The trick to picking the right appetizer is choosing something that’s flavorful and substantial enough to be a partner to a glass of wine, but not too filling. You do your guests (and yourself) a disservice by filling them up with rich stuff before they sit down to the real meal. I have an excellent solution: cheese pastry puffs called gougères. I learned this recipe fifteen years ago in cooking school, and it’s become one of my signature dishes. Gougères are easy, delicious, and just a little bit different.
The only trick to baking gougères is to be sure to bake them enough. If they come out too soon, they’ll collapse as they cool because their structure won’t have fully set. They should be nicely browned all over, and the inside should be moist with a few “webs” of dough, but they shouldn’t be too eggy.