Here’s what John told me he did:
I split the gougeres, flashed them in a hot oven, then laid a bouquet of watercress on one side, spritzed it with vinaigette then put the other piece on top and sprinkled everything with chopped pistachios. It looked pretty and I liked the combination of hot-crisp and cold-crisp. I don’t believe I would change a thing, which is unusual for me.
I doubled the recipe and because the gougeres were so big it took almost 45 minutes to bake each batch of 12 to crispy. And I pierced them with a knife to release steam about 10 minutes before I took them out. Then, as soon as I could, I loosened them from the ramekins and left them askew to cool, so they didn’t deflate much.
Oh, and did I tell you I used smoked Gouda as well as other cheeses and sweet smoked paprika? I liked that slight smoky taste.
And here’s what they looked like. Well, this isn’t a picture from the dinner for 60 — he didn’t have a minute to think about pix. It’s a picture of John’s after-party dinner. Lucky guy.
The gougeres recipe is the first in my book, Around My French Table. You can also find it here, in a story about when I made these for NPR’s All Things Considered. And in case you’re wondering about the plate, it was an early (perhaps the first?) James Beard Foundation Awards Gala commemorative plate.