Godmé and Gougères

In April, we spent a quiet morning in the Champagne vineyards just outside of Reims before venturing into the village of Verzenay where we were introduced to the Godmé matriarchs and sipped their stunning Godmé Père et Fils wines. After touring the family’s caves, our O’Chateau guide, Trong,  schooled us on the mechanics of Champagne production before returning us to the surface where we were seated at a guest table and served generous pours of the house’s flight of grand cru and premier cru bottlings. We were transfixed by the complexity and finesse of each bottle we tasted so we brought back three bottles for celebrations throughout 2010 and 2011. Never, in all our years of sparkling indulgence had we tasted anything quite so exquisite!

A collage of photos taken at maison Godme.

A collage of photos taken at maison Godmé.

Our 18th anniversary was Friday, but we ended up celebrating it at home on Saturday. We wanted some sort of French themed menu to go with the special bottle of Champagne and ended up at Tartine Bakery, in San Francisco, for their wonderful walnut bread, to be used in a Zuni Cafeinspired roast chicken and bread salad, and a couple gougères, which are the tastiest, and biggest, gougères we’ve eaten. The air-filled puff of savory pâte à choux is peppery and cheesy and … you get the idea. Tartine’s gougères are giant specimens – crisp and golden brown on the outside, airy and tender on the inside. But these round puffs of pastry goodness make great hors d’oeuvres when baked up in smaller, bite-sized portions. We’ve made gougères at home before with great success but we find it much easier to stand in line to get our hands on Tartine’s version. It also gives us a chance to order many other baked goodies that they make so well.

The gougères paired perfectly with the crisp Godmé Père et Fils Premier Cru Brut Rose. As we ate the gougères and drank the wine we talked about how spoiled we are when so many of us aren’t doing as well as we all should be doing. We have great lives and we are thankful everyday for them. That we were able to bring together two of our favorite food/wine producers in our celebratory meal speaks to the kind of year we’ve had.

We finished the Godmé just as we were ready to eat our roast chicken and bread salad. With that we drank a very modest bottle of Freixenet Carta Nevada Cava. We’ve been drinking Freixenet for years because we like its classic cava finish, but the taste of the Freixenet brought us back to reality with its bold flavor and unmemorable finish, and because it’s one of the least expensive good tasting wines on the market. But for those few moments with the Godmé earlier in the evening we felt like we were back in France. It may not be every day we get to sip Godmé Champagne and eat Tartine gougères, but we do know that we’ll have at least two more experiences with the Godmé before it’s gone. As for the gougères, we’re lucky enough to enjoy them so long as Tartine produces them.


Gougères from Tartine

310g (1-1/4 cups) nonfat milk (or water, or half whole milk and half water)
140g (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
140g (1 cup) all-purpose flour
5 large eggs
115g (4oz or 3/4 cup grated) Gruyère cheese, grated
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced

1 large egg
pinch of salt
grated Gruyère cheese for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Line a sheet pan with parchment.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the milk, butter, and 1-teaspoon salt and place over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it comes to a rolling boil. Dump all the flour in and stir madly with a wooden spoon until it forms a smooth mass that pulls away from the sides of the pan, leaving a thin film of dried dough on the bottom, about 3 minutes.

Place the dough in a large mixing bowl and beat for about a minute, then add each of the 5 eggs, one at a time, beating at medium speed until smooth. Stir in the cheese, pepper, and thyme. Transfer the dough to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip and pipe 3-inch rounds about 1 inch high onto the baking sheet about 2 inches apart (if making hors d’oeuvres, make 1-inch mounds 1-1/2 inches apart).

In a small bowl, whisk the egg and salt together and brush the tops of the mounds with the egg wash. Lightly sprinkle each with a little grated Gruyère. Bake them for 35 to 45 minutes (25 minutes for the small versions), or until golden brown. Puncture the bottom of each with a knife and cool in the turned-off oven until serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Zuni-inspired Roasted Chicken and Bread Salad

1 small whole roasted chicken, approximately 3 lbs, boned and cut into 2 inch pieces, skin on
8 ounces crusty country bread (not sourdough), cut into 1 ½ inch cubes
4 – 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 – 3 garlic cloves, slivered
¼ cup slivered scallions, including a little bit of the green part
2 tablespoons slightly salted water
1 tablespoon dried currents or raisins
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon warm water
2 handfuls mixed lettuce greens
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bread Salad

Preheat oven to 450. Place currents in a small bowl and cover with red wine vinegar and warm water. Set aside. Heat 1-tablespoon olive oil in a small skillet and sauté garlic and green onions until fragrant and slightly soft but before they color. Remove to a small prep bowl and set aside. Toss bread cubes in two tablespoons oil, spread on a baking sheet and bake until just slightly toasted, approximately 3 – 4 minutes. Remove from oven and pour in to large mixing bowl. Pour pine nuts and currents with their vinegar and water over the toasted bread cubes. Add sautéed garlic and scallions and toss to coat. Pour the bread cube mixture into a baking dish and tent with foil. Set in oven and bake approximately 15 – 20 minutes or until the bread starts to dry out and darken. Remove from oven and set aside.


