"Sometimes revenge isn't sweet: It's very, very savory."
I like nothing better than a picnic. I like eating outside so much that, I admit, I sit outside on park benches munching sandwiches through trembling fingers all winter long. But when I was little, those outdoor field trip lunches were the bane of my existence! There we were, all the little girls in our class, seated on some park knoll or museum staircase, and suddenly, the sandwiches would emerge. Now, for girls who wore identical uniforms to school each morning, and who sat down at the same long lunch room tables for the same meal every afternoon, a sandwich said a lot about a girl's individual personality.
But, we all know, individual personalities are not quite the prized possession in youth that they are in adulthood. One after another, they would come out: ham and cheese, ham and cheese, ham and cheese. All on soft sandwich bread, with an orange juice box. And then, I would open what maman had packed for me. Baguette, oozing with Explorateur, or some other stinky French cheese, and a pear-and-white-grape juice box. Yum! I would take a ravenous first bite, and predictably, some girl nearby would shriek, "Ew! Your sandwich smells!"
I would look over at her flaccid lunch meat, and utter the "ew" to myself. As I frowned and switched slowly over to my juice box, I thought silently, "Yeah, well your sandwich has cooties!"
Sometimes revenge isn't sweet: It's very, very savory. This sandwich is for all my dear schoolmates, if you are still eating ham and cheese sandwiches. My version starts with homemade Parmesan and Gruyère Gougères, a cheese puff pastry specialty from Burgundy. They are light as air inside, and crisp outside—like a French biscuit. A savory version of profiteroles, they start with a basic pâte à choux, or choux pastry, the same easy pastry that, once mastered, allows you to make anything from éclairs to beignets, plus gougères and profiteroles. I spread the warm, halved airy gougères with a Dijon-Chive Butter, and layer it with sliced Jambon de Bayonne, a French prosciutto, and baby arugula. Finally, a ham and cheese sandwich worth getting cooties for!
- Yield:8-10 sandwiches
- 8-10 Parmesan and Gruyère Gougères (recipe follows)
- Dijon-Chive Butter (recipe follows)
- 8-10 thin slices of Jambon de Bayonne, Proscuitto di Parma, or Serrano Ham
- 1 cup of baby arugula leaves
- 20 chives, halved
- 1 stick butter
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs
- 3 ounces shredded gruyère (about 1 1/2 cups), plus extra for topping the gougères
- 1 ounce shredded Parmagiano Reggiano (about 1/2 cup), plus extra for topping the gougères
- Coarsely cracked black pepper
- 8 chives, snipped
- 3 tablespoons butter, room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Once the gougères are mostly cool, but still just a bit warm, slice them in half horizontally, revealing the air-pocket within. Spread each half lightly with the Dijon-Chive butter. Place one folded slice of ham on the bottom of each gougère, and top with a small handful of baby arugula leaves and chive halves. Place the gougère lid on top, and voila, your perfect ham and cheese sandwich.
Parmesan and Gruyère Gougères
-makes 8-10 gougères-
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
To make pâte à choux, or choux pastry, place the stick of butter and the cup of water in a medium sauce pot and put the lid on it. Bring to a boil. Take the pot off the heat, then add the salt, sugar, and flour all at once, and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the flour is absorbed into the butter-water mixture. Lower the heat to medium-low, and return the pan to the heat, stirring the dough continuously for about 30-60 seconds, until the dough comes away from the sides of the pot.
Scoop the dough out of the pot and into a large mixing bowl. Let stand and cool for about 3 minutes. Then add one egg at a time, and use a hand mixer to incorporate the eggs into the dough. At the very end, add in 3 ounces of Gruyère and 1 once of Parmesan.
Use an ice cream scoop to mound the gougères onto a parchment-lined baking or cookie sheet. You should end up with 8-10 gougères, depending on your scoop. Then top with the remaining Gruyère and Parmesan, and sprinkle with just a touch of coarse cracked black pepper.
Bake the gougères at 400°F for 10 minutes. Then lower the heat to 350°F and bake another 35-40 minutes, until they are golden, puffed, and hard to the touch. You don't want to take them out too early--if you have to return them to the oven, chances are, they'll deflate a bit. Place the gougères on a cooling rack.
Stir everything together until combined.