Monday, May 4, 2009

Churros: Savoury or Sweet

Back in the day, when I was a cooking student, my partner and I had to put together 2 different menus which would be made and served by our fellow students in the school dining room. I choose Mexican because at the time higher end authentic Mexican was exciting, and new and I was intrigued by the flavors and ingredients. Ever prepared cactus? I chose the classic pastry churros as one of the elements of a dessert we were offering on our menu. Churros is a deep fried pastry of Spanish origin and they are quiet popular in Mexico. My source then was In the sweet kitchen by Regan Daley.

For some recipe development that I am doing I have been searching the Internet, books and magazines for inspiration. Happily in my searching I stumbled upon a photo on flicker of Parmesan churros. I have never come across even the idea of savoury churros and I was intrigued. The photo was taken, according to Flickr at Manresa Restaurant, Los Gatos, California. Savoury churros do not fit into my development criteria but I wanted to try them for myself. The picture on Flickr presents the churros with what looks like little deep fried green chilies.

Savoury Parmesan Churros
adapted from In the Sweet Kitchen
yield: About 20 churros
  • sufficient quantity canola oil for deep frying
  • 1 1/4 cup of flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano
  • 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • Heat canola oil in large sauce pan until temperature reaches 375F. Try to maintain this temperature (use a thermometer for this purpose), as too low a temperature will make them greasy and too hot will brown them too quickly.
  • Put 1/4 cup of the Parmesan or Romano into a large self-sealing plastic bag. Blend flour, salt, pepper and the remaining grated Parmesan in a bowl.
  • In a saucepan bring water and butter to boil. As soon as the liquids starts to boil remove from stove top and quickly dump the flour mixture into saucepan. Stir for your life until mixture comes together (2 minutes) and return pan to stove top until dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the saucepan (about 2 minutes more).
  • Remove pan from heat and let cool for 1-2 minutes. Stir in one egg at a time until completely blended and smooth.
  • Transfer dough to a piping bag fitted with an large fluted tip. Pipe dough directly into oil (about 4-5 inches long), and cut dough with finger. We are not going for perfection here as different shapes are appealing.
  • Let cook on one side for 2 minutes and then flip to other side for 2 minutes. I wouldn't cook more than 3 at a time so as not to cool oil too much and overcrowd the pan. When Churros are golden remove Churros with thongs to a paper towel lined plate.
  • As you wait for others to cook pop one churros at a time into plastic bag containing Parmesan and shake churros about gently to coat. Serve with little deep fried chilies or hot sauce if desired.
These guys would be great served casually to friends around the pool with some mojitos.

More traditional dessert variation:

Omit the Parmesan, pepper and reduce the salt to 1/8 of a teaspoon. Have a plastic self-sealing bag ready with 1/2 a cup of superfine sugar. Add 1 teaspoon ground anise and a pinch of nutmeg to the flour mixture. Add 2 teaspoons of grated lemon zest to the dough just before the eggs. Deep fry dough just as directed in the savoury recipe. Serve these sweet churros with very rich high cocoa hot chocolate. Churros can also have one end dipped in melted chocolate or be drizzled in chocolate.

...or serve them warm with vanilla ice cream or on their own. They are delicious!

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