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Looking for the perfect appetizer or midnight snack for New Year's Eve (or, for that matter, for any time of year)?

Consider Gougères ("Goo-ZHAIR"), an addictive cheese puff from Burgundy. They're so good that they might disappear straight off the baking sheet if you give your guests a chance, but they're also excellent at room temperature, so you can prepare them well in advance, sparing yourself that unseemly last-minute rush.

Most recipes for this dish make enough to feed an army, and with the non-trivial amounts of butter, eggs and cheese they contain, the full ration would probably include enough fat to satisfy your daily requirement for a week or so.

But tempted by the season and needing a Burgundian item to match a good Pouilly-Fuissé the other day, I worked over several traditional recipes to come up with a small-batch version that made just two dozen bite-size goodies - enough to serve an intimate party or, as we did, to make a fun meatless main course for two, with a salad ... and wine.

INGREDIENTS: (Serves four to eight as hors d'oeuvres or two as a light dinner)

2 ounces Gruyère cheese, about 1/2 to 3/4 cup grated and loosely packed
2 large eggs
1/2 cup white or unbleached flour
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 cup (240 ml) water
2 ounces (60 g) unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon (5 g) salt
Butter (to grease a cookie sheet)


1. Preheat your oven to 450F (230C).

2. Get all your ingredients set up in advance, as preparation will go quickly once you start cooking. Grate the cheese. (French or Swiss Gruyère is traditional, and makes a great match with white or red Burgundy, but you can use just about any cheese on Earth, with the understanding that your choice of cheese will change the personality of the dish.) Break the eggs into a small bowl, and beat them lightly with a fork. Measure out the flour, and season it with the white pepper, dry mustard and cayenne. Lightly grease a cookie sheet with a little butter.

3. Put the butter, the salt and about 3/4 cup of the water into a saucepan over medium-high heat until the butter melts. Take off heat and stir in the seasoned flour all at once. Stir until you have a smooth, thick and shiny batter, adding part or all of the remaining water if necessary.

4. Still off heat, stir in the eggs, beating well with a wooden spoon until the batter is smooth and golden. Stir in the grated cheese.

5. Drop rounded teaspoons of the batter onto the baking sheet - you should have just enough to fill the sheet with about two dozen rounds. Don't worry if they don't look neat, they'll tend to round out as they rise in the oven.

6. Bake in the preheated oven until they're golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove quickly to a plate or serving basket, using a thin spatula and taking care not to mash them - they're airy enough to be very delicate, but don't worry - if you mess up a couple, you can always eat them as a reward for the chef.

WINE MATCH: Burgundy is traditional, and as noted, either a white (Chardonnay) or a red (Pinot Noir) will work. We served them with the crisp, fresh Eric Forest 2001 "La Côte" Pouilly-Fuissé featured in Friday's 30 Second Wine Advisor. My wine-tasting notes are online at

Discuss this recipe in our online forum:
If you have questions, comments or ideas to share about this recipe or food and cookery in general, you're welcome to drop by our Food Lovers' Discussion Group, where I've posted this article as a new topic, "FoodLetter: Gougères,"

Click the REPLY button on the forum page to post a comment or response. (If your E-mail software broke this long link in half, take care to paste it all back into one line before you enter it in your Web browser.)

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If you have suggestions or comments about The 30 Second Wine Advisor's FoodLetter, or if you would like to suggest a topic for a coming edition and recipe, please drop me a note at wine@wineloverspage.com. I really enjoy hearing from you, and I try to give a personal reply to all mail if I possibly can.

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Last Week's FoodLetter and Archives

Last week's Wine Advisor Foodletter: Aromatic pork loin (Dec. 23)

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Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2003
Copyright 2003 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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