Friday, 20 April 2012

Kat vs How to Eat: Bechamel (Croque Madame muffins)

Nigella meet Rachel. She has a Little Paris Kitchen and everything she cooks seems to involve butter. You’ll like her and her fabulous dresses.
When I saw the next recipe up was Béchamel I wondered whether to bother as I had of course made it before. I’ll knock up a quick Lasagne and polish this one off in no time. Then I cast my (greedy) mind back to a few weeks ago when I happened to turn on the TV right as Rachel Khoo was creating amazing looking croquet madam muffins and I decided to elaborate and make them myself. This definitely comes under the ‘benefits’ column of no longer dating an egg fascist. There’s no escaping the fact these are unhealthy, but hey they are French and unhealthy and as we were all informed a couple of years ago, French women don’t get fat – so I figure it’s permissible.
I bound enthusiastically into Marks and Sparks in search of ingredients. I must have Gruyere (even though mature cheddar would do) because that is what the recipe says. £3.50 later I have a very small piece of Swiss cheese. I also look for Dijon mustard which I note is on offer, yay! Although this of course means some other Khoo fan has already cleared the shelves of the entire supply. I reason they must have some in the ‘world food’ section, where they chuck a label on some cherry jam, call it a compote and charge £6.99 for it. I’m not disappointed, what they actually have is something comparable in size to a child’s beach bucket with a jolly French man on the front. They do not however have a price. Presumably it’s for people who don’t blink twice at paying the best part of a fiver for some cheese that says “reserve” on it. Looking at other items on the shelves I reason it can’t cost much shy of £15 and I back away slowly, reason getting the better of my OCD for once.
I grab some white bread and hot foot it out the store before the M&S purple mist descends and I find myself £30 lighter. Last time this happened I came home with rose water, mini marshmallows, speciality teas and a cookbook; I only went in for milk. Once home I roll out the bread and devour the crusts. I dip the slices in melted butter and push them into the cavities of my muffin tin. I line with a slice of ham and crack in an egg, disposing of some of the white first so as to avoid overflowing.
Turning to the béchamel I look at Nigella’s instructions, I look at Rachel’s and as I am hungry I go with what’s easiest (Rachel, sorry Nigella!):
1.       Put a Tbsp butter in a pan and melt
2.       add a Tbsp flour and whisk
3.       add 200ml milk slowly while still whisking (this avoids getting lumps)
4.       when the sauce is nice and creamy add a little grated nutmeg
5.       mix in half tsp Dijon mustard
6.       add salt and pepper to season
Now Nigella does tell me to cook it for 10 minutes so I can’t taste the flour but I can’t anyway. She also tells me to use Italian 00 flour, but I still haven’t found any. As I reach step 5 I root around in the fridge and find a few mustard suspects (no Dijon), but end up going (in retrospect perhaps mistakenly) for a squirt of mild American mustard that has been in the fridge since my housewarming. People who know me might be a bit put off by this! It looks fine however. My special twist on the sauce being made, I spoon some into each muffin cup and grate some of the overpriced Gruyere on top. A bit more pepper and I ram them in the oven at 180C (well actually 170 as it’s a fan oven) for 15 minutes. Now either my oven is too hot or this is far too long as the yolk is totally solid when I’m done. I’ve bought an oven thermometer for future checks but as the Oeuf en Cocotte I made the other week only needed 9 minutes, I can’t begin to see why you’d need it in there that long?!

Other than this minor inconvenience, they turn out beautifully, although sadly my photos do them no justice. I think they’d be perfect for a lazy brunch or even with some green leaves added to convince yourself it’s a healthy lunch! I will be making them again when there is someone in the house to feed them to.
Kitchen wisdom gained:
·         Sometimes it’s best to follow the path of least resistance.
·         American mustard has no place in a béchamel.
·         One egg is une oeuf (apologies). Actually, it isn’t, make 2 per person, at least!
Domestic Goddess points out of 10: 8 – They were overdone but this isn’t my fault! I shouldn’t have messed around with the mustard but frankly Mr Marks and Mr Spencer left me little choice!
Final score: Rachel 1 – Nigella 1

1 comment:

Rachel - Mozarts Girl said...

Such a funny post, Kat! I, too, enter M & S determined to come out with some of their (gorgeous) Farmhouse Pate & perhaps a cheeky little Fireburst Rice Salad (whatever that is) & exit lighter by about £50. Also known as 'Waitrose Disease' in my experience...! I can't stand eggs in their 'whole' state but if I did these would be lovely! Have a great weekend!