Are you in, or are you out, on New Year’s Eve? I like a little of both, having some bubbly and an app at home, then out for a while, and ideally back in before the clock strikes midnight, safe and cozy. Living in a small town in northern Michigan after years of city life, one quickly comes to appreciate not needing to consider much in terms of where and how to party it up on New Year’s Eve. Here, being out is so easy, and so close to home, that when you’re out you practically feel like you are already…in.
New Year’s and the days leading up to it, especially when you are in cold and chill country, involve a lot of really good snacking. The couch pulls a girl in with a hug as big as a Sitti’s, and you aren’t going anywhere anytime soon when that happens.
Whether you’re in your favorite sweater and socks with the family or toasting the New Year in style, or a bit of both, these nibblies are so worth a moment in the kitchen. I believe there is no better New Year’s treat than a little French cheese puff, a gougère, with a glass of champagne. They are game-changer to add to your appetizer repertoire, ready to pull out of your back pocket at any time and always a delight. A few minutes on any of these good things will get you back to where you were, relaxing, but with something delicious to eat as you toast to another year.
New Year’s Snacks
Marinated olives (lemon zest, peppercorns, olive oil, red pepper flakes)
Gougeres, little cheese puffs perfect with champagne
Fried cauliflower with tahini dipping sauce
Fresh vegetable crudite with a dip of yogurt, garlic, mint, and scallions
The first pastry we learned in culinary school was choux paste, or pate a choux, for its simplicity and versatility. We memorized this recipe from the get-go and so that we’d always be able to make it on the fly. The dough can be used for sweets like cream puffs, or savory, for classic French gougères. These little cheesy puffs are perfect with a glass of bubbles, and they freeze so well you can keep them on hand and warm them up straight from the freezer. There are many variations on the recipe; I love this one, based on Dori Greenspan’s. Makes about 36 gougères.
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup water
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
1 cup all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Gruyère cheese
Position two racks in the middle of the oven with two spaces between them. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
Bring the milk, water, butter, salt and cayenne (if using) to a rapid boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Swiftly add the flour all at once, lower the heat to medium-low, and immediately beat with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring vigorously over the low heat as the dough smooths out and comes together, about a minute.
Add the egg about ¼ cup at a time, beating well with the wooden spoon after each addition. The dough will be wet and somewhat separate, but will come together as more egg is added. Leave about ¼ cup of egg behind to use as a wash for the gougères. Beat in the grated cheese.
Drop by the tablespoonful onto the baking sheets, about 2 inches apart, or pipe with a piping bag using a ½-inch tip. Smooth the tops of the gougères by brushing a small amount of egg wash over each one lightly.
Place in the oven and reduce the heat to 375 degrees. Bake for 12 minutes without opening the oven. Rotate the pans from front to back and top to bottom, and bake for another 12-15 minutes, until the puffs are deep golden brown. Do not underbake or the puffs will deflate. Serve immediately, warm, or reheat later at 350 degrees. The gougères can be made ahead, frozen, and heated straight from the freezer at 350 degrees.
Print this recipe here.