A Drink and A Nibble- How to make Satan’s Whiskers and Cheese Popovers

Ever since I stopped working as a line cook and stopped working either early morning brunches or dinners, I’ve been able to enjoy a few things I used to take for granted. One of the things I’ve come to love again is staying up late on Friday or Saturday nights and enjoy a civilized cocktail with my husband. When we lived in the City, we usually went for a stroll around our neighborhood and had a drink at our local pub or wine bar. We could discuss the week’s events, even cerebral things like art and politics, all while we sipped a drink and nibbled on bar snacks. This time of year makes me long for those carefree ‘grown-up’ evenings again.

A Drink and a Nibble

Now let’s flash-forward to the present. We have had to make compromises with a lot of things in our lives now that we have a toddler, and Cocktail Night is no different. Instead of wandering about downtown, we stay in and make cocktails at home, along with a fake cocktail for our precocious boy and I usually make something savory for us to nibble on. The drink is usually something involving gin or bourbon and the snack might be as simple as salty peanuts, crunchy potato chips or maybe cheese melted on artisan bread. The conversation is sometimes grown-up,  but more often than not, it’s interrupted with toddler chatter. But we like it.

Several months ago, I came across a recipe on the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle Food Section that had a drink called Satan’s Whiskers. Cool name I thought. The recipe contained gin, sweet and dry vermouth, orange liqueur, orange juice and bitters. This recipe caught my eye because I thought it would make use of so many of the things in our drink ‘pantry’. Our drinks cabinet is a bit like our refrigerator: full of standard ‘pantry staples’ like vodka, gin, bourbon and loaded with extra flourishes like bitters and liqueurs. We like an interesting cocktail but unfortunately, we end up making the same standard favorites. This recipe was just the ticket to add a new cocktail to our repertoire. The drink is very good- orangey with a nice bite from the alcohol, not too sweet and very well-balanced.

The perfect accompaniment for the Satan’s Whiskers is something savory and crunchy. And cheese would be nice too. So I decided to make one of my favorite hors’doeuvre: the Cheese Puff or as it’s known in Culinary French, a Gougere. A gougere is a savory pastry made from cream puff dough. On this night, I decided to try this recipe for Cheese Popovers from Maria Helm Sinskey of Robert Sinskey Vineyards in the Silverado Trail area of Napa Valley. This recipe came along with our couple of bottles of Cabernet Franc that came as part of our wine club goodies. While the recipe is called a ‘popover’, the batter is the same as a gougere, but instead of being baked on a sheet pan, it’s baked inside a non-stick popover pan. The result looks like a tall muffin.

The trick to these puffs is a couple of things: add the flour all at once and the eggs one at a time. You can make the dough in one pot by hand or you can start it in the pot and finish it in your standing mixer if you prefer, but I like stirring the dough by hand. I figure if you are going to indulge in cheese, you should work for it!  If you want to gild the lily, you can top the gougeres with more shredded cheese!

(Recipe adapted from San Francisco Chronicle)

Satan’s Whiskers 

Makes 1 drink

1 1/2 ounces gin

1/2 ounce dry vermouth

1/2 ounce sweet vermouth

1/4 ounce Grand Marnier (or Cointreau or Citronge)

1/2 ounce fresh orange juice or tangerine juice

1 dash orange bitters or Angostura bitters

Place all the ingredients in a mixing glass. Add ice, shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.


RSV Aged Cheddar Cheese Popovers

(Recipe adapted from Maria Helm Sinskey)

This recipe is made in a non-stick popover pan but you can also use a parchment-lined sheet pan to bake the puffs.

Yield: 12-16 mini-popovers

1 1/2 cups water

12 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter

1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

6 large eggs

2 cups grated aged cheddar

1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon cold water to brush tops

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

2. Bring the water, butter and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove the pan from the heat and add the flour.

3. Return the pan to medium high heat and stir until batter pulls away from the side of the pan and looks like mashed potatoes. Take the pan off the heat and stir to let it cool.

4. When the dough is warm to the touch, add the eggs one by one. After the egg is added, stir the dough until it’s incorporated. (The dough will be a slippery mess at this point and it may feel like you can’t stir the egg in. Don’t be discouraged, just continue stirring and it will become a homogeneous batter.)

5. Spoon the batter into the non-stick popover pan. Fill the mold 3/4 full. (If you are using a sheet pan, spoon about 1 1/2 Tablespoons of batter on the pan, leaving about 1″ between each mound.) Extra batter can be held and baked in the second round. Brush the tops with the egg wash and if desired, top with more cheese.

6. Bake for 15 minutes and then reduce heat to 375 degrees F and bake 10-15 minutes more until puffed and golden. (For the puffs baked on a sheet pan, bake for a total of 20-25 minutes.) Serve warm.

the ingredients

stirring in the eggs

spooning batter into the molds

puffy crunchy goodness

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