Friday, February 19, 2010

Bouchons au thon: In defense of cream

As much as it embarrasses me to admit it, I’m sort of… kind of… that girl.

The one who provokes eye rolls from servers. The one who Ina Garten would find loathsome. The one who guys live in fear of dating.

“Does the soup have cream?” I’ll ask when presented with a menu option of butternut squash or broccoli soup. I’ll bat my eyelashes innocently, as if to shield myself from their scorn, but secretly I’m cringing at the thought of the lush liquid polluting my body with fat.

Like many girls of my persuasion, I avoid cream like I avoid butter – somehow convinced that the two substances are evil items that should never be ingested outside of a dessert course. I’ve never even considered ordering fettuccini Alfredo at a restaurant and even when a recipe I’m making at home calls for cream, I’ll generally substitute milk or a marginal amount of half-and-half instead.

Such was the case when I decided to make bouchons au thon from Orangette’s recipe/story book A Homemade Life two weekends ago. I blanched at the instruction to include a 1/3rd of a cup of crème fraîche for the 8 tuna quiche cakes, and stubbornly decided to use nonfat Greek yogurt instead.

“I won’t be able to tell the difference.” I thought. “There’s enough cheese and egg in the recipe to make them plenty decadent!”

I completely ignored Molly Wizenberg’s chapter about cream-braised cabbage where she too admits that she “used to be a little scared of cream” until discovering how delicious it is in winter dishes like the aforementioned cabbage. The story seemed to scream at me, “Diana, embrace the cream! It is not the devil’s juice!” but I still couldn’t go through with corrupting the innocent bouchons with so much fat.

The resulting tuna cakes were nowhere near as delicious as I was expecting from Molly’s description.

She writes, “With a texture somewhere between the filling of a quiche and a freshly made country pâté, they tamed the flat pungency of canned fish with the sweetness of tomato and rich butterfat of crème fraîche. We ate them warm with roasted potatoes, and, for lunch the next day, cold with a green salad. They were unlike anything I’d ever had. They tasted like what I imagined France itself would taste like, if it were small enough to fit in my mouth.”

My bouchons tasted like tuna salad. Tuna salad with lemon after I doused them with massive quantities of the acidic juice to make them seem less like cat food. This was not the fancy feast I was anticipating.

I went to bed angry that night – flush with irritation at my “sensible” behavior. I knew I had to make them again the next day – with my arch nemesis, the dreaded crème fraîche.

This time they were good. Very good. Well-balanced, creamy and delectable with the roasted vegetable and potato salad I made on the side. I sheepishly finished my plate thinking, “Well how about that, cream is not so bad after all!”

I even saved the leftover crème fraîche to use over a Skor Bar cake I made for a dinner party the following weekend. When no one was looking, I may have even licked the serving spoon…

Bouchons Au Thon
From Orangette’s A Homemade Life
Makes 8 bouchons, enough for 4 light eaters

1 6-ounce can tuna packed in water, drained well (I used Crown Prince chunk light)
1 cup lightly packed finely shredded Gruyère
1/3 cup crème fraîche (not Greek yogurt – embrace the cream!)
3 tablespoons tomato paste (I used Hunt’s to fine effect)
3 large eggs
¼ cup finely chopped yellow onion
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
¼ teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease 8 cups of a standard-sized muffin tin.

Drain and rinse the tuna and then dump in a medium bowl. Using a fork, break the tuna into small pieces. There should be no chunks larger than a dime. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well with the fork, mashing a bit as you go, until the mixture is thoroughly combined. It will be a soft orange-pink color.

Divide the mixture evenly among the 8 prepared muffin cups. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes (mine were done in 20), or until the bouchons look set on top and around the edges. Transfer the tin to a rack, and let cool for 5 minutes. Carefully run a small thin knife around the edge of each bouchon to make sure it isn’t stuck, then carefully remove them from the tin. They will collapse a bit as they cool.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Note: I will be serving the bouchons au thon at the Stir it 28 cocktail party/fundraiser at a private Hollywood residence this Sunday, February 21st from 4 – 7 pm. Tickets are $30 in advance, and $35 at the door. All proceeds will be donated to Share Our Strength and Yele to support the Haiti relief effort.

To buy tickets: Visit or and click the Stir It 28 logo to go directly to the Paypal portal, which is automatically set up for the purchase of one $30 ticket. Click the link that says "Special instructions to the merchant" and indicate what city you wish to purchase a ticket for.


Anna A. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anna A. said...

A little disheartened your trashing the greek yogo but i'll let it slide - just this once - for the sake of your post subject.

Ashley said...

all i can think about right now is creme fraiche over lightly broiled peaches. how much longer until summer?

Jenn said...

I haven't really used creme fraiche before aside from the fact that I have a hard time finding it sometimes. I have seen several recipes that call for it. I'll try it eventually. Nicely done on the tuna cakes.

Julia@SometimesLucid said...

Do you think it would work with non-fat half and half?

Diana said...

Anna - I knew you'd yell at me for this one! Trust me though, it's so much better with the creme fraiche!

Ashley - We could do broiled apples or pears??

Jenn - I found my creme fraiche at Trader Joe's - only $3 something a container! (It was almost $7 at Gelson's!!)

Julia - I think the creme fraiche would work best here - maybe sour cream if you can't find it.

Gastronomer said...

I know it's hard, but embrace the butter fat, my friend. It does a dish good! Like these little tuna corks.

Esi said...

And I will be sampling one at Stir it 28. I am getting better about my fear of cream and butter too, but honestly, I don't see myself changing out for it all the time..just special occasions.

stuffycheaks said...

at least tuna is healthy! everything in moderation. From the looks of your photos and how much you like running, I'm sure a little creme fraiche won't hurt :)

Beryl said...

I absolutely loved these- one of the best things I ate at Stir It 28! Beautiful job. Wish I would have had the chance to talk more with you yesterday.

Diana said...

Cathy - I'm trying -- one tablespoon at a time -- I'll get there someday! ;)

Esi - I agree. I can enjoy something so much more if I know it's not completely horrible for me.

Stuffy Cheaks - Yes! Everything in moderation! Even the healthy stuff. ;)

Beryl - I'm so glad you liked them! Really nice to hear after all the time I put into them on Saturday! Hopefully we will run into each other at another event int the future.

Kung Food Panda said...

As what Cathy said, embrace the butter fat! :)

Like with the cookies, these were great at the party last night! Great job Diana!