As much as you might love to cook, there are times when even the most curious or imaginative among us must look elsewhere for inspiration. Because, after all, the history of cooking and cuisine is nothing if not a constant arc of revisiting, reimagining and reinterpreting of the foods and foodways that have gone before, and variety is the spice of life.
This process of reinvention applies to professional chefs and restaurants, as well: Witness the rejuvenation of the Beacon stalwart Kitchen Sink, which opened in 2015. At the hands of founder, chef Brian Arnoff, and his relatively new co-owner and general manager, Jeff Silverstein, Kitchen Sink has over the last year or so rebranded itself as the Kitchen Sink Supper Club. This readjustment was prompted as much by the mental and spiritual grind of running a table-service restaurant as business privations of the pandemic.
“I did six days a week — seven services, five nights a week, and brunch, plus fried chicken on ‘off’ nights — and even before the pandemic I was kind of burned out on that,” Brian says. “When it hit, we redid Meyer’s [Meyer’s Olde Dutch, their sister restaurant] and lived here while that was going on. I was just starting to work with Jeff and the supper-club concept came together.”
The idea centers around themed and constantly changing tasting menus that range from five to seven courses mounted for roughly two-week periods, reservation-only, on Friday and Saturday nights. (There are exceptions: The most recent New Years’ Eve menu had 12 courses and the club will be open on Valentine’s Day.) Seating is at communal tables, and reservations are required at kitchensinkny.com.
“The intentions are the same as the original Kitchen Sink — use local foods, present classics in interesting ways, explore the world in flavors — but the particulars of how we do it are different,” Brian says.
The chief supplier of local ingredients is the family-run Truckload Farm & Orchard in Hyde Park, but inspiration can come from anywhere. The current menu, No. 15, which ends this weekend, is a French-themed homage to Julia Child, who was the source for the gougères (pronounced “goo-ghare”), a traditional, savory pâte à choux (puff pastry) usually with cheese mixed in or grated on top.
“I love pâte à choux,” says Brian. “It’s so easy to make, so versatile. It’s one of those things that seems so complicated, but once you learn how to make the base, you can do so much with it.”
For Menu No. 15, Arnoff assigned sous chef Albi Bloise select recipes from Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and told him to “jam on them.” Albi decided to do two gougères — one with French onion soup flavors (caramelized onion and demi-glace cream filling), and one with croque monsieur flavors (minced ham and more cheese in a béchamel) piped into the baked gougères just as you would a creme puff. These serve as the first course of the tasting, and as subtly amusing an amuse-bouche as one could hope for.
The recipe above is Brian’s base for pâte à choux, with a bit more butter, eggs and flour and a lot less elbow grease (by utilizing a food processor) than Julia’s. For his basic gougères, he opts not to add cheese to the choux pastry, insisting that they don’t puff up as well. Rather the cheese is sprinkled over the top of the pastries after their first pass in the oven, and then they are returned for a quick melt and crisping. Serve them, as is, warm or at room temperature for an appetizer. Or reinvent them as you will with a filling of your choice: Anything goes.
By Brian Arnoff, Kitchen Sink Supper Club
Makes 24 to 30
- 4 ounces (½ cup) water
- 4 ounces (½ cup) whole milk
- 4 ounces (½ cup) butter
- 4½ ounces (½ cup plus 1 tablespoon) all-purpose flour
- 4 eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces (1 cup) shredded cheese (Gruyere, comté or emmenthaler are traditional)
- 1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon cold water, for an egg wash
- Pepper, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bring water, milk and butter to a light boil in a large saucepan. Stir in flour with a wooden spoon and cook for about five minutes, until thick and shiny.
2. Add contents of saucepan into a food processor. With motor running, add one egg at a time until all are fully mixed; add salt and pepper. (For double or larger batches use a stand mixer and bowl.)
3. Using a pastry bag, pipe batter into 1½- to 2-inch mounds on a silpat-covered (or parchment-papered) baking sheet, keeping gougères well separated. (If you don’t have a pastry bag, you may scoop or spoon batter into about 2-inch rounds.)
4. Bake for 12 to 13 minutes at 375 degrees. Remove from oven. Lower heat to 325 degrees, and lightly brush pastries with the egg wash. Sprinkle with grated cheese and return to the oven for 13 to 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.