Little Cheese Puffs aka Gougère

Gougère is basically a Gruyère cheese biscuit reminiscent of the cheddar biscuits from Red Lobster.  Red Lobster better be careful because the French Farmhouse Cookbook gave me a fun little history tidbit that could possibly lead to a lawsuit.

You see it is believed that the French bought the copyright for these little cheese puffs from the Flemish back in the 14th century. According to the cookbook these two cultures were more interested in dealing with recipes for food than money.

No wonder the French were always having issues with the Brits. Can you imagine?

French King: Knock knock…

British King: Yes?

French King: Hey, so we’ve got this cheese puff recipe, would you like to make a trade for….I don’t know, bangers and mash?

British King: (looks at the recipe, looks at the King, looks back at the recipe) Do you think I’m a fool? Last time foreigners tried to invade us they offered us spaghetti! Get out of here!

French King: Oh! No, we just want to experience the delicacies of…(door is slammed in French king’s face) Well, that was rude! I guess we’ll just have to fight for our recipes!

A couple of weeks later, this happened.

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Thankfully in present time, sharing recipes hasn’t resulted in violence and we can safely spread the cheer of the French cheese puffs.

What you’ll need

  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup of water
  • 3/4 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 7 tablespoons of unsalted butter, chilled, cut into chunks
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup of grated Gruyère cheese
  • 1/4 cup of minced chives

The first step is to pre-heat the oven to 400 and get your baking sheets out.

Then get some wax paper and sift the flour and nutmeg together on top of the paper.

You are now ready to mix water, salt, and butter in a pan. Heat the pan to medium high heat until the combo starts to boil. Allow that process to go on for 30 seconds and then remove. Add the flour and butter mixture into a bowl you can whisk the mixture in. Whisk away until the dough is no longer sticky. This will take some time and you’ll know when it’s ready when it doesn’t stick to the side as you whisk.

Make sure the dough isn’t warm from the heated butter and then add the eggs, one at a time. Whisk each egg add-in until everything is combined evenly and then add the cheese and finally the chives.

We are finally ready to bake!

Do so, by scooping around a tablespoon of the dough for each puff. Be sure to leave room for the puff to grow so it does not slide into the other. Once you’ve used up the dough, bake in the oven for about 35-40 minutes.

You’ll know they are ready when they are slightly browned and puffy. When this occurs take them out of the oven and the pan and allow them to cool on a wire rack.

Side note, I need to get a wire rack and if you don’t have one, the best option is to remove them from the pan and place on a cool surface. It’s still better to use a rack if you’ve got it though.

I was pleased with the final result. As I implied earlier these are like Red Lobster cheese biscuits only French style. You can’t go wrong with cheese biscuits so really there isn’t much to say.

The only thing I can say is that the Gruyère gives it a slight bitter taste in comparison to cheddar biscuits. The chives balance out the bitter taste and give it a pop of flavor that will add a twist in taste for all you chedder biscuits lovers out there.

So go ahead and give this a go. If not, the French might fart in your general direction.

Cheese Puffs from France

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Noodle Nuggets with Cheese Sauce

Have you ever had a noodle nugget? Well, I have and it’s all thanks to laziness.

So how do you create a noodle nugget? First step is to try to make your own pasta with a recipe from Classic Pasta at Home after your 9-5 job by yourself, get tired, and end up with pasta that’s 10 times thicker than water. Then you bring leftovers for your friends to enjoy who don them noodle nuggets.

Let me quickly add that my friends actually liked the noodle nuggets, but we all like to tease and have quirky senses of humor, thus noodle nuggets were born.

What you’ll need for noodle nuggets

  • 2 1/4 cups of un-bleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten

What you’ll need for noodle nugget cheese sauce

  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 1 cup of chicken broth
  • 3 ounces of fontina cheese, grated
  • 2 ounces of Gorgonzola cheese
  • 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of parsley

Our first step will be to make the noodle nuggets. By the way, feel free to not make noodle nuggets and buy fettuccine instead. You’ll be missing out though.

Place flour in a mound on a flat clean surface. Make a well in the center and add the beaten eggs. Using a fork, gradually mix the sides of the wall into the egg. Do this carefully so your wall doesn’t breach.

Continue this process until you can safely mix all the flour in and the dough is no longer wet.

