Sunday, December 05, 2010

What to Make for Your Next Cocktail Party

Dorie Greenspan's new book, Around My French Table, has been stalking me for months now. First, I got invited to a press luncheon for the book in July. It was at Blue Hill and we ate pea soup, Hudson Valley duck, and cheesecake. Everything was delicious. Then, I wrote a story about the book's somewhat surprising success, considering the fact that Dorie Greenspan doesn't have a TV show or food magazine, yet her book is one of the year's most popular (and bestselling) cookbooks. And then I went to a party for a cookbook "tournament" last week, where I met Dorie and ate one of her delicious sable cookies (in a piglet shape, natch).
Can you believe I STILL had not tried one of the recipes in her book?
So tonight, I finally took the plunge. And, unsurprisingly, it was a smash hit. Dorie's Gougères are fabulous. They are cheese puffs, and they are airy and cheesy, a little crunchy and even a tiny bit creamy. They were a cinch to make (I really had no reason to be nervous, but I was, I think because they're just so... French). I used an aged cheddar, and followed her instructions exactly, even the quirky step of putting them into an oven you've preheated to 425, but then dropping the temperature to 375 once they're in. Who knows why. It works.
We enjoyed the gougères with some chilled Muscadet. Even our baby got her hands on some and loved them (poor thing is used to eating puffs of a different sort--flavored with spinach and banana).
What will be next from Dorie's book? Elsewhere in the "Nibbles and Hors D'oevures" chapter I have my eye on Savory Cheese and Chive Bread. But her main dishes and, of course, desserts look amazing, too. Sorry it took me so long!--S


1/2 cup milk
1/2 c water
8 T unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/2 t salt
1 c all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 c coarsely grated cheese, such as Gruyere or cheddar

1. Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 425 F. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
2. Bring the milk, water, butter, and salt to a rapid boil in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan over high heat. Add the flour all at once, lower the heat to medium-low, and immediately start stirring energetically with a wooden spoon or heavy whisk. The dough will come together and a light crust will form on the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring--with vigor--for another minute or two to dry the dough. The dough should now be very smooth.
3. Turn the dough into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or into a bowl that you can use for mixing with a hand mixer or a wooden spoon and elbow grease. Let the dough sit for a minute, then add the eggs one by one and beat, beat, beat until the dough is thick and shiny. Make sure that each egg is completely incorporated before you add the next, and don't be concerned if the dough separates--by the time the last egg goes in, the dough will come together again. Beat in the grated cheese. Once the dough is made, it should be spooned out immediately.
4. Using about 1 T of dough for each gougere, drop the dough from a spoon onto the lined baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches of puff space between the mounds.
5. Slide the baking sheets into the oven and immediately turn the oven temperature down to 375 F. Bake for 12 minutes, then rotate the pans from front to back and top to bottom. Continue baking until the gougeres are golden, firm, and yes, puffed, another 12 to 15 minutes or so. Serve warm, or transfer the pans to racks to cool.

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