Sassy Southern Cooking with a French Twist


No Stopping the Versatile Choux Train

I’ve been having fun in my kitchen testing choux recipes for my upcoming book, The French Cook – Eclairs and Cream Puffs (Gibbs Smith, Fall 2013). I’ve just concluded the savory portion of the book and these little choux gnocchi treats were one of my favorites to eat, and so much fun to make.  I shared a taste with my neighbors, inspiring one of their darling young daughters to declare me “a good cooker.” It’s the little things that make one smile. I thought you might enjoy the recipe. Next stop on the choux train: all things sweet and delicious starting with cream puffs.

Herbed Choux Gnocchi with a Saffron & Butter Sauce

(Yields 10 generous appetizer portions, or 4 to 6 entrees)

Infinitely less complicated than traditional gnocchi, piping choux directly into simmering (but not boiling), well salted water yields little logs of tender, gnocchi-like dumplings. They take the time of preparing the choux and just minutes to cook; roughly 20 – 25 minutes. After the choux hits the water, it drops to the bottom and then pops to the top. A few more minutes of fattening and plumping up, they’re ready to drain, toss with seasoned butter and serve. The ease and bubbling drama of the preparation make it perfect for a dinner party or an evening of casual dining with friends or family. Kids will love them! If you’re not a big saffron fan, just take it out of the mix. These need to be served fairly quickly but can stay warm in the cooking water, off the heat, for 15 or 20 minutes.

Herbed Choux Gnocchi with a Saffron Butter Sauce

Herbed Choux Gnocchi with a Saffron Butter Sauce





















For the choux gnocchi:

Master Recipe Savory Choux Pastry (with variations)

1 cup water

3/4 stick (3 ounces) unsalted, cold butter cut into 1/2”-cubes

1/2 cup bread flour

1/2 cup All-Purpose flour

3 tablespoons finely ground cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

4 room temperature large eggs (about 1 cup), beaten together


1/4 cup fresh chives, finely chopped

1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped

Zest of 1 lemon

Before starting the pastry, have a large pot of well-salted water on a very low simmer. Fit a pastry bag with the #806 round tip and have the ingredients measured and ready to go before preparing the choux.

In a medium, sturdy sauce pan, melt the water and butter together over medium high heat, stirring once or twice to help the butter melt. Once melted, reduce the heat to medium. Sift together the bread flour, AP flour, cornmeal and salt together over a medium bowl. Add the sifted dry ingredients all at once to the melted water and butter mixture, reserving the bowl nearby. Stir the mixture (roux) vigorously with a wooden spoon to bring the dough together, initially. Continue stirring, less vigorously, until the pastry starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and forms a uniform ball. Turn the pastry out into the reserved bowl. Allow to sit for about 1 minute, or until the pastry is cool enough to touch comfortably with your finger for at least 15 seconds. Add 1/2 of the beaten eggs (about 1/2 cup) to the pastry. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the pastry looks uniform and glossy, about 1 minute. Add half of the remaining egg mixture (about 1/4 cup) and continue to stir with a wooden spoon until the pastry is uniform and glossy (about 1 minute). Repeat with the remaining egg mixture.  Stir in the chives, parsley, thyme and lemon zest.

Fill the prepared pastry bag with 1/2 of the pastry. Pipe the pastry over the simmering water into 1/2” to 3/4” lengths, about 1/2”-thick, cutting with a kitchen scissor or paring knife once the desired length has been met to “plop” it into the water. Continue piping until the pastry bag is empty. The choux will rise to the surface after about 3 to 4 minutes, and will continue to plump and cook another 6 to 8 minutes, or until set. Drain with a slotted spoon onto a clean, cloth towel-lined baking sheet. Fill the pastry bag with the remaining choux and repeat with the second batch.

For the butter sauce:

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into large cubes

1 small shallot, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon saffron threads (optional)

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan, combine the butter, shallot, saffron, lemon juice and seasoning. Melt over medium heat, reduce to low. Reserve warm over low heat.

To serve, arrange the gnocchi on individual plates and drizzle with a generous amount of the seasoned butter sauce. Or, serve on a platter and let everyone serve themselves.

Here’s another fun way to use these darling little choux gnocchi:

Choux Gnocchi Gratinee

(Yields 8 side-dish portions)

The same choux gnocchi (using the master recipe above), dressed with Parmesan and butter and baked off in a hot oven, yields a cheesy, pasta-like delight that is perfect with roasted chicken, pork or a juicy steak. Simply poach the gnocchi as in the previous recipe and arrange the cooked, drained gnocchi in a large baking pan. Top with 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese and a couple pats of butter. Bake at 400F for 20 minutes or until golden and bubbling. Serve immediately. (Note: Any left-over gnocchi from the previous recipe can be stored overnight in the refrigerator and served gratinee style the next day).

Bon appetit!



Kind Words from Ilke’s Kitchen

I would like to thank food blogger and photographer Ilke Erdogan McAliley for taking the time to review my about to be released new book,  The French Cook: Sauces (Gibbes Smith, March 1, 2013).  Ilke explores the mayonnaise chapter as she prepares one of the favorites from her Turkish kitchen, International Salad.

