Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Another Reason To Give Thanks

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I thought I'd nip in with some good advice for the holiday.  Thanksgiving, although it is by far and away my favorite holiday, can be stressful, what with families gathering (nobody pushes your buttons faster than family), distance travel (and isn't airline travel a joy these days?), the short turnaround, and cooking/eating/drinking far too much.

The ticket is to keep it simple. Well, as simple as possible, anyway. 

In that spirit of simplicity, let me just say "Gougères."  

Gougères are cheesy little puffs that can take the place of heavy dinner rolls on your Thanksgiving table. They have far more flavor than rolls and they are light, so they don't take up space in your tummy that might otherwise be filled with pie - let's face it, it's really all about the pie, am I right?

They can be made ahead and the dough frozen, then popped into the oven about 20 minutes before dinner is served. I used this recipe from the San Francisco Chronicle. The Chron may not be a world-class newspaper but it takes its food recipes seriously. I made these on a leisurely Saturday morning in less than an hour, baked a few as a test batch and froze the rest of the dough to be baked for Thanksgiving dinner.

My Beloved, Cora and I all tried them and we all approve. Mine didn't look like the picture in the paper, sadly - much flatter and spread out - but they tasted terrific. The slightly crisp outside and creamy middle of these two-inch treasures reminded me of popovers, only gentler, smaller and filled with herbs and pepper to complement the cheese. They are buttery enough not to need more butter, redolent with herbs and black pepper. In a word, killer.

You can also use them as appetizers at a cocktail or dinner party - heaven knows, no appetizers are needed on Thanksgiving. Imagine how impressed your guests will be when you whip out of the oven fresh, warm cheesy puffs - they're going to think you are serious competition for Martha Stewart or Ina Garten. 

2012 has been a tough year for me and My Beloved, filled with bad news of several kinds seemingly every time we turned around. Still, we are grateful for his beautiful daughters, their handsome spouses and our gorgeous grands. We are happy to have good relations with our families and our neighbors. We thank heaven each day for the goofy and lovable dog who came to live with us almost four years ago. We have dear friends whom we cherish and who return our aloha. We know how lucky we are to live where the weather is mainly friendly. We aren't wealthy but we have enough. 

In my view, gougères are just another reason to be thankful.

Fontina & Herb Gougères, from the San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, November 4, 2012

Makes about 4 dozen

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and ground pepper, to taste
1 cup grated Fontina cheese (you can use other cheese and herb combos, too)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
5 eggs

Bring the butter, milk and 1/2 cup water to boil in a medium saucepan. Turn heat down to medium; add the flour and a pinch of salt and pepper all at once. Stir vigorously to combine and continue to cook about 1 minute more, stirring constantly, until the dough has formed a ball and leaves a thin film on the bottom and sides of the pot. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. 

Transfer dough to a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Add the cheeses and oregano, and beat on low speed to combine. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition just to incorporate, and scraping down the sides of the bowl, if necessary.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. If you have a pastry bag, transfer the dough to a bag fitted with the large round tip; pipe the dough in rounds about 1-1/2 inches in diameter onto the baking sheet. If you don't have a pastry bag, use an ice cream scoop to form the rounds. (I used a plastic baggie with the tip of one corner cut off and it worked well).

If you are baking them right away, space them about 2 inches. If freezing for later, you can pipe them close together. Use a wet fingertip to push down and smooth out any peaks on the rounds. 

For freezing, place the baking sheet in the freezer for at least 1 hour, until the balls are hard and easy to handle. Peel the gougères off the baking sheet and place in a zippered freezer bag to store up to 1 month.

To bake: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the gougères (straight from the freezer if you have frozen them) on a parchment- or silpat-lined baking sheet, spaced about 2 inches apart. Bake for 5 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F and bake for another 15-18 minutes until golden, turning the tray about halfway through to ensure even cooking. Remove from oven and serve warm.

Note: If baking without freezing, be sure the gougères are at least 2 inches apart on the baking sheet, and bake for a slightly shorter time.


Blogger Hungry Dog said...

Gougeres are among my favorite things to make and serve--they are deceptively simple and always impress guests. These sound perfect.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

Mmm! Cheezy poufs. I must finally get around to trying a batch of my own. Thanks for the encouragement.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012  
Blogger nancy namaste said...

You are so ambitious. I make mine with good old Trader Joe's frozen ones. They are delicious and the clean up is minimal - but then, my entertaining is a lot less stressful than yours. We have pot-luck; the only difficult thing is making sure that I have covered the vegan, vegetarian, non-gluten and organic, free range crowd.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Hungry Dog, you're so right, much easier than I expected and so much more flavor, too.

Cookiecrumb, you'd like these - diminutive and light with lots of flavor. I might try stronger cheese next time, like maybe Beemster.

Nancy, I didn't know you could get them frozen! Maybe I'll try theirs, too. They are bound to be prettier than mine were.

Anonymous, I don't read Russian but I sense some spam. Cut that out!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012  

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