Archives for category: Cheese

I had a culinary first recently: making the light, fluffy cheese puffs known as gougères. I don’t know too many people who make these delightful little snacks but after my first successful attempt I see no good reason not to.

Despite the French name, which I think automatically intimidates some of us who assume unfamiliar ingredients and techniques will be involved, gougères are easy to make and require ingredients that you very likely might already have on hand: milk, butter, cheese (cheddar will do), eggs, and flour. That’s it. Oh, and water and salt.

If you have people over for dinner or brunch and serve these pillowy cheese puffs warm from the oven, you will garner much praise in the form of oohs and ahs and possibly ooh la la.

Their dough is the same as sweet cream puffs or profiteroles, but with added cheese. One could use a variety of cheeses, but Comté, Emmenthal, Gruyère, or sharp cheddar are most often recommended. I like the recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table, which I’m including below, but David Lebovitz has a good recipe on his blog as well. I like that he adds black pepper and chives.

This weekend I will be making these for the second time for a garden party in Vermont. I plan to nose about in my parents’ herb garden to see what I could add to jazz these up, not that you need to. I also might double the recipe below, which makes about 35 puffs, so that each guest can have at least 2. Any less than that would be inhospitable, if not plain cruel.

Gourgères

1/2 c whole milk
1/2 c water
8 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/2 tsp salt
1 c all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, at room temp
1 1/2 c coarsely grated cheese, such as Gruyère or cheddar, about 6 ounces

Position the racks to divide the oven in thirds and preheat oven to 425. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Bring milk, water, butter, and salt to a rapid boil in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan over high heat. Add 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 sticky crust will form on the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring “with vigor,” as Greenspan writes, for another minute or two to dry the dough.

Turn the dough into the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment. (You could also do this by hand.) Let the dough sit for a minute to cool, then add the eggs one by one and “beat beat beat,” making sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. Beat in the grated cheese. Once the dough is made it should be spooned out immediately.

Use about 1 tbsp of dough for each gougère, dropping the dough from the spoon onto lined baking sheets, leaving 2 inches of space in between. You could also use a pastry bag for this step, as shown in the photo.

Place the baking sheets in the oven and turn the oven down to 375. Bake for 12 minutes, rotate the sheets, and bake another 12-15 minutes, keeping a close eye on them so as not to overbake. Serve warm or cool on racks.

It all started with a corn tortilla. Not just any corn tortilla. The Hot Bread Kitchen handmade corn tortillas lovingly pressed by hand and cooked over a hot comal.

My friend Mark loves these tortillas, and tortillas in general. So when I saw them at the co-op last week I couldn’t resist picking up a package of six. (They sell these at the greenmarket in Union Square on Wednesdays too.) I figured they’d go well with all the black turtle beans in our cupboard, if nothing else.

So finally this weekend Mark and I had the opportunity to cook together – we had previously soaked and cooked the black beans so that part was done. They were fragrant with bay leaves and garlic. Feeling ambitious, despite the late hour we were starting, we decided on enchiladas, rather than what would have been the quicker (but perhaps less gratifying) tacos with beans. With spring onions and asparagus in the fridge from a recent greenmarket purchase, we decided on braising these in the oven as a side dish.

The fridge and spice cupboard revealed the additional makings for the enchiladas; there was Carr Valley Bread Cheese from Murray’s Cheese (it’s a Finnish-style, mild, oven-baked cheese), and the true stars (and work horses) of this dish: Guajillo Chili Peppers from Penzeys Spices and Happy Quail Farms Pepper Chips from the San Francisco Bay Area, transported to Brooklyn on Mark’s carry-on recently.

The first thing we had to do was soak the peppers in a hot water bath – this becomes the basis for the spicy enchilada sauce. We boiled 1-2 cups of water in the kettle then poured it over the peppers in a bowl, and let soak for 20 minutes.

Peppers hydrating in hot water

As these were soaking I added the onions to a cold water bath to thoroughly clean these sandy alliums for our vegetable side dish. I changed the water once or twice to make sure they were free of all grit then patted dry.

