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
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
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This is The 30 Second Wine Advisor's weekly FoodLetter. To subscribe or unsubscribe, change your E-mail address, or for any other administrative matters, please use the individualized hotlink found at the end of your E-mail edition. If this is not practical, contact me by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, including the exact E-mail address that you used when you subscribed, so I can find your record.Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2003
Copyright 2003 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.
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