The French Cook: Sauces (Gibbes Smith, March 1, 2013) by Holly Herrick

The French Cook: Sauces (Gibbes Smith, March 1, 2013) by Holly Herrick



Here’s some of what Ilke had to say:

“I guess the success is in the details that Holly mentioned in her book: using the plastic blade in food processor, pasteurizing the eggs, room temperature ingredients, the type of oil and pepper recommended, and tips on how to save it if everything goes south. Just like in Tart Love, she has a nice, familiar way of explaining things. I love it that although her books have a teaching component,  they do not sound like a textbook.”

Anchovy and Parsley Mayonnaise from The French Cook: Sauces. Photo by Steven Rothfeld.

Anchovy and Parsley Mayonnaise from The French Cook: Sauces. Photo by Steven Rothfeld.


Thank you so much, Ilke.

If  you’re interested in visiting Ilke’s blog and would like the recipe for her delicious International Salad, click on this link:

Bon appetit!


Crazy Simple Canape Cups for Hassle-Free Holiday Fun

It’s getting to be that most wonderful time of the year again. As we approach the early stages of holiday planning, the best way to embrace blazing fires, cold nights, time with family and friends, and fabulous feasts, the best plan is to keep it simple, plan ahead, and have fun. Otherwise, the most wonderful time of the year can feel like the worst time of your life.

One way to have a good time without investing half your bank account and countless hours (even days) in the kitchen, is to share canapes and cocktails with a small group of family and/or friends. The little cups, cradled (in both these recipes) with prepared mini-fillo pastry cups, are beautiful, crisp and delicious, and can be prepared within minutes – 15 or less if you move along briskly. Both pair beautifully with a cold glass of Champagne or crisp white wine. It’s also a lovely way to begin a holiday dinner and whet the appetites of all those about to sit down for the more substantial feast that awaits.

Crunchy Crab Cup Canapes

(Makes 30 individual canapes)

This recipe is an even easier adaptation of a slightly more demanding version from Tart Love, Sassy Savory and Sweet. In the book, I recommend making your own pastry – which is just fine and something I believe in, big time. However, the other day when I was coming up with a new recipe for Slather Brand Foods, I encountered Athens Brand Mini-Fillo Shells, and decided that these prepared shells would provide a harried-free alternative for frustrated Thanksgiving and holiday chefs everywhere. Indeed, they’re delicious and just need a few minutes to brown, crisp and heat through in the oven. The cool, sprite, crab-rich salad is the perfect texture counter to fill the canapes and looks and tastes merrily festive.

Photo by Helene Dujardin


Here’s the recipe:

30 Athens Brand Mini-Fillo Shells (2 packages or substitute another brand)

For the filling:

1 1/2 cups pasteurized lump crab meat

2 tablespoons capers

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives

Zest of 1 lime

1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 tablespoon Dijon or sweet/hot mustard

2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

Generous dash hot sauce

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange the cups on a baking sheet, leaving space between them. Bake for 8 minutes, or until browned and warmed through. Remove and set aside at room temperature.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Very gently place the crab, capers, onion, chives, and zest in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Whisk vigorously to combine. Top the crab mixture with the blended mixture and fold gently with a wooden spoon to combine, being careful not to break up the crab. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Fill the canape cups (they can be room temperature or barely warm) within an hour of serving. Garnish with a few short spears of fresh chives, if desired.

Slathered Brie & Pecan Cups

(Makes 30 individual canapes)

Easy and elegant, these ooey, gooey cups of warm, rich cheese are topped with zesty Original Slather Sauce and a crisp layer of crunchy pecans. Prepared with the same prepared fillo cups used in the previous recipe, they look so impressive and taste so delicious, your holiday guests will think you’ve spent hours in the kitchen, when in fact they come together in just minutes. The final of twelve recipes I developed for Slather Brand Foods this past year, it’s one of my favorites. The sauce is chunky, sweet, tart, and round all at once – an incredibly versatile addition to your condiment larder. To find it, go to, for a complete listing of retail outlets and online purchasing options. You’ll be glad you did!

30 Athens Brand Mini-Fillo Shells (two packages – or substitute another brand)

1/2 pound best-quality Brie cheese, cut into 1/2″-thick cubes

1/2 cup Original Slather Sauce

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Freshly ground black pepper to finish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange the cups on a baking sheet. Place a cube of the prepared cheese into the bottom of each cup. Top each with 1/2 teaspoon of Original Slather Sauce. Top each with 1/2 teaspoon of the chopped pecans. Bake on the middle rack until golden and bubbly, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for about five minutes.

To serve, arrange on a pretty platter and drizzle the cups with the fresh parsley and a dash of freshly ground black pepper. The pepper is not mandatory, but works very nicely with the mellow flavor of the cheese and the sweetness of the sauce. These are best served warm.

Wishing you all a wonderful, delicious, and stress-free holiday season!


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