda, or pecorino romano.
- If you do not have a pastry bag and decorating tips, simply snip the corner off of a zip-top bag and pipe the gourgeres using this method.
- The baked gougeres can be sealed in zip-top bags and frozen for up to 2 weeks. Reheat them in a 350F degree oven straight from the freezer.
Pancetta and Roasted Corn Gougeres
Makes oodles and oodles (about 8 dozen) bite-sized gougeres
¼ pound pancetta, sliced ¼-inch thick
¾ cup fresh corn
1 cup water
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup flour
4-5 large eggs
1 ½ cups grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons minced scallions
Preheat the oven to 375F degrees and place the racks in the upper and lower thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Dice the pancetta into ⅓-inch pieces. Heat a 10-12 inch cast iron skillet (or regular non-stick skillet) over medium heat. Add the pancetta to the skillet and saute until the fat has been rendered and the pancetta is crisp. Drain the pancetta on paper towels.
Pour off all of the fat from the skillet and wipe it clean. Add the corn to the skillet and pan-roast it over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the kernels are golden brown, 8-10 minutes.
Bring the water to a boil with the butter and the salt in a medium saucepan, stirring until the butter has melted. Add the flour and cook over medium heat, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon or a silicone spatula until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 2 minutes.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and let the mixture cool for about 2 minutes. Add 4 of the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter will appear to separate at first, but it will then become smooth. The mixture should be glossy and hold soft peaks, so if you might need to add the 5th egg to reach the desired consistency.
Stir in the bacon, corn, cheese, scallions, and pepper. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch plain tip with the batter and pipe ¾-inch mounds, spacing ½-inch apart, onto each baking sheet. Bake, switching the position of the sheets halfway through the baking process, until the gougeres are puffed and golden, 16-18 minutes. Transfer the gougeres to a rack to cool and then repeat the process with the remaining batter. Serve warm or at room temperature.