Recently I spotted a news item about chefs all over the US who are engaged in a pork-off, to see who can come up with the most imaginative uses for swine.
The list of their experiments is dazzling and comprehensive, from cheek to belly to backside. I was inspired. But I had to take a different tack, since I couldn't realistically dig a pit in my backyard and smoke/roast/lovingly fire up an entire hog (not today, anyway). I decided I could at least do something with pork product that I've never done before. I decided to go for a pig juice application...fat.
So I substituted bacon drippings for butter in a pâte à choux recipe, reducing the amount of sugar by half but otherwise hewing to the basic choux recipe. Then I piped out cream puffs and eclairs and even a pig!
Silly, but I just have to show him off, the original porq-à-choux! ("Cabbage pig?" Hmm, let me rethink that.)
The resulting puffs don't scream, "Hey there, I taste like pork!" but they carry a subtle, smoky porcine essence. And of course, they have a luscious mouth feel.
For the filling I made a chunky applesauce from granny smith apples, with a sprinkling brown sugar, some chopped fresh sage leaves and a wee slosh of that lovely pork fat-infused bourbon (see Bacon-Laced Booze Bliss).Then I stirred in some crumbled bacon, filled the porky puffs with the mixture, and melted a little sharp cheddar cheese over the top.
The result was a great blend of flavors, with none overpowering any other. Sweet and salty and smoky and porky. Those ingredients played together like the good friends they've always been.
A lot of my kitchen experiments turn out to be one-shot things, fun to try, but I'll never do them again. This time I've found myself a keeper!