With all the musicals that have inspired my recipes (see December 2011 and July 2011), it’s hard to believe I haven’t mentioned a Disney musical yet. I grew up on Disney movies – Snow White was the first I saw; Dumbo was the first to make me cry – and I’ve continued to love them as an adult.
I liked the premise of Beauty and the Beast before I even saw it. A book-loving heroine who forgoes the handsome male? Who rescues her father without relying on the handsome prince to do it for her? Who falls in love with someone because she sees his inner kindness? This couldn’t possibly be a major Hollywood release, could it?
The staff of the castle were placed under the same enchanted spell as the Beast, and will only be released when someone falls in love with him. Naturally, they try to initiate a romantic interest between he and Belle. Lumière, the French candlestick, shows Belle the feast they’ve laid out in her honour. As the staff sings “Be Our Guest”, there’s a panoply of food to be inspired by:
“Soup du jour, hot hors d’oeuvres
Why, we only live to serve
Try the grey stuff – it’s delicious –
Don’t believe me? Ask the dishes.”
“Beef ragout, cheese soufflé
Pie and pudding en flambé
We’ll prepare and serve with flair
A culinary cabaret!”
How to choose one recipe from all that? As tempted as I was to recreate “the grey stuff”, I went with the hot hors d’oeuvres. And nothing fit the bill like Ina Garten’s Gougères (Cheese Puffs). Even Lumière would have been impressed by these hot pastries – airy and cheesy, and a perfect start to an elegant meal. Try one of these and as, the song says, they’ll
“make you shout ‘Encore!’
And send us out for more
So, be our guest, be our guest, be our guest!”
(from Barefoot in Paris, by Ina Garten)
1 cup milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 tsp kosher salt
Pinch freshly ground back pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup grated Gruyère cheese, lightly packed, plus extra for sprinkling
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp water, for egg wash
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a saucepan, heat the milk, butter, salt, pepper and nutmeg over medium heat, until scalded. Add the flour all at once and beat it vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together. Cook, stirring constantly, over low heat for two minutes. The flour will begin to coat the bottom of the pan. Dump the hot mixture into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. (Note: I used my beaters for this step, and they worked fine.) Immediately add the eggs, Gruyère and Parmesan, and pulse until the eggs are incorporated and dough is smooth and thick.
Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a large plain round tip. Pipe in mounds 1 1/4 inches wide and 3/4 inch high onto the baking sheets. With a wet finger, lightly press down the swirl at the top of each puff. Brush the top of each puff lightly with egg wash and sprinkle with a pinch of Gruyère. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown outside but still soft inside.
These should be eaten warm. If you like, you can make them in advance, freeze them, and heat and serve.