Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch—so it shouldn't require more than that to assemble an impressive hors d'oeuvre for your holiday party. But many party nibbles get fussy with specialty ingredients, so this bonus edition of our "8 & $20" recipe pairing feature turns its attention to one that's basic, easily adaptable and provides a base for other recipes as well. For the holidays, when you want to splurge a bit, we're stretching our $20 wine budget up to $25, knowing that you can often find wine on sale at this time of year or get a case discount if you're buying big for a party. Have a wonderful holiday season and a happy New Year!
When entertaining during the holidays, it’s nice to be able to offer your guests a little something special as they arrive. A glass of bubbly and a beautiful appetizer set the perfect festive mood for an evening.
Gougères—elegant cheese puffs—are a French classic that offer a high degree of wow factor. Pâte à choux—the dough at the base of these puffs—might seem a bit intimidating because it requires the use of a pastry bag. However, the dough comes together quickly and, once mastered, you can use it for a wide range of sweet and savory treats, such as profiteroles and éclairs, or, with different cheeses added, a variety of gougères.
In this version, I’ve adapted the choux pastry to create a goat cheese– and chive-flavored version, then filled the baked puffs with a rich yet airy salmon-and-goat cheese mousse. For party planning purposes, you can make the gougères in advance, keep them refrigerated, then reheat them for a few minutes in the oven and fill them just before your guests are due to arrive.
You can create your own variety of fillings, and the puffs are also delicious on their own. (In fact, if you have kids around, they may prefer them without the filling. While making these, I left a small batch unfilled for my niece, who happens to be anti–goat cheese.) If making them to eat plain, I prefer a less crispy, lightly doughy consistency, which you can achieve by pulling them from the oven just a few minutes earlier, when they’re a light golden brown.
I knew exactly what kind of wine I wanted to serve with these tasty little puffs: a sparkling rosé. Luckily, at this time of year, you can find excellent deals on bubbly, a category that generally exceeds our $20 target. I found the reliably consistent Mumm Napa Brut Rosé Napa Valley NV on sale for $15, making it a great holiday value. The crisp, light berry notes worked beautifully with the food, and the salinity from the salmon brought out a lovely minerality in the wine. Because this sparkling wine is made in the traditional method and aged on the lees, as is done in Champagne, the wine also had lots of toasty and pastry notes that complemented the gougères wonderfully.
Find 24 more just-rated brilliant bubblies in our recent Tasting Highlights. Or try one of these alternative rosé sparkling wines for $20 or less, including cava from Spain, crémant from France, sparklers from Washington or spumante from Italy.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total cooking time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Approximate food costs: $24
1. Preheat oven to 400° F.
2. Put the water, butter, 2 ounces of goat cheese and a pinch of salt and pepper in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
3. As soon as the butter and cheese are melted and the mixture reaches a boil, reduce the heat to medium and stir in the chives, followed by all of the flour at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens and forms a mass that does not stick to the pan, about 2 minutes.
4. Remove the pan from the heat, transfer the mixture to a clean bowl, and allow it to cool down for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Beat 4 eggs into the dough, one at a time, making sure that each is fully incorporated before adding the next. The mixture should be firm but smooth; a channel drawn through the batter should fill in slowly, and a spatula pulled away from the batter should form thick ribbons between the batter and the spatula. If necessary, add 1 more egg to achieve this consistency.
5. Fit a plain, 1/2-inch pastry tip into a pastry bag. Fill the pastry bag halfway with dough, working in batches if needed. (Overfilling will make the bag harder to work with.)
6. Line 1 or more sheet pans with parchment paper. Pipe out dough onto the paper into mounds the size of a quarter, spaced about an inch and a half apart. Work in batches if you are only using 1 pan.
7. Beat 1 egg together with a tablespoon of heavy cream and a pinch of salt, and gently brush the mixture across each gougère. (Note: This step is optional, but gives the gougères a nice gloss.)
8. Place the baking sheet(s) in the oven and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, until the gougères are completely golden brown, feel light and dry, and sound hollow when tapped. Remove them from the oven and let cool.
9. While the gougères are baking, blend together the salmon and the remaining 10 ounces of goat cheese, 2 tablespoons of heavy cream and a pinch of salt (you can use an immersion blender, blender or food processor) until the salmon is fully incorporated and the mixture is smooth.
10. In a separate bowl, whip (using an electric mixer or a hand whisk) the remaining heavy cream until stiff peaks form.
11. Gently fold the whipped cream into the salmon mixture. Do not over-mix as it will lose volume; it’s fine to leave the mixture a bit streaky. Keep mixture in the refrigerator until ready to use.
12. Once the gougères are cool, gently cut their tops off with a serrated knife. Do not discard the tops.
13. Fit a 1/2-inch decorative pastry tip of your choosing into a pastry bag and fill the bag halfway with the salmon-and–goat cheese mixture. Work in batches as needed. Carefully pipe the mixture into the gougères, then place the tops back on the gougères. Arrange the puffs on trays and serve. Makes about 45 gougères.