Bouchons au Thon

My copy of A Homemade Life was delivered and I knew exactly which recipe I was going to make first.  In the chapter titled “What France Would Taste Like,” Molly Wizenburg tells of her junior year abroad in France, and the French family that hosted her.  Her host mother was “Tall, trim, and proper, with a singsong voice and a name that, when properly pronounced, rang like chimes at Sunday mass.”

Aside from her role at home, my host mother was also the French equivalent of a Tupperware saleswoman.  She tested and sold silicone baking equipment, the bendy, nonstick baking pans, molds and sheets that have become so popular in recent years…At least one night each week we’d have a “Flexipan dinner,” a meal centered on a recipe that my host mother was testing in her silicone molds…My favorite were the bouchons au thon (literally, “tuna corks”), an odd, homely and surprisingly delicious mixture of canned tuna, tomato paste, crème fraiche, Gruyère, and eggs, baked in muffin molds.

Canned tuna isn’t usually something I go crazy for, but these bouchons were special.  With a texture somewhere between the filling of a quiche and a freshly  made country pâté, they tamed the flat pungency of the canned fish with the sweetness of tomato and the rich butterfat of crème fraiche.  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.  I gave thanks almost daily for all the France and its Flexipans brought to my life, but mainly for those bouchons au thon.

“What France Would Taste Like”, from A Homemade Life, by Molly Wizenburg, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2009 (and orangette.blogspot.com)

After reading this chapter, I folded down a corner of the recipe page.   I had to make these.  Furthermore, I had to make them with roasted potatoes and salad, exactly as was written.

Bouchons au Thon

The recipe measurements and directions below yield 8 bouchons, “enough for 4 light eaters.”  I have kids in daycamp and a husband in the midst of the P90-X workout.  There are no light eaters around here.  So I doubled the measurements and filled all 12 cups of my muffin tin.  There were no survivors.

  • 1 6-oz can tuna packed in water, drained well
  • 1 cup lightly packed finely shredded Gruyère
  • 1/3 cup crème fraiche
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 large eggs (alas, I only had 4 eggs in the house and I’m not sure this affected the recipe or not, as you’ll see below)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 325.  Grease 8 cups of a standard-sized muffin tin and set aside.

Put the tuna in a medium bowl and break it up with a fork; 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, or until the bouchons look set on top and around the edges.  Transfer the tin to a rack and let cool 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.

These were UNBELIEVABLE.  Truly unlike anything I’d ever had before and completely perfect with the roasted fingerling potatoes and green salad.  My only concern was that even baking for closer to 30 minutes, the bouchons didn’t seem to set, and some fell apart when I scooped them out of the tin.  They just seemed more “slumped” than I was expecting.  Maybe it was the lack of eggs, or not owning Flexipans, or maybe next time I should try a 350 oven.  Then again, Molly does describe them as having a consistency between quiche and pâté.  Anyway, regardless of texture and presentation, they were freakin’ awesome.  Redman picked at one.  Panda ate three.  Jeeps and I put away four each.

Did I mention I love this book?

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