I was nine when my parents took us to Paris. My brother Mohan was fourteen. The trip included all the requisite sites, statues, and paintings, but I can really only remember two things vividly. One: bird poop. Two: éclairs.
The first came suddenly. We were walking down the street, minding our camera-and-map-wielding business, when something green landed on Mohan’s head. After the initial joy of watching something so hilarious befall my big brother, I felt sorry for him. And then he said the most preposterous thing I had ever heard.
He told me that before he had fully registered what had happened or where the mysterious projectile had come from, his very first impulse was to taste it. You can imagine how my nine-year-old brain processed that one. I thought he was an alien! I couldn’t even begin to wrap my head around that thought and I teased him incessantly. Don’t worry. He absolutely didn’t taste it. He came to his senses before anything like that.
Well, it’s taken me 26 years to understand what my brother was talking about. But now it makes perfect sense. We were in Paris. I had discovered éclairs and couldn't get enough of them. We could smell the waffles and the crepes in the air as we strolled. We drooled as we watched the Parisians enjoying their baguettes. We snacked on gooey cheese in the park. We ate piles of raw beef and it wasn’t weird. We talked about lunch at breakfast and dinner at lunch and breakfast at dinner. Paris was all about food. And it was delicious. So, after spending days licking your lips and your fingertips, tasting so many things, new and wonderful, why wouldn’t you consider tasting everything that crosses your path? Why couldn’t you believe that tasty morsels might just drop from the sky in Paris?
As crazy as they were, Mohan’s instincts were spot on. He assumed Paris was just offering him another edible delight. Since he’s gone, and I can’t tell him how right he was, I’ve decided to reimagine the story instead. I’m rewriting history as it should have been.
So, as I was saying, we were walking down the street in Paris when something fell on Mohan’s head. We looked up to find the source of the missile, only to see a cute little girl, perfect ringlets in her hair and dressed in a frilly white dress sitting on her wrought-iron balcony. She was eating a chocolate-covered éclair. Upon further inspection, we noticed that with every bite, a dollop of rich pastry cream dripped from the end of her dessert down onto the street below, landing in the spot we had just passed. Ah-ha! So that’s what it was. Mohan gave the manna a taste. Decadent custard. Creamy and cool. Lightened with just the right amount of whipped cream. Sweetened just so. The cream was flavored with pistachio. Nutty with just a hint of that telltale bitterness. It was the pistachios that made the cream that pretty pale shade of green. I could only watch with envy as he enjoyed another perfect taste of Paris. A taste only for him, sent from on high.
Chocolate Pistachio Eclairs
Makes about 12
I used a pate a choux recipe from my friends over at Martha Stewart.
For the pastry cream:
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 kosher salt
4 large egg yolks
4 ounces pistachio paste
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
For the pate a choux:
For the Chocolate Glaze:
3 ounces chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup raw pistachios, finely chopped
1. Prepare the pistachio cream: In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar and the cornstarch and salt. Add the egg yolks and pistachio paste and whisk until smooth. Slowly whisk in the milk until combined and smooth. Set the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring, until the mixture comes to a boil. Cook the mixture for 1 minute more and then strain it through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl. Add the butter and stir until it melts. Cover with plastic, pressing the plastic into the surface of the custard, and chill completely (at least 4 hours).
2. For directions to make the pate a choux, please click here.
3. For instructions on how to bake them, please click here. Please note: I piped my eclairs in 5-inch-by-1-inch lengths instead of the smaller size that Martha's recipe recommends. I wanted mine to be a little bigger. That’s why my yield is only about 12.
3. While the puffs are in the oven, make the chocolate glaze: Set the chocolate in a small bowl. Bring the heavy cream to a boil and immediately pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Let the mixture stand for 1 minute then whisk it until smooth. Add the salt. Set aside to cool until thickened.
4. To finish the pistachio cream, whip the heavy cream to stiff peaks and then fold it into the chilled pastry cream.
5. To assemble the eclairs, cut each puff in half lengthwise with a serrated knife. Fill the bottom half with cream. Dip the exterior of the other half in the chocolate glaze and set it on top. Repeat with the remaining puffs and then sprinkle them all with pistachios.