About 3 years ago, I did a study abroad program in Paris for a month. It was definitely one of the best things I have ever done. I did not know anyone on that trip but, by the end of it, I came out with a few really good friends, whom I still keep in contact with. The group of people I became friends with are much older than me, one of whom is around my dad’s age! What got us together were a couple things: food, culture, and alcohol. Seriously. Within that study abroad group, there were those who cared about shopping and then those who tried to find all those “American” restaurants. The people whom I became close with wanted to eat where the locals ate and wanted to venture out and try something new. If there was something different on the menu, we would almost always pick that place as our dinner and have a bottle of wine and enjoy the evening. Even when we get together, we still talk about the program; it’s just something that will forever be etched in our mind and we will never forget it.
Every once in a while, we always do “Study Abroad reunion” dinner, with us and our significant others, at one of our homes. This time, our theme was “French” (of course!) and we each had to bring either an appetizer, salad, or dessert (host provides main course and sides), along with the wine. This time, I picked appetizer and I decided to attempt at making Gougeres.
Gougeres are pretty much cream puffs, except there’s cheese. They are usually stuffed or sliced in half and eaten like a sandwich with ham or turkey. My boyfriend came up with an idea of coming up with a tomato sauce to use as a dip instead, which I thought was brilliant. I made these bite size, which was appropriate for the “appetizer”. Of course, I had to put my own twist on them and added cayenne pepper, for a slight kick, and chives. Let me tell you, they were delicious! Dipping them into the tomato sauce added that extra “pop!” to them. The tomato sauce wasn’t your usual Italian marinara, since it did not contain any basil. Trust me when I say bay leaf and thyme take it to the next level. I would call it “Provencal” style, but I’m sure I would get a few angry emails stating how this sauce is no where near “French” style.
Making choux pastry (which is what this is called) is not hard at all! In fact, it’s so much easier than making puff pastry dough! The only thing to remember is to let the dough cool for a couple minutes before adding the egg, otherwise you’ll end up with scrambled eggs. By the way, the chive garnish-totally my man’s idea! Impressive, hey?
Ingredients for the Gougeres
makes about 15 small puffs
- 1/4C all-purpose (plain) flour
- 1/4C water
- 1.5 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 large (not extra large or jumbo) egg
- pinch of salt
- cayenne pepper, to taste, optional
- 1 tbsp chopped chives
- 2.5 tbsp grated gruyere cheese, plus 1.5 tbsp extra for topping
- In a saucepan, on medium heat, add the water, butter, salt, and cayenne pepper. Cook until the butter is melted. Just make sure the water does not come to a boil.
- Once the butter is melted, add the flour, turn off the heat, and with a wooden spoon, mix the flour into the water mixture until it forms a dough. You’ll know when it’s done because the dough will pull away from the sides of the saucepan.
- Allow the dough to cool for about 2 minutes.
- After 2 minutes, crack an egg into the dough, and whisk it until it’s well combined. It’ll, at first, look like it won’t incorporate into the dough, but give it time and it will.
- Add 2.5 tbsp of the cheese and the chive to the dough and mix well.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and using 2 spoons (or a pastry bag with a tip), drop small cherry size dough onto the sheet.
- Sprinkle the extra cheese on top of the dough, if you wish.
- Bake in a preheated 425F oven for 10 minutes and then reduce the heat to 375F and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until it’s golden brown.
- Remove form the tray and serve immediately or at room temperature!
Note: If you wish to make them drier, so you can fill them, poke the bottom of the puffs with a skewer and allow them to cool.
Ingredients for Tomato Sauce:
- 2.5 cups strained tomato sauce. I used Pomi Strained Tomatoes but you can use whatever kind or make your own. I was crunch on time, so I chose this.
- 1 dry bay leaf
- salt and pepper, to taste
- couple dashes cayenne pepper, optional
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme or 1.5 tsp fresh thyme
- 1 tsp tomato paste
- Heat the olive oil on medium heat.
- Add the onions, bay leaf, and a small pinch of salt, mix and cook until onions become translucent, about 4-5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes
- Add the tomato sauce, thyme, salt, pepper, and cayenne and mix well. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer gently for about 25-30 minutes, stirring once in a while.
- Add the tomato paste and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Adjust taste accordingly and serve!