Last week, I made a potluck mac n’ cheese using Martha’s recipe, which featured muenster, havarti, and white sharp cheddar. The results were lovely and although I returned home with an empty casserole dish, I still had a few giant blocks of cheese in the fridge because most grocers don’t sell cheese in three ounce increments. Thus I was left with figuring out what to do with all that dairy clogging up the fridge without clogging up my own internal organs by eating all of it myself.
There’s not much I can do with havarti and muenster because I don’t really care for them and the only one out of the thre I like is the cheddar. Still, I wasn’t about to eat half a pound of cheese straight up, nor did I want to boil another pound of pasta and make more cheesy mac. Too much of a good thing can be too much for my digestive tract, speaking from the pov of someone who is mildly lactose intolerant.
While I was strolling along my neighborhood today, I hit up on the idea of making some gougères for Superbowl Sunday. Gougères are savory cheese puffs of sorts made from a pastry dough called pâte á choux. I will confess that I’ve only been on the consumption side of these creations and have never made pâte á choux before much less gougères, but since I had watched chefs make it on TV a few times before, I thought I could get the hang of it pretty easily.
All the gougères I’ve ever had were made with gruyère cheese but I figured an all-American girl like myself could surely adapt the recipe to suit my cheddar. The goal was to use up the cheese, not buy more. To make it even more decadent, I had three strips of bacon left in the fridge to use up and it sounded like a good idea to throw some crumbles of crispy bacon in there. A quick Google search for “gougeres” landed me on Alain Ducasse’s recipe published in Food and Wine Magazine. It seemed easy enough but I also checked in with Mr. Liebovitz to see what he had to offer. They were similar recipes in preparation but Alain’s called for milk and I had some whole milk in the fridge that was getting close to the expiration date. In the spirit of waste not want not, I opted for Alain’s recipe and got to work.
Taking some sage advice from David Liebovitz’ recipe, I prepped all of my ingredients and got them ready on the counter before I started making the dough. The one obstacle standing in my way was lack of a cheese grater. For other recipes, I would have just sliced the cheddar up with a knife but I need the cheese to melt into the dough. So that’s how I found myself trying to shred a rectangular block of cheddar cheese using a spice grater re-purposed into the world’s tiniest cheese grater. Seriously, this thing is no more than two inches high and made for elfin fingers, not mine.
Once I got past that, I made the dough and beat in the eggs one at a time. Gave my arms a workout trying to incorporate the eggs quickly and thoroughly into the dough. Finally I folded in the cheese and crumbled bits of bacon which I had cooked earlier. Since I don’t have parchment paper, I just used aluminum foil and greased it with some of the left over bacon fat because I didn’t have any butter left. I also didn’t have a pastry piper so I spooned the dough into a plastic freezer bag and cut off the tip of one corner, about half and inch wide in diameter and it was a perfectly adequate substitution. Once the gougeres were in the oven, the whole room started smelling like cheddar and bacon and I was practically marinating in the scent.
They came out fluffy and golden, cheesy and bacony. Absolute heaven. As with most foods with French names, gougères sound fancy and complicated but in reality, these couldn’t be easier to make. The only hard part was keeping from eating all thirty something of them by myself and leave none for my friends on Superbowl Sunday.
Now that the gougères are done, what am I going to do with the pound or so of other cheese I still have….?