A few weeks ago when the weather finally turned gorgeous, my friend Chef Julius Russell and his wife Jada stopped by for a visit to catch up. As you can imagine, food was one of the topics and Chef told me all about some really cool things he was doing with ramps this spring. I mentioned I hadn’t gotten any yet and he said he’d get me some to play around with. A couple of weeks later on Memorial Day we got together with them (and the Martins!) for an impromptu cookout and some ramps were delivered. Even though these ramp gougères were not served, it was still a pretty awesome party!
Ramps. Wonderfully pungent and tasty wild leeks/onions which signal the annual arrival of spring. Chicagoans can ignore this next part as they probably know it but, did the rest of you know Chicago was actually named after the ramp? Yessir. According to legend (and Wikipedia), the local native-american word for the ramp was shikaakwa because of all the ramps growing along the rivers. The French naturalist who was told this recorded it down (chicagou) and thus the future city had a name.
Every spring ramps make their appearance on menus and in the farmer’s markets here. People who like ramps really go nuts for them too. I am one of those people. Now, ramps are really strong. Kind of a cross between garlic and onion. They’re easy to work with because you can pretty much substitute them in wherever you’d use garlic or onions or shallots. For example, I made some chimichurri the other day and instead of using shallots I added some finely diced ramps. Sooooo good with the grilled flank steak we had. Anyway…
So what’s a gougère? Basically a cheese puff with a fancy name made with pâte à choux. And yes there’s a Ratio for that! (2 parts water: 1 part butter: 1 part flour: 2 parts eggs) If you’ve eaten an éclair, or profiterole, or beignet, you’ve had pâte à choux. It’s a light pastry dough which puffs up. Gougères are typically savory with cheese and herbs added which is why I thought it would be a perfect candidate for incorporating ramps into. The Flavor Bible confirmed, cheese pairs really well with ramps.
These turned out great (and again, I am no baker)! Very flavorful and cheesy. I used some Trader Joe’s Toscano cheese which was sharp and nutty but I think gruyere or comte will work just as fine. The recipe made 44 gougères and they didn’t last long. I don’t even think I packed them away at all. Basically if Cheryl or I was walking through the kitchen last weekend we were popping one or two into our mouths. These are great to whip up as a snack, appetizer, or something for cocktail hour. They take about 40-45 minutes to make. You can make the dough ahead of time and hold it for a day in the fridge as well.
PS – I’ve signed up for a weekly CSA delivery, but one which is customizable. Just got a small one to augment what I grow in our back yard. Anyhow, I begin receiving my farm goodies next week and placed my first order yesterday!
Ramp Gougères (makes 3-4 dozen depending on the size)
- ½ C finely diced ramps
- ½ C cheese
- 8 oz water
- 4 oz butter
- ½ tsp salt
- 4 oz flour (about 1 C)
- 4 large eggs
Pre-heat your oven to 425°F.
In a large saucepan bring the water, butter, and salt to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the flour.
The flour will quickly absorb the water and make a dough ball which will easily pull away from the sides of the pan. Cook for a minute or two, stirring the dough around.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a couple of minutes. You can do it all in one pot or transfer the dough to a mixing bowl to cool a bit. You want the dough to be hot but not so hot as to cook the eggs when you add them.
You can either mix in the eggs by hand or use a standing mixer. I used the standing mixer method.
Add the eggs one at a time and mix in. When the dough gets ‘furry’ the eggs are incorporated.
Mix in the ramps and cheese.
Scoop the dough into the corner of a large Ziploc bag and cut a small part of the corner off. Voila, disposable pastry bag.
Squeeze out some round shapes onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. You can also just spoon some balls onto the paper but the pastry bag is pretty quick.
Bake for 10 minutes at 425°F then reduce oven temperature to 350°F and continue baking for 20 minutes or until done. Only one way to check, eat a gougere!