Gougeres--Gruyere Cheese Puffs

This week's wine pairing recipe click comes from Kelsie Kerr at the 3rd Annual California Artisan Cheese Festival in Petaluma last weekend. Kelsie is a chef at the famed Chez Panisse Restaurant and co-author of Alice Water's latest book. We had the chance to sample her delicious cooking at one of Saturday's seminars.

If you haven't had gougeres before, they are a treat and delectable on their own or stuffed as appetizers. Our recipe this week uses classic Gruyere for a good match with our white wine selection, but Kelsie's recipe was made with Gravenstein Gold--an artisanal cider washed raw goat milk cheese from Redwood Farms in Sebastapol, CA. Her gouyeres were pungent and a bit sharp and would have been perfect with a nice Napa Cab!
The dough for gougeres is basically a choux paste--like one used for the cream puff shell, but with no sugar, a bit more salt and grated cheese. A few tips to add the to recipe (see link above) to insure your cheese puffs are crisp all the way through:
  • Have all your ingredients and utensils ready, including having your eggs at room temperature. A good way to do this is to put the eggs (in their shells) in warm water in your mixing bowl for a several minutes. That way both the eggs and bowl will be the correct temperature.
  • Preheat the oven to 400--this is important because the oven needs to be hot to cook the puffs fast so the liquid will turn to steam and puff up the dough.
  • Make sure you cook the dough a full minute after it starts coming together--meaning a minute after the flour starts to thicken the dough. The will be fairly stiff before the egg goes in.
  • As mentioned in the recipe, use the egg, not water to adjust the thickness of the final dough.
  • You can make the gougeres bigger--say 4 inches across to use as a shell for a tuna salad, for example, but make sure the dough rounds are flat and not mounded, so the insides will cook and crisp.
  • To make a choux paste, reduce the salt amount to 1/4 tsp, do not add cheese and add 2 tsp sugar.
Click here to read "Cheese 101".

1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour (unbleached is best)
2 eggs
3 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
Preheat oven so it is at 400 degrees when the gougéres are ready to bake.
Heat the water, butter and salt in a small heavy bottomed pan until the butter is melted. Do not let boil. Stir in, at once, the flour and whisk until the dough comes together. Continue whisking over the heat for a minute. Transfer the batter to a mixing bowl and allow to cool slightly (this helps cool the batter--otherwise the egg will cook when added).
Crack in one egg and beat in. Whisk the second egg in a small bowl and add 1/2 and beat in. Assess the batter--it should cling to the whisk but also drip off, in other words, runny enough to drip off the whisk but thick enough that some of it is still clumped on the whisk. Add the rest of the egg and beat well if the dough was too thick.
Stir in cheese. Scoop up dough with tablespoon and drop onto baking pan (a parchment paper liner will make clean up easier). The puffs should be about 2 inches wide and 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake for 10 minutes at 400, then turn the oven down to 375 and bake for 15 minutes or until dark golden brown and crispy. Remove from oven and make a small slit in them with a sharp knife to let out steam and keep them crisp. Serve warm or warm later in 375 oven for 3 minutes.
Recipe makes about 40 tiny, or 20 small puffs.


Saving Money In Hard Times

We're all looking for ways to cut costs and stretch our dollars! Here are some ideas for saving money without depriving yourself. Here are some tips on saving money:

Shop in the bakery early in the day for mark downs on day-old items.
Shop in the meat department late in the day when items about to go past the "sell by" date go on sale. This meat is perfectly safe and can be frozen to be used later.
Buy store brands. The quality is often the same as brand names but they're less expensive since they don't pay big bucks for TV and print advertising.
Avoid processed foods. They may be convenient, but they're more expensive and less nutritious. Look at websites like Epicurious.com for quick meal recipes--and past recipes on this blog.
Clip coupons. Look for free items, that you will actually use, and stores that double or triple coupons. There are also websites with downloadable coupons, but beware of getting on a mailing list that generates a lot of unwanted mail.
Compare prices: look closely at the tag on the shelf which has the price per unit. Sometimes a package that looks cheaper is actually more expensive per item.
Buy in Bulk. Things cost less if you buy larger quantities. But, don't buy things just because they're cheap. Unused food is wasted money.
Make a list and stick to it--avoid grabbing miscellaneous items on a whim. Grocery stores know consumers do this so they load up the check out stand with profitable items.
Eat your leftovers. Surprisingly, some people toss their leftovers which wastes money. Freeze servings of your cooking for easy meals later. This also saves you from having to buy pricey packaged frozen meals.
But don't deprive yourself. Like choosing a diet to lose weight, you need to have food that you enjoy. If your diet is so harsh that you feel deprived, you'll end up overeating. So, keep a few things you like, like wine, in your budget. A nice bottle of wine makes a meal special. Dress up your table with candles and toast to a "meal out" at home! Another wine savings idea: our Recession-busting Grand Tour Wine Club.
Eat lower on the food chain. Meat and seafood are expensive and some include unwanted saturated fats. Grains, beans, soy and nuts are protein-rich without artery-clogging saturated fat. Check out past blog entries for meatless recipes!
If you eat meat, eat less. The average American eats 50% more protein than recommended. The USDA defines a serving of ground beef as 3 ounces (less than 1/5 of a pound). An example of a good dollar-stretching strategy is to make a meat dish and eat half your normal portion, then keep the rest for leftovers another day--two meals for the price of one!
Save your red wine leftovers. If you have a bit of wine leftover after a few days that is getting vinegary--save it and use if for salad dressings. I keep refilling a bottle with leftover red wine and sprinkle my salads with it, fines herbes, salt, freshly ground pepper and good olive oil. Delicious and less expensive than store bought.