Since this is the first week that we picked up fresh goat cheese from the CSA, we knew we had to do something special with it. We had several weeks to think about it (we generally know about the coming of the cheese three to four weeks in advance), and, during that time, we checked out of the library The French Laundry Cookbook, by Thomas Keller. Naturally, once we saw this recipe, we knew what we’d be making with the first goat cheese of 2014.
These sound as if they’d be difficult, but we can tell you they are not. We’d made and shaped the Parmesan cheese crisps before we went to pick up our CSA share, planning to make the mousse when we got back. Well, things went a little awry — not in making the mousse — but in our trip to the CSA. We’d stopped at the public library to pick up a few items we had on reserve, but, on the way out, we noticed a flat tire (drat!), so we changed it, and headed off to get the tire repaired. After that, we stopped at the CSA to pick up our food, and then, finally, headed home, later, and hungrier than expected. Sure, we could have just eaten the already-prepared crisps as a snack, and then started dinner, but we went through with our plans. As it turns out, making the mousse is a five-minute job, and oh, so worth it.
If you don’t have chervil, use another mild herb such as parsley or even basil. You just want a bit of flavor in addition to the flavors from the cheeses. Since cheese is the main ingredient, use the best you can afford. Note that you aren’t using much cheese, so think about splurging. But, if possible, try the goat cheese before you buy, as some fresh goat cheeses are quite “goaty,” which, to our taste, is not good. If you don’t like the goat cheese you bought, you won’t like these crisps.
Procedure in detail:
For the crisps.
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat.
Make cheese circles. Use something about 2 1/2 inches in diameter as a form for making the cheese circles. It could be a can with the top and bottom cut off, or a plastic lid with a circle cut out, or a biscuit cutter, or something else. We used a narrow-mouth ring from a canning jar. Place your circular form on the baking mat and put 1 tablespoon of Parmesan cheese inside. Spread the cheese out to an even layer with your fingers, then repeat until you have eight cheese circles, each about an inch apart.
Bake. Slide the baking sheet into the oven and bake for 8 to 12 minutes, watching carefully near the end, until the cheese is bubbling and has turned golden brown.
Cool. When the crisps first come out of the oven they’ll be too soft to move, so let them stand for 1 minute, but not longer, to stiffen up a bit.
Shape. Transfer each cheese crisp to a mini-muffin pan and press down into a cup, forming a small bowl. If you don’t have a mini muffin pan, a clean egg carton will do. Let cool completely.
Drain. Once cool and crisp, place the cheese crisps on a plate covered with a paper towel to drain off excess oil.
For the mousse.
Crumble. Place the goat cheese into the bowl of a food processor and give it a few pulses to break it into small crumbles.
Add cream. Add 2 tablespoons of cream and process mixture until smooth and creamy. The cheese should still be stiff enough to hold its shape, but creamy enough that it would be easy to spread, or in this case, pipe. If needed, add a bit more cream.
Season. Add the chervil, salt, and pepper. Scrape down the bowl and pulse to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Pipe. Transfer the mousse to a piping bag fitted with a medium star tip. An easy way to fill a piping bag is to place it into a measuring cup, fold the opening over the top, and scoop in the cheese. A dough scraper can be used to push the mousse toward the tip of the bag. (We also use disposable piping bags to make cleanup super easy.) Pipe about 1 to 2 tablespoons of the mousse into each cup, trying for a nice-looking presentation.
Wow! So simple, yet so fancy, but, best of all, so tasty. The Parmesan crisps are full of strong aged cheese flavors with a lot of complexity, while the goat cheese is light, fluffy, and tangy, making for a delightful contrast. While we used chervil, we think these would be good with other herbs, too, so you could easily pair the flavors to the rest of you meal. Whether that pairing would be to compliment the other flavors (think a light sage flavored mousse with Thanksgiving dinner), or as a contrast (think rosemary flavored mousse to stand out against a mild dish such as a quiche), you can mix and match to your heart’s content. Five stars.