You are no ready to knead the dough. Prepare your hands by dusting flour on them and then press your knuckles into the dough in a semi-circular motion until the dough is no longer sticky.

Divide the dough in half and roll out your divided half until smooth and flat. If you have a pasta machine, make it flat enough so it can go through the machine at the widest setting. Fold into thirds to make a rectangle and then flatten the dough again. Pass the dough into the machine again and repeat 9 times. Fold the dough into thirds after each pass through as well.

Set the machine to it’s second widest setting and pass the dough through. Continue this process but with each pass change the setting one notch lower.

Repeat this process with your other half and then cut the dough into strips. This will give you fettucine.

If you want noodle nuggets, do this same process until you’re like, “Eh, that’s good enough, I’m getting tired.”

Whichever pasta you choose to make, you’re now ready to boil water to cook the pasta. Do that. If you don’t know how to do that, just put water in a pot and then heat it until the water boils.

While that’s happening, combine cream and broth in a large skillet. Let it simmer over medium heat until it thickens. Reduce the heat to low once it’s thick and then stir in the cheeses. Let them melt and then add pepper and salt.

Allow the sauce to thin out and once it has thinned, keep it warm over low heat.

The water should be boiling at this point, which means you can cook your pasta. Allow the pasta to only cook for about a minute. Drain the water and then add the pasta to the cheese sauce. Increase the heat to medium-high and let it cook, stirring constantly until the pasta has absorbed the sauce and seems fully cooked.

The pasta should now be ready for serving and eating. Do so and touch it up a bit with some sprinkled parsley and pepper.

As I mentioned, my pasta came out very thick, but it was still tasty. The cheese sauce is rich, comforting, and flavorful. You could serve it with just about any variation of pasta, but I do think a thinner type would be best since the sauce is also thin and will easily absorb into the pasta.

I had to make new sauce for my leftovers, because the noodle nuggets absorbed practically all of the sauce. They had also congealed together, which made it difficult to get indivual pasta strands.

Making more sauce over corrected the problem so my friend added some spaghetti to it as well. The combo of spaghetti and noodle nuggets was interesting and it made the meal into a game where we felt like we won something if we got a big chunk of noodle nugget.

I highley recommed pursuing the noodle nugget, but don’t feel ashamed if you end up with fettucine or buy some pasta instead because this sauce is delicious and easy to make. There’s no reason to make it harder for yourself if you don’t feel like it.

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Noodle Nuggets

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Noodle Nuggets with sauce

Eggplant Parm with Catch Me If You Can Cheese

My next recipe comes from Sicilian Cookery and you could say it is a variation of eggplant Parmesan with a substitute of a cheese called caciocavallo which is a native cheese of Southern Italy.

The quest to find caciocavallo was the hardest part of making this dish and finding it caused a bit of a hiatus for my cooking goals. My first attempt to buy this cheese was at a specialty cheese shop where they just happened to run out the previous day. They ordered it again, but by the time I got there it was sold out. I had no idea this cheese was so popular. I decided to go to Whole Foods after that and ended up empty handed, thankfully Bristol Farms had some. I must have been lucky that day, because I looked for it again out of curiosity after making this recipe and it was M.I.A. in the cheese section.

Hopefully you’ll have better luck with that than I did.

What you’ll need

  • 3 eggplants
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 4-5 ripe tomatoes
  • 4 oz or 1/4 pound of caciocavallo cheese
  • 2 oz or 1/2 cup of grated cheese
  • 4 or 5 basil leaves

The first step is to prepare the eggplants by cutting them lengthwise into sections as evenly as possible. Then you will cut slits into the fleshy part of the eggplant and soak in salted water for ten minutes.

I wanted to look up the physics as to why salting and soaking is necessary for eggplants and ended up finding this useful article from the LA Times. According to Russ Parsons, it only makes a difference to salt if you are frying. He also feels for there to be a true impact, the soaking should take place for at least 60 minutes.

I have to say, I think Russ is on to something, because when I’ve salted eggplant for only ten minutes, it didn’t do much at all.

Whatever you decide, once you’ve soaked the eggplant, you will pat dry and then allow it to cool. While it is cooling, you can prepare the tomato sauce that will eventually go on top of our eggplant concotion.