I pre-heated the oven to 400 degrees and into a glass casserole dish went 3 tbsp unsalted butter, 1/2 c white wine, and the onions (with green tops and all). Mark grated some fresh nutmeg over the onions, and added salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Then into the oven, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes. I washed the asparagus stalks (about 1/2 pound) and set aside (these guys will get steamed and later added to the onion dish).

Grating nutmeg over the onions

Back to the enchiladas…now comes the fun part. Using a food mill we puréed the peppers over a large bowl (liquid and all) for what seemed like quite a long time – just when I’d think I couldn’t possibly squeeze anything else from these peppers Mark would say gently, “Just a little more.”

Transferring the peppers to the food mill

Puréeing the peppers

When there really was little life left to squeeze out of the peppers we added an 8-ounce can of tomato sauce – this thickens the overall sauce, adding more body and, crucially, tempers the heat. We also then slowly added somewhere between 4-5 tbsp of olive oil.

Adding olive oil to the puréed tomato-pepper sauce

At this point it was time to remove the braised onions from the oven and steam the asparagus on the stovetop for five minutes. We added the asparagus to the baking dish and mixed it with the lovely juices of the braising liquid and onions. Keep warm, set aside.

Asparagus and spring onions in white wine and butter

It was almost time to soak the tortillas in the sauce – but the sauce was still fiery hot so we added about 2 tbsp honey to smooth out the flavor. It still packed a lot of heat but not unbearably so. Then we added the tortillas to the sauce to soak them and make the tortillas more pliable (you wouldn’t want to soak as long with fresh or homemade tortillas, but these HBK ones come refrigerated so they’re not quite malleable) and absorb the flavors. We couldn’t get them soft enough to roll up entirely, so we decided to leave them in the shape of a taco, half-folded.

Tortillas meet sauce

We coated the bottom of a cast-iron skillet (it was either a 10- or 12-inch pan) with a bit of the sauce then folded each tortilla and placed in the skillet. To each tortilla we added slices of the cheese then the black beans. We topped the whole dish off with the remaining fiery sauce before putting into the still-hot 400-degree oven for 15-20 minutes.

When I checked on the enchiladas the tortillas had turned a crispy brown and the beans were bubbling along with the melted, creamy cheese.

When ready to serve we squeezed fresh lime over the enchiladas and dove in. Served with the spring onion-asparagus dish we had ourselves a mouthwatering, eye-watering,  good meal. It was topped off by a dessert of Mark’s homemade strawberry shortcake, a cool finish to the evening somewhere ’round midnight.

Hot enchiladas in the skillet

Can a girl be so lucky?

The day had finally come: the first co-op shift in three years for member #43525.

I was excited for my new work slot: “food processing” from 1 to 3:45 pm every fourth Friday. Sounds boring? Bothersome? Banal?

Shame on you! Today I learned how to score and slice a 20-pound wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano; how to properly slice and package barrel-aged sheep & goat feta and what makes it different (and better) from the domestic sheep feta; and the difference between handling a Havarti vs. a Monterey Jack.

Cheese bliss for this food nerd.

Yuri Weber is the co-op’s cheese buyer. He’s one of the few co-op employees (as opposed to member-volunteers) and you can watch him talk about cheese inside the co-op here. I was introduced to him today when he tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Do you want to go on a feta adventure?” Once I said yes he said I couldn’t take it back. That’s when he took out the “special feta” and I was shown how to properly slice, wrap, and weigh it.

My buddy for the afternoon was Jim. He told me he’s only been working this shift for four months but the others always let him handle the cheese so they can weigh and price things like dried mango, almonds, olives, and spices instead. Well I’m with Jim – I think the cheese is where it’s at. He showed me how to take inventory on the floor of the cheese section, where to find all the various cheeses in the basement, how to set up my cutting board, replace the wire on the cheese slicer (after I broke it), and show me how to use the pricing scale (it’s very easy).

My whole crew of coworkers was great this afternoon. We chatted about cease-and-desist letters, how to name one’s new design studio, rose petal potpourri, the merits of Ben’s cream cheese (tangy, smooth, creamy), and Johnny Cash. Plus it was 80+ degrees outside so I was happy to be in the climate-controlled basement wheeling wheels of curds out of the walk-in cooler.

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