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Monday 16 July 2012

Croque Madame Muffins (à la Khoo)

It's ever so slightly shameful that it's taken me a full month since I got Rachel Khoo's The Little Paris Kitchen recipe book to actually get round to trying one of the recipes. Of course, the distance between "I'd like to try some of these recipes" and actually getting off my arse and doing one has been somewhat magnified of late by real-world responsibilities... except that's a terrible excuse because of my habit of wasting time when I have it.

But anyway.

Over the weekend, I went out food shopping with the deliberate intention of buying some supplies for trying one of the simpler recipes from the book, which comes with so many already-cut-corners it appealed to my laziness. The only actual cooking part of this recipe sounded quite simple - melting, mixing, reducing and more mixing in a pan on the hob. After that, it's just a case of bunging it all together into a muffin tray and baking it for about a quarter of an hour.

So... A really simple recipe... How did it go?

The first point to consider is that the instructions aren't necessarily written in chronological order. That is to say, the beginning concentrates on the cheesy sauce and completely neglects the prep-work for the later stages. Maybe it's just me and my kitchen panic (one of these days, I will actually get over it and begin cooking with confidence), but I like to get as much as possible ready ahead of time... Perhaps it would have made more sense for me to re-read the instructions thoroughly before starting, but part of the point of this exercise - and, in fact, every one of my attempts at 'cooking to a recipe' - was to follow the recipe as written, or as near as dammit.

The net result of this is that I was frantically preparing the slices of bread while the sauce was still on the hob because I didn't want it to cool and congeal before I'd filled the 'muffin' cases with their dose of ham and egg. Naturally, delicate timing being what it is, I ended up trying to stir the sauce with a metal spoon held in buttery hands, and I now have a slight burn on one finger

Note to self #1 - in future, use the right tools for the job.

By the time I was done cutting up ham and cracking eggs, the sauce had come off the hob and had become quite gluey, but was still easy enough to scoop on. Even so, I really wish I'd dealt with the 'muffin' cases first of all, and had them ready before even starting the sauce.

And, in the spirit of not-being-in-a-sensible-chronological-order, my main problem with the sauce was the nutmeg. When I went out shopping, one of the things I needed to buy was nutmeg. I had one of those bizarre and unbelievable events where I could have sworn I'd picked up a box of ground nutmeg but, when I opened it up to add the half-teaspoon the recipe demands, I discovered I'd actually bought a box of nutmeg pods.

Whole pods.

Pods that needed grinding.

Oh well, it means I've made use of my mortar and pestle... I was beginning to think I'd wasted a few quid, there...

There's a point in the recipe that gives and example of the sort of consistency the sauce should take when it's almost ready and, to be honest, mine got to that stage after the cheese was added, not before. Other than that, it probably went a lot better than I thought it was going at the time.

I must also add that nutmeg smells completely amazing. Must find additional uses for that stuff...

They turned out pretty well... the contrast between the heavy, pungent Gruyère and the light, fragrant nutmeg was quite curious... I'm really not a cheese kind of person, generally (my main exceptions being the occasional cheese on toast with very mild Cheddar, processed cheese slices in my filet o'fish fingers and as many bacon and brie sandwiches as I can possibly stuff into my gob without breaching propriety) and Gruyère isn't a cheese that I would ever consider normally, but it really suited this particular dish. Of the six I made, four got polished off... I'm not sure if I'll try to eat the remaining two for lunch tomorrow, or just throw them out for safety's sake, but this is certainly something I'd try again if I was having company.

Are they not gloriously cock-eyed?
Just be glad I didn't take a close up of my gob as I was eating one.

Yeah... I'll leave you with that image. You're welcome.

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