Parmesan Crisps with Goat Cheese Mousse

Parmesan Crisps - Apetizer If you are planning a cocktail party and are in need of a sure-fire appetizer hit, these delicious Parmesan Crips with Goat Cheese Mousse should do the trick. Everybody will love the crunchy parmesan wafers crackling in their mouths while trying to get to the cool, savory mousse of goat cheese, herbs, and tiny morsels of shallot. It’s a big mouthful mess, but rewarding to eat. Here’s what you need:

For the Parmesan Crisps

1 chunk of Parmesan (say, one pound)

Parmesan Cheese That’s it! It couldn’t be easier to make these crisps—they are almost embarrassingly easy to make, like boiling water. Yes, that easy. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grind the Parmesan chunk with your grinder or KitchenAid. On a non-stick silicone pad arrange neat circles of ground parmesan. I use a round cookie cutter to make the circles pretty precise. While you could just distribute the Parmesan into little uneven hills on your half-sheet pan, such imprecision is just not allowed in this German’s kitchen. So it’s cookie cutter uniformity for me. Bake the cheese until it is bubbly and the familiar yellow starts to turn a little darker. You don’t want to burn the cheese, but if you take them out too early they will not be quite crisp enough.

(On a second thought, this was a little more complicated then boiling water.)

Let them cool and protect them from kitchen scavengers…

Ground Parmesan Circles Happy Parmesan Crisps

Stack of Parmesan Crisp Goodness

 

For the Goat Cheese Mousse

Enough about the crisps, let’s move our focus to the goat cheese mousse. You need:

1 log of fresh goat cheese
8 oz of sour cream
1 finely chopped shallot
1/2 cup of neatly cut chives
1/2 cup of neatly copped parsley
Salt and pepper
Maybe a little lemon juice or white vinegar, to taste

Mixing these ingredients is easier when they are all at room temperature. I use a fork, and work the thing until I have a fairly smooth result. Tasting and adjusting the seasoning is critical here. Salt and pepper of course;  maybe a little more salt (sorry Dr. Lefkowitz). And the acidity needs to be right. Don’t add so much that your batter tastes like a salad dressing. So, maybe just a teaspoon of lemon. Keep mixing, tasting… The acid, by the way, helps break the richness of the fat in the mousse. (You see, acidity is your friend!)

Put the mousse into a freezer bag and into the refrigerator. We want to cool the mousse there for a few hours, in order to give it just the right amount of ‘piping viscosity’.

Herbs and Shallots The making of a perfect Goat-Cheese Mousse The Assembly

About 30 minutes before your guests arrive you should arrange your assembly line. Cut a corner of your freezer bag and pipe a little circle of mousse onto your crisp. Neatly, please. A few carefully placed chive pieces completes your masterpiece. Now onto the next 49 pieces…

I have made these crisps a million times. The opportunities for variation are endless. So, sometimes the mousse is more of a cream cheese-and-milk something, simply because that’s what was in the fridge. Sometimes I feel like adding tiny flecks of red bell pepper and some paprika for seasoning. My left brain (or is it the right?) appreciates the creative challenge.

Credit for this wonderful appetizer goes to Thomas Keller. He published a much more sophisticated approach in the French Laundry Cookbook.

Guten Appetit!

Perfect Parmesan Crisps with Gout-Cheese Mousse

 

Smooth Chicken Liver Pate and Sweet Pumpkin Pickles

Not everybody is a huge fan of liver dishes.  My love for them is also moderate, but these appetizers turned out to steel the show our last cocktail party.  Super easy to make they feature a wonderful silky texture and great balance of liver, Sherry and Thyme flavor.  The sweet pumpkin pickles are a recipe from my Grandma in Germany.  A classic sweet-and-sour pickle (I guess I have to blog about that one in the future).  I think any pickle you like would work.  A bit of acidity makes the pate really burst with flavor.

You need:

1 pint fresh chicken liver
1 stock of butter cubed
1/3 of a cup heavy cream
1/3 of a cup Sherry wine (Madeira or Port would also work, I like the nuttynes of the Sherry)
1 finely chopped shallots
leaves from a few sprigs of Thyme
salt and pepper

Melt half of the butter over medium heat in a sauté pan.  Sauté the the shallots with the thyme leaves until soft, avoiding browning of the shallots. Add the chicken liver and the sherry. Cook for approximately 4  to 5 minutes taking care that the center of the chicken liver stays pink.

The contents of the pan goes into the blender with the rest of the butter und cream.  Blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taster.  Fill into a bowl (I strained it through a fine sieve, just to be sure) and refrigerate at least 3 hours.  The pate will be smooth and delicious.  

Toast some sour dough bread that you brushed with olive oil. Crouton, pate, sour pickle and some chopped chives and ready is this wonderful and elegant apetizer.

Last week’s New York Times inspired me to try my own chicken liver recipe.

Winter Cocktail Party with Friends

Cocktail Party: Last night I hosted a group of friends for cocktails, of course we had to prepare some snacks.  We ended up having a very good time drinking (see the sad left over above..) and eating away the Chicken Liver Pate, Soup of fresh peas with mint, spiced pecan nuts, and Parmesan Crisp with a Goat Cheese Mousse. More detail on each of the appetizers in future posts.

Hope this gives you ideas for the big Sunday Party…