To make the sauce, the first step is to prepare the tomatoes by skinning and chopping them. If you don’t recall the proper way to do this, what you need to do is cut x’s into the top of the tomato and then boil them for about a minute. Throw those boiled tomatoes on some ice and then the skin should peel off.  After that, you cut and set aside.

The next step for the sauce is to fry two whole cloves of garlic in oil. Remove the cloves once they’ve been sufficiently fried. I love garlic and didn’t want to remove them, but leaving fried garlic in sauce can make the sauce bitter. If you want to keep the garlic anyway, I suggest mincing the garlic and lightly frying. My mother always told me the longer you let a garlic fry, the more sugar you have to add later to sweeten the bitterness.

Food is like people sometimes.

Once the garlic is ready, whether you keep or discard, the next step is to add those chopped tomatoes. Do so and cook for 5-10 minutes while stirring and sprinkling basil, salt, and pepper to taste.

As the sauce cooks, cut the garlic and caciocavallo into pieces that will fit in the slits you made for the eggplant pieces.

Once the slits are stuffed, sprinkle with some basil and then top them off with tomato sauce. As long as the sauce is cooked, of course.

The final touch will be to sprinkle with grated cheese and oil and bake for 30 minutes on the 350 setting of an oven.

Once your time is up, you’ll have a tasty alternative version to eggplant Parmesan.

My final result turned out well enough. I prefer Parmesan when it comes to eggplant. Caciocavallo is a bitter and harder cheese than Parmesan. I feel it doesn’t compliment the eggplant in a way that I like. I prefer the delicious gooey texture of melted Parmesan that pulls apart like string cheese.

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Mmmm, string cheese

Have I mentioned that I love cheese lately? It’s important to tell the people things you love that you love them everyday. The little things count in this troubled world and the comfort of cheese is getting me through these troubling times every day.

Back to this dish, though. It was an enjoyable experience, but it doesn’t beat Parmesan for me and it’s not worth the effort and hunt to use caciocavallo, in my opinion. If you’re adventurous, definitely try it out. Life is too short to not try new things.

 

Hannibal Lector’s Favorite Salad

Today we will discuss Classic Pasta at Home’s Fava Bean and Pecorino Salad. A favorite for Dr. Lector, he pairs it with his favorite Chianti and liverwurst that he gets at some special butcher shop. I can’t remember which one….I think it’s called Buffalo Bill’s Exotic Meats or something.

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Dr. Lector and his Chianti

Unfortunately, I ran into Dr. Lector while shopping for fava beans. His love of fava beans has no bounds. He bought them all up at the grocery store and was unwilling to share any with me. He said something about having a special dinner party and that he would invite me, but he had already “outdone” himself as it was. I don’t know what that meant, but Dr. Lector has always been a little off.

So I had to substitute with lima beans. Thankfully no other substitutes were needed.

What you’ll need:

  • 4 lbs of fava beans
  • 2 1/2 – 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of minced green onion, stem included
  • salt and pepper
  • lemon juice to taste
  • 8 – 12 soft lettuce leaves, preferably red. (Dr. Lector prefers the shade of Chianti)
  • 2 oz pecorinio cheese such as Toscanello or Manchego.

The first step in making this salad is to shell the fava or lima beans. To do this, you must either soak overnight or boil them for what seems like an eternity. Don’t be impatient with this step because it can make or break this salad. In other words, you don’t want the beans to be hard.

If you use the boil method, have a bowl of ice water ready. This creates a fast hot to cold effect that will rip off the skin of the bean. Buffalo Bill told me about this wonderful method by the way.

Drain the water once you let it cool down and then mix the beans in a large bowl with the olive oil and the green onions. Once these are mixed, you can add the salt, pepper, and lemon juice to your liking.

We are now ready to add the lettuce. Do so by tearing the lettuce into bite sized pieces and tossing gently along with rest of the salad.

The final step is to garnish with some cheese! My favorite part!

The cookbook recommends using a vegetable peeler and shaving the cheese into paper-thin slices. I grated mine, but I do think the shaved method would produce a greater taste of cheese. Being a cheese lover, I wished I had done this instead.

Can’t live in the past, though, right?

Anyway, you will want to toss the cheese as well. Once you have done so, it will be ready for consumption. Pair it with whatever you wish, unless it’s Hannibal Lector that is. I wouldn’t recommend that.

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