Monday, November 16, 2009



The poor, misunderstood, and maligned beet. Being a beet lover, I’m always surprised at the number of beet-a-phobes that live among us. I can never understand how anyone can resist its velvety, sweet earthiness. But far too many can and do and I was surrounded by a roomful of them last Thursday night.

My catering company took part in a tasting event on that evening at a new hotel in Chicago, The Elysian. We were asked to prepare to two tasting portions of seasonal Green City Market inspired fare. Our first, Braised Mint Creek Lamb on Pumpkin Polenta Cakes was terrifically popular despite its russet tones (offset by some Heritage Prairie Market microgreens). The other, while brilliant in appearance, was the wallflower of our station: Beet Choux Puffs Filled with Goat Cheese Mousse. The moment the word “beet” crossed our lips, people would reach for the lamb. Such a shame. The intrepid and hidden beet lover among us were rewarded by their good taste.

Beet Choux Puffs Filled with Goat Cheese Mousse and Micro Greens
Makes 40 puffs

This would make a terrific appetizer for entertaining, say for a certain Thursday in November. The little locavore, despite his aversion to beets, loved it. He at least was willing to try it.

¾ cup beet juice
¼ cup water
1 stick unsalted butter cut into ½-inch pieces
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4-5 large eggs
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Coarse sea salt
½ cup heavy cream
8 ounces fresh goat cheese at room temperature
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375° F. Bring beet juice and water, butter and salt to a boil in the saucepan. Add flour all at once and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Put the dough into the bowl of a stand mixer or into a large bowl and let cool 2 minutes. Add 4 eggs one at a time, mixing on medium speed after the addition of each. If the egg still seems dry, break the last egg in a small bowl, stir with a fork to break and add a little bit at a time until the dough is shiny and no longer stiff. Stir in cayenne and nutmeg. Add the dough to the pastry bag fitted with a plain ½ -inch tip. Pipe ½-inch mounds on silpat or parchment-lined baking sheets, 1-inch apart. With a moistened finger, smooth the tops of each puff. Sprinkle each puff with a little coarse sea salt. Bake 2 sheets at a time on the top and bottom racks of the oven for 15 minutes. Reverse position of the sheets and bake for 15 minutes more. Serve warm.

Whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Fold it into the goat cheese to lighten it. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill the mousse until ready to use.
Halve each puff. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a fancy tip with goat cheese mousse. Pipe a healthy bit of mousse into the bottom of each puff. Sprinkle the top with micro greens and recover with the top. Repeat with remaining puffs. Serve soon thereafter.

DO-AHEAD NOTES: The puffs can be baked up to a month ahead. After the puffs have cooled completely, freeze in an air-tight container. Reheat the frozen puffs in a 350º F oven for 5 minutes. The mousse can be made two days ahead.

Beets from Genesis Growers (IL)
Eggs from River Valley Ranch (WI)
Butter from Organic Valley (WI)
Goat cheese from Prairie Fruits Farm (IL)
Micro Greens from Heritage Prairie Market (IL)

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