When planning our French-inspired Thanksgiving table, it was only natural that I also have a menu in mind. After all, what better country to take a cue from when whipping up mashed potatoes than the one that never says no to more butter?
While I wish I could have made an entire meal for you to feast your eyes on (hehe), I decided to leave the main dishes to your imagination, and whip up some tasty pastry appetizers for your consideration instead!
Naturally, there should be plenty of cheese and fruit on the table, and oysters if you can find them, but pastry just seemed an obvious addition to the group! I will admit - I was slightly intimidated by the grougéres, but they were much easier than I gave them credit for! And now that I basically know how to make puff pastry, I may have to make some sweet little cream puffs next time. But these savory bits were delicious too. I'd serve them with a bit of apple butter or fig jam.
Gruyére Gougéres // makes 25 - 30
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup milk
- 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
- Large pinch of coarse salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs
- 3 ½ ounces shredded Gruyère cheese (1 cup), plus more for sprinkling
- Freshly ground pepper
- Freshly grated nutmeg
I'm no pastry chef, so I will admit that I followed this recipe from Alain Ducasse to a T in order not to entirely screw it up. And guess what? I didn't! Personally, I think the only thing I would change is that it could have been a little saltier. Apparently my 'large pinch' wasn't enough! Here are the exact instructions:
Preheat the oven to 400°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (I just used well greased cookie sheets). In a medium saucepan, combine the water, milk, butter and salt and bring to a boil. Add the flour and stir it in with a wooden spoon until a smooth dough forms; stir over low heat until it dries out and pulls away from the pan, about 2 minutes. Scrape the dough into a bowl; let cool for 1 minute. Beat the eggs into the dough, one at a time, thoroughly incorporating each one before adding another (apparently this is crucial!!). Add the cheese and a pinch each of pepper and nutmeg.
Transfer the dough to a pastry bag fitted with a ½ inch round tip and pipe tablespoon-size mounds onto the baking sheets, 2 inches apart. (If you don't have pastry bags available, using two spoons works just fine!) Sprinkle with cheese and bake for 22 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. Serve hot, or let cool and refrigerate or freeze. Reheat in a 350° oven until piping hot.
As for the French Onion Tartlets - I just knew that someone out there had to have made a recipe that would mimic the flavors of a French Onion Soup - a dish that under most circumstances would be easy to make, but seemed like just another thing to occupy the stove for Thanksgiving. Sure enough, I found this recipe from PureWow, and it was just what I was looking for! The addition of beef broth gives it that 'soup' flavor that is distinct and rich.
French Onion Tartlets // one dozen
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 sweet onions, sliced
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
- ½ cup beef broth
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 package store-bought puff-pastry dough
- 12 tablespoons grated Gruyère cheese
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease the cavities of a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.
In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Next, add the onion and sauté until tender and caramelized, 25 to 30 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and thyme. Add the beef broth and bring the mixture to a simmer. Simmer until the liquid has reduced almost entirely. Stir in the heavy cream, then set aside.
Next, roll out the puff-pastry dough a little to flatten it. Cut the dough into 2½-inch squares and then press a square into each of the cups of the prepared muffin tin. Place about 2 tablespoons of the onion filling into each cup and then top with 1 tablespoon grated Gruyère. By the way - I used a pie crust dough because I happened to have some on hand. I rolled it out very thin and it worked perfectly! But I bet the pastry dough would be even better.
Bake until golden brown, 20 to 22 minutes. Serve immediately.