Need an appetizer that isn’t the same old thing — and that you can make relatively easily?
Here is a quintessential French finger food that involves just three ingredients. Puff pastry is one of those ingredients, and if you know anything about making the classic pâte feuilletée you know that it takes a fair amount of time and effort.
Don’t let that stop you, if you want to make your own version of this “queen of all pastries.”
But, if you don’t have the time, you can pick up a box of puff pastry from Pepperidge Farm from the store, along with a chunk of gruyère, the delicious, semi-hard Swiss cheese, or compté cheese, the wonderful French cheese that is similar, and make this appetizer called “allumettes” or “matchsticks.”
I thank the Eilan restaurant Sustenio’s Philippe Placé for this find. I needed an idea — fast — and this is what he immediately thought of. The third ingredient is fleur de sel. Just a little bit sprinkled on top of the cheese that so beautifully melts on top of the flaky pastry — and you have what may be the perfect three-ingredient appetizer.
These baked strips of baked puff pastry, can be topped with anything you like — from a red-pepper and almond spread to green peppercorn duck mousse applied with a pastry bag and garnished with micro-greens. It’s a nice change from crostini!
1 box Pepperidge Farm puff pastry
1 block (8-10 ounces should do) compté or Gruyère cheese, shredded
Fleur de sel or sel gris for sprinkling
Take the pastry sheets out of the box ahead of time (follow package directions). When they are still very cold but have thawed, gently flatten them out. Put one sheet back in the refrigerator while you turn the oven on to 350 degrees. While the oven is heating, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Lay the puff pastry out on a flat surface. To make the allumettes shown here, I cut the pastry in half, then crosswise (use a large knife and rather than making sawing motions, cut straight down) to make the sticks that are just a bit larger than the size of a piece of chewing gum. Lay the sticks on the parchment, not too closely.
Sprinkle some shredded cheese over each piece of puff pastry, not more than a couple of pinches. Don’t worry if some of the cheese is half off the pastry — it will melt and crisp up a little bit and taste good. Before putting the pastries into the oven, be sure it is hot enough, then sprinkle just a little of the salt over the top of each one. It’s more of a delicate garnish than a seasoning.
Put the pan in the oven and leave in for 10 minutes or so, keep an eye on it. The pastry will puff up, the cheese will melt and you want a little color on it before you take it out. Let the allumettes cool a little while before you use a spatula to take them off the sheet and put them on a room-temperature tray or plate. You want some of the cheese that melted off on the side to remain attached.
These are best while still warm. But, if you make ahead and they are served at room temperature, they are still pretty wonderful!