Serious Eats: Recipes

The Secret Ingredient (Pink Peppercorn): Pink Peppercorn and Parmesan Gougères

[Photos: Kerry Saretsky]

Pink peppercorns, which I discovered as poivre rose in cooking school, aren't really peppercorns at all. Shakespeare may have said a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but poivre rose is really a misnomer. Pepper is hard, and spicy. It makes you sneeze; it is boisterous and strident. But pink peppercorns are like hot, bright birthday balloons, freeze-dried and hollow, that crunch and crumble at the slightest pressure. They are not spicy so much as feisty, like a natural Pop Rock with just a hint of peppery spice—more subtle and delicate, in flavor and texture, than the peppercorns in your pepper mill.

The black peppercorn is the father figure: strong, set in his ways, inveterately hot-tempered. The pink peppercorn is his delicate daughter: beautiful, subtle, refined, unexpected, vivacious, and surprising. Yet, the Pink Lady doesn't fall far from the tree.

Gougères are a savory preparation of choux pastry, essentially salty profiteroles. They are hard enough to tap on the outside, but hide a puff of air in the center. I love the combination of pink peppercorn and Parmesan: spicy and salty, but decidedly soft-spoken about their flavors. Tuck them warm into a cloth napkin in a basket for brunch for something gourmet and elegant. Serve them with butter, or even strawberry butter made from butter mixed with jam, for a sweet, spicy, salty combination.

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