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Pimiento Cheese Gougeres (Goo-JAIRS) is our Southern version of the classic French appetizer cheese puff. Typically made with Gruyere cheese, these decadent, (and very easy to make) puffy mounds are the customary accompaniment to old World champagne. Everyone loves a warm, cheesy bite with a drink before dinner so as you sweep off the patio for spring entertaining, dressed up or down, these beauties will kick off a gathering in style. They’re a natural match with Tennessee party cocktails and local craft beers and a big step up from frozen meatballs and store-bought humus, without a lot of extra kitchen effort.
Gougeres are made with choux pastry, the same eggy batter used for cream puffs and eclairs. In short, you just boil water and butter, add flour and then beat in lots of eggs. This version is flavored with the longtime favorite Tennessee ingredient—a little jar of diced pimientos. Use your own diced roasted red pepper, if you like. Just add the cheese last.
When the batter ingredients are mixed together you’ll create a sticky paste, something that a pastry chef would neatly pipe onto a baking sheet in perfect rounds. Instead, simply scoop out small portions with two spoons and drop onto a baking sheet for a rustic, truly homemade look. Make your batter in advance and bake the gougeres just before guests arrive. Go ahead and squeeze the whole lot onto one large baking sheet. Or, bake two smaller batches for a follow-up hot round. They’re almost just as delicious at room temperature if making them ahead better suits your entertaining schedule.
Pimiento Cheese Gougeres
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
3/4 cup water
1 jar (4 ounces) diced pimientos, drained (about ½ cup)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Dash of hot pepper sauce
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
Heat the oven to 425° F. Combine the butter, water, pimientos, salt, pepper, Worcestershire and hot pepper sauce in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and stir in the flour vigorously with a wooden spoon until it looks like thick paste. Continue to stir and cook 2 minutes. Place the flour mixture in a medium mixing bowl and allow to cool about 5 minutes.
Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon or a large fork until well incorporated. You will have a thick shiny paste. Stir in the cheese. Using two teaspoons, one for scraping and one for spooning, drop the paste onto an ungreased baking sheet by rounded teaspoonful about an inch apart. Place the baking sheet in the oven and immediately turn the oven down to 375° F. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Serve immediately or at room temperature. You can also make them ahead and reheat in a 400° F oven for a few minutes. Makes about 25 to 30.