Monday, June 22, 2009

Temporary Forbidden Fruit - Ham and Cheese Thumbprints

Last night, we were supposed to attend a barbecue, the first one this year. We were looking forward to seeing old friends we hadn't seen in ages. Our host had promised to make us Romanian meatballs, and I had prepared a summery dessert.

Unfortunately, Laurent and I ended up spending the summer solstice in the nearest ER. Without going into details, let's just say I had a sudden health issue: it was minor, but I needed to have it treated quickly, before it got worse.

Treatment at the ER is notoriously slow, especially if your case isn't overly serious. We left four hours after coming in, and considered ourselves lucky. We were also starving, having spent the evening barbecue-free.

We had some homemade pesto left in the fridge, so Laurent offered to make his go-to mushroom pasta recipe, and went to buy mushrooms at the all-night grocery store, while I went to the all-night pharmacy to get my antiobiotics (we live in a supremely convenient neighbourhood). Unfortunately, I was informed that I was under no circumstances to consume dairy during the treatment.

....Which meant no pesto, because of the parmesan. I tried to compensate its absence with herbs and olive oil, but damn, Laurent's plate smelled good!

It's only been a day, and I'm already realizing that I'd be a pathetic vegan, and a miserable lactose intolerant. For me, breakfast is either cereal with milk, or yogurt with fruit and granola, or whole wheat toast with light cream cheese and jam - all forbidden over the next few days. Lunch often (but not always) includes some form of light cheese. Dinner is more versatile, but of course I now find myself craving pizza and the like. I think I'd have an easier time being a vegetarian, by far.

Well, since I can't eat dairy, I might as well blog about it. It was Laurent's birthday last Friday, and one of the things I made for him was a variation on these Ham and Gruyere Thumbprints by Martha Stewart. I first discovered these a while back, when Ivonne from Cream Puffs in Venice made them. Ivonne wasn't too taken with the recipe, but I decided to give it a try, and rather liked these little morsels. It's funny, but it took me a while to realize that they were basically a variation on gougères, a.k.a. savoury choux. It was only once I had made the dough that I realized: "Hey, wait a minute, this is choux pastry!" It was all the more funny that I had made choux before.

I normally shape these thumbprints with a star-tipped pastry bag, as instructed. But this time, I accidentally inserted the wrong tip, and had already poured all the dough into the bag by the time I realized it. Since my pastry bag is very basic and doesn't include a nozzle, I just made due with the large round tip I had. The result was rather less pretty, but still tasty.

I also made a switch when it came to the cheese. We had some peppered Gouda that needed to be used, and which worked wonderfully when grated and mixed into the dough. However, I knew from experience not to use it as the filling for the thumbprints: for some reason, this cheese never melts, no matter how long you bake it in the oven. So I used smoked Jarlsberg instead.

These appetizers freeze quite well, so I like to make a large batch, to always have some on hand. Of course, I can't have any now... But I'll be able to embrace dairy again soon! In the meantime, enjoy the recipe here! And like I said, don't hesitate to play around with the cheese, or even with the ham: gougères are very versatile.


  1. Oh I hope you're alright! The Montreal hospitals are terrible for wait time. My friend said she spent 11 hours in the ER a couple weeks ago!
    The cheese puffs look wonderful, really different from the typical "cheese" side dish!

  2. Well how long do you have to wait after the last dose of the antibiotic? These should be out of the freezer and coming out of the oven at that very moment. Maybe these and a pizza.
    Crazy how we can suddenly start craving just what we're not suppose to partake of isn't it.
    Hope you're feeling much better soon ;)

  3. Christie: Yes, I'm fine now, thank you. Given that it was nothing life-threatening and that I wasn't in too much pain, I thought the service was relatively quick.

    MyKitchen: Well, I can't have dairy six hours before the drugs, or two hours after. So there's a four-hour window during which I could theoretically have cheese. Unfortunately, the way I've timed it, it occurs smack in the middle of the afternoon, when I'm rarely hungry for anything heavy. Boo... But it'll be over soon, and I am feeling much better, thank you! :-)

  4. I hope you feel better now and that you can eat dairy again soon!! I would be a really bad non-dairy eater! Just love cheese, milk and well, most dairy things... O imagine never having cream in anything...!!

    It's funny by my first thought about those ham and cheese thumbprints was that they were called that way because the dent in the middle resembles a thumbprint..