Friday, January 2, 2009

Recipes to Rival - Appetizers

I was glad when this month's Recipes to Rival Challenge was appetizers. With guests in town & some traveling I couldn't really handle anything much bigger. We were given an option of three different appetizers Cheese Gougères, Oysters en Brochette & Blue Cheese, Pear and Walnut Crostini. I went with the first & third because not everyone was cheering for the oysters.
I made the Cheese Gougéres for New Year's Eve & they were gone in a heartbeat. I split the batter in half & put Gruyére in one half & Maytag Blue Cheese in the other. Strangely, once cooked they didn't taste that different. Mine were smaller than a tablespoon & took just about 20 minutes in the final baking step. These came together so easily especially thanks to my practice making the dough for eclairs.
I froze the puffs before cooking on a baking sheet. When I was ready to make them I let them sit on the counter while the oven was preheating & then followed the baking steps.

Gruyère Cheese Gougères
Copyright 'The French Laundry Cookbook' By Thomas Keller, November, 1999
Makes about 4 dozen gougères

1 cup water
7 tablespoons (3-1/2 ounces) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon kosher salt, or more to taste
Pinch of sugar
1-1/4 cups (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
4 to 5 large eggs
1-1/4 cups grated Gruyère (5 ounces)
Freshly ground white pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with Silpats or parchment paper.

In a medium saucepan, combine the water, butter, salt, and sugar and bring to a boil. Add all the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium, and stir with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes, or until the mixture forms a ball and the excess moisture has evaporated (if the ball forms more quickly, continue to cook and stir for a full 2 minutes).

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle and beat for about 30 seconds at medium speed to cool slightly. Add 4 eggs and continue to mix until completely combined and the batter has a smooth, silky texture. Stop the machine and lift up the beater to check the consistency of the batter. The batter in the mixing bowl should form a peak with a tip that falls over. If it is too stiff, beat in the white of the remaining egg. Check again and, if necessary, add the yolk. Finally, mix in 3/4 cup of the Gruyère and adjust the seasoning with salt and white pepper.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a 3/8-inch plain pastry tip with the gougère batter. Pipe the batter into 1-tablespoon mounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between the gougères as the mixture will spread during baking. Sprinkle the top of each gougère with about 1/2 teaspoon of the remaining grated cheese and bake for 7 to 8 minutes, or until they puff and hold their shape. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F. And bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes. When the gougères are done, they should be a light golden brown color. When you break one open, it should be hollow; the inside should be cooked but still slightly moist. Remove the pans from the oven and serve the gougères while hot.
The crostini was super easy & didn't really need a recipe at all. I was a perfect little bite for New Year's Day. I skipped the step to add marscapone under the blue cheese because I didn't think it needed it.
I ran into one preparation problem, I couldn't use my oven to heat these since we were preparing a roast where we weren't allowed to open the oven for 5 hours (more on that later this weekend). I got around it pretty easily though. I made the toasts before the roast went in the oven & once cooled put them in a airtight container. When I was ready to serve I topped the toasts with crumbled Maytag Blue Cheese & chopped walnuts then I put them in the microwave for 10 - 15 seconds on high until the cheese began to melt. Each piece was them topped with a slice of pear. I was afraid the microwave would make the toasts soggy but they stayed wonderfully crisp.
We love the flavor of blue cheese with fruit so this appetizer was a big hit.

Blue Cheese, Pear and Walnut Crostini

a baguette, thinly sliced about ½ inch each
olive oil
mascarpone, for spreading (optional)
any type of bleu cheese (gorgonzola, Roquefort, stilton), thinly sliced, or crumbled
freshly hulled walnuts
a few pears, peeled and sliced into small cubes

1. Brush your bread slices with olive oil, line on a baking sheet, then toast in a hot oven for a few minutes until browned and crispy. You can broil them as well, if you prefer.

2. Remove from heat and spread each toast with some mascarpone.

3. Lay bleu cheese slices, or spread some crumbles, on each toast and add walnut pieces on top. Return to a 375-400°F oven for a few minutes, just until the cheese is melted.

4. When the cheese is nicely melted, take the crostinis out of the oven and top with a few cubes of pear. Serve soon after.

Thanks to Temperance of High on The Hog and Jen of Delightful Delicacies for hosting this month!


Beth (jamandcream) said...

Blue cheese, pear and walnut is a fantastic flavour combo - yum!

Thistlemoon said...

What delectable food, Kat! Yum! Sounds like a great time! Happy New Year!

Ginger said...

This looks like a perfect combination. I can not wait to try these.

Lori said...

Wow your appetizers look amazing. You took great pics too! Great job Kat!

Anonymous said...

The gougere turned out perfect - they look wonderful!

giz said...

Blue cheese, pear and walnut - such an incredible combination. I think every home should have at minimum 2 stoves. I'm looking forward to the roast post. I'm pathetic at roasts.

grace said...

stellar appetizers, kat! you definitely picked the right ones--oysters give me the heebie-jeebies... :)

Peter M said...

How authentic is that? Gougeres baked on silpats!

I really don't know why I haven't made these yet as they are so easy.

Both appetizers are simple but done really well.

Anonymous said...

Your gougeres and crostini look great! Nice photos :) I wish I could get my kids past the stinky feet smell of the blue cheese. lol!

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Temperance said...

Great pictures!

I found the chese to be more of an aftertaste thing and definitly could tell the differance between cheddar and gruyere.

I love the way your crostini look.

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