In a large salad bowl, add Champagne vinegar, 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of salt and a bit of freshly ground black pepper. Whisk to combine and taste, adjusting for balance. Add lettuce, chicken and bread salad and toss until thoroughly coated with the vinaigrette.

When Pigs Fly

Just across the river Seine on Paris’ Left Bank, we found a place filled with one restaurant after another, each with a carnival barker standing in the front door offering everything from free cocktails to deserts, wine and appetizers. A few even offered their virgin daughters. All were trying to get customers inside to eat. Those few blocks of concentrated restaurants in the Latin Quarter seemed like a traveling circus, luring people in with guarantees of delicious food and lively libations. As we walked around the quarter we come upon one restaurant we knew we needed to try. No one was outside promising us their first born, but we spotted the one thing we couldn’t refuse: inside a glass rotisserie was a small golden brown suckling pig on a spit slowly roasting and just below it, catching the little oinker’s fat and juices, were large plump chickens, also slowly roasting on a rotating spit. Each time the fat and juices of the pig and those chickens hit the bottom of the oven you could hear a sizzle and smell the wonderful combination of pig fat and crispy roasted chickens. We couldn’t resist the allure!

There were two prix fix menu options at this corner eatery. One offered a quarter of roasted chicken while the other an overly generous piece of the suckling pig. Both of the offerings were served with fries (of course), a salad, and an appetizer. Steve’s selection, the roasted pig, also came with a dessert that he was happy to share. We gorged and shared one of the richest meals of our trip. In the end, we couldn’t finish it all, but the flavors and aromas of those rich meaty dishes are permanently seared into our memories.

Upon returning home, we ventured over to Andrionico’s where we found some of the loveliest, plumpest chickens we’ve ever seen in San Francisco lying in the butcher case. They were organic, free range, local, etc. and they were on sale for $1.99 a pound! Jason’s mind immediately flew back to those chickens roasting in pig fat in Paris. How to reproduce the experience without the suckling pig, the rotisserie oven or a spit?

Jason scouted around the refrigerator for inspiration and found a ramekin of bacon fat drippings left over from some other tasty meal. We know most roast chicken recipes call for rubbing butter or olive oil on, and under, the skin of the chicken, but we haven’t heard of anyone using bacon fat in the same way. This seemed like the obvious choice given the wonderful memories of that decadent meal in Paris.

So, here’s our recipe for Parisian-style Roast Chicken, or at least our take on a Parisian roast chicken experience. We don’t think it’s anything new, but we do hope we’re starting a revival of bringing bacon fat back to the art of roasting chickens.

Parisian-style Roasted Chicken

3 large onions
1 head of garlic
4-5 large organic russet potatoes
1 4-6 lb. roasting hen (preferably free-range, organic)
1 bunch of parsley
1 small bunch of thyme
4-6 tablespoons rendered bacon fat drippings, chilled
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Peel and cut the three large onions into ¼ to 1/8  wedges, depending on the size of the onions. Peel the garlic cloves and cut the very large cloves into half or thirds. Cut the potatoes into quarter or third wedges, depending on the size of the potatoes. Reserve one onion wedge and one clove of garlic for the cavity of the bird. Toss the rest of the vegetables with salt and pepper in a medium sized roasting pan and set aside.

Rinse the chicken under cold water and dry off using paper towels. Cut off any excess fat from the bird. Rub a little bacon fat inside the cavity. Add a little salt and pepper and then the parsley and thyme, cut up the reserved onion wedge and garlic, add them to the cavity. Tie the legs of the bird together. Rub the rest of the bacon fat over the bird and under the skin of the breast. Sprinkle with more salt and pepper and place onto the reserved vegetables in the roasting pan. Grease a piece of aluminum foil, with a little bacon fat and cover the chicken. Place in the oven and roast for 20 minutes. Take the foil off the chicken and continue to roast for about and hour. If the vegetables start to brown too quickly add some white wine or chicken stock to the pan. After about 45 of roasting take the chicken out and check the temperature of the dark meat, between the leg and thigh. The chicken should register at about 180 degrees. Once the chicken is done, place on a plate and cover for 5-10 minutes. Remove the vegetables from the pan on another plate and deglaze the roasting pan with about ¼ cup of white wine or vermouth. Add about ½ to a cup of water or chicken stock and reduce a little further until a nice pan sauce is created, season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cut up the chicken and serve with the roasted vegetables and pan drippings.

P.S. We know that chickens don’t fly but we couldn’t think of a catchier title.

Bon Appetit!