Krista Matthes is owner of SOMM Wines, located just off the square in Fairfield, Iowa. (Submitted)
Krista Matthes is owner of SOMM Wines, located just off the square in Fairfield, Iowa. Find the recipes she mentions at the bottom of this article.
This month, friends and family gathered to celebrate my daughter’s birthday. We opened presents, ate cake and drank delicious wine. The afternoon was a perfect combination of childhood innocence and adult shenanigans. However, the memory of her party (or lack thereof) in March 2020 lingered in the back of my mind. The country was shutting down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. No one felt comfortable leaving home, much less attending a birthday party Petri dish of preschoolers. Texts and phone calls that day confirmed the only attendee would be Captain Obvious: her guests were not coming.
As I recalled our disappointment that day, it dawned on me. The pandemic didn’t just ruin her birthday party, it also ruined SPONTANEITY. No longer would we simply stop by a neighbor’s house for dinner or a glass of wine. An unexpected knock on the door stirred panic, not excitement. For two long years we’ve watched the air slowly leak out of our collective party balloons. I think it’s time we blow them back up and regain a piece of block party attitude with finger foods and fizzy beverages. The word “popover” in this recipe practically screams dinner invitation. So, which wine pairs best with casual conversation? CHAMPAGNE.
Remarkably, one party the pandemic could not sour was Champagne sales. More bottles were sold worldwide in 2021 than ever before! A record 180 million bottles were exported from France, up 38 percent from the previous year. Sheltering in place appeared to laser focus oenophiles’ appreciation for the artistry and decadence of wine. The outbreak may have shuttered our fine dining establishments, but it would not rob us of our luxurious bubbles. This resurgence in Champagne was not solely found in metropolitan cities. Sales soared at my store, SOMM Wines in Fairfield, Iowa. My supporters showed me it was time to go big AND go home! Who doesn’t want to feel posh in their PJs while binging Netflix?
One of our most popular Champagnes, and a quintessential pairing for these recipes, is the Taittinger, “La Francaise,” Brut NV Champagne ($55.99). It blends the traditional three grapes – 40 percent Chardonnay, 35 percent Pinot Noir and 25 percent Pinot Meunier – sourced from 35 different vineyard sites, and contains pressed juice from up to 10 different vintages. This allows consistency in taste and texture throughout non-vintage bottlings. Both recipes contain pastry-like ingredients: milk, eggs, flour, and butter. Champagne’s high acidity, bright bubbles and citrus notes cut through the flaky textures while elevating the earthier tones of cheese, nuts and mushrooms.
The recommended use of the gougeres for tea sandwiches directly coincides with our need for something more refined. I call it wine’s own PPP — Post-Pandemic Posh. I can practically see your pinky fingers raised while throwing back a glass of champagne with the mushroom popover pie. So go ahead — pop a bottle of Champagne and imagine you’re James Bond, perhaps with a less luxurious car and no gadgets besides your remote.
Address: 102 E Briggs Ave., Fairfield, Iowa
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup finely minced onion
8 ounces fresh white button mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
4 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon thyme
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup unbleached flour
1 cup milk
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a 9- or 10-inch cast iron skillet over low heat. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes or until softened. Add the mushrooms, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, thyme and a generous amount of black pepper, and cook, stirring often, for about 15 minutes, or until the liquid the mushrooms give off evaporates and the mushrooms are becoming golden brown around the edges.
Meanwhile, combine the eggs, milk, flour and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, in a blender and whip them into a smooth batter. (If you don’t have a blender, whisk all of this together in a medium-sized bowl. It’s fine if the mixture has a few lumps.) Set this aside until the mushrooms are done cooking.
When the mushrooms are ready, transfer them to a bowl, then thoroughly wash and dry the pan, and return it to the stove. Add the other tablespoon of butter, then turn on the heat to low — just until the butter melts and begins to foam. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and swirl to coat the bottom with butter. (Be sure to get the corners.) Add the mushrooms, spreading them into a fairly even layer, and then pour in the batter.
Bake in the center of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until it becomes dry on top, and feels solid when touched lightly with a fingertip. The edges will have shrunk from the sides of the pan and become quite brown. Remove from oven and serve hot or warm, cut into wedges.
Source: Mollie Katzen
1/2 cup (120 ml) whole milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs and one egg white, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated cheese, such as Gruyere or Cheddar
2/3 cup lightly toasted finely chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter and salt to boil over high heat. Add the flour all at once, lower the heat to medium-low and quickly start stirring energetically with a sturdy spatula or heavy whisk. The dough will come together and a light crust will form on the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring — with vigor — another 2 minutes or so to dry the dough.
Turn the dough into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or into a large bowl if you are mixing by hand.) Let the dough sit for 1 minute. Add the eggs and egg white one by one and beat until the dough is thick and shiny. Make sure each egg is completely incorporated before you add the next. The dough may look like it’s falling apart, but by the time the egg white goes in, the dough will come together again. Beat in the mustard, then cheese and nuts.
Using about 2 teaspoons of dough for each gougere, drop the dough from a spoon onto the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches of puff space between each mound of dough. You also can use a cookie scoop to shape the dough.
Put the baking sheets into the oven and immediately turn the oven temperature down to 375 degrees. Bake for 22 to 24 minutes until they’re puffed and golden.
Storing: The best way to store gougeres is to shape the dough, freeze the mounds on a baking sheet, and then when they’re solid, lift them off the sheet and pack them airtight in plastic bags. Bake them straight from the freezer — no need to defrost — although they may need a few extra minutes in the oven. Leftover puffs can be kept overnight and reheated in a 350 degrees oven, or they can be frozen and reheated before serving.
Source: Dorie Greenspan
Little Gougere Tea Sandwiches
Gougeres can be made into tiny sandwiches for tea time or as a party appetizer. Wait until they’re almost cool, then slice gently with a serrated knife.
Apple: Slice one apple into very thin pieces. Toss in 1 tablespoon of sugar. Saute in 2 tablespoons of butter for about 5 to 7 minutes until the apple begins to brown slightly. Turn off the heat, cover with a lid and let it finish cooking. Sprinkle with a few grains of salt. Spoon one teaspoon between slices of gougere. Garnish with basil or thyme.
Tuna or chicken salad: Make your favorite recipe. Tuck one or two teaspoons of salad between slices of gougere, garnishing with parsley or basil.