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EATING well

Create light-as-air souffles for your Oscars party

Goat Cheese Phyllo Bites are fairly low in calories — no more than 15 calories per shell. Goat cheese is relatively lean, and it’s flavorful.

Associated Press

Goat Cheese Phyllo Bites are fairly low in calories — no more than 15 calories per shell. Goat cheese is relatively lean, and it’s flavorful.

What to serve at this year's Oscar party March 2? I had no clear idea about the right dish until I glanced at a list of the movies in contention.

Gravity was the one that jumped out at me. Watching the trailer, I was a little alarmed at the sight of poor Sandra Bullock floating around in space. But I also was inspired by her weightlessness. It made me think of souffles, which are famously light thanks to all the whipped egg whites in them. Thus, these "anti-gravity" — not "anti-Gravity" — treats.

Still, a problem remained: How to turn a full-blown souffle into a tasty nibble for a party?

The solution: Make each one small enough to fit into a mini phyllo shell, available in the freezer section of your local supermarket. Take them home, fill them and bake them and they're good to go. Even better, each of these little guys is fairly low in calories — no more than 15 calories per shell (fillings, alas, are extra).

And if you can't find the shells, they're easy to make at home. Just stack four sheets of phyllo dough on top of one other, lightly spritzing each sheet with olive oil cooking spray as you stack. Cut the stacked sheets into 3-inch squares, ease the stacks into the cups of a mini muffin pan, then bake at 375 degrees for eight to 10 minutes, or until they're barely golden at the edges. Let them cool before filling and baking.

What about that filling? I considered a chocolate souffle or an orange souffle or a broccoli souffle. But I opted for the lusciousness of a cheese souffle because, after all, we're talking about the Oscars here, which is not exactly a model of restraint. Still, I went with goat cheese, which is relatively lean even as it boasts tangy flavor and creamy texture. I also added some Parmigiano-Reggiano, because even a little delivers big impact.

With the cheeses chosen, making the "cream" sauce was easy: Just thicken some 1 percent milk with a little roux (the classic butter-flour mixture) and flavor it with the cheeses and some Dijon mustard.

And here are a couple of tips about working with those egg whites. First, it's much easier to separate the whites from the yolks when the eggs are cold. Second, separate them not by swapping the innards from one cracked egg shell to the other, but with your own (very clean) hands. That way you eliminate the possibility of puncturing the yolks with the sharp edges of the shell.

Once you've got your egg whites, it's best to beat them at room temperature. Beat the whites until they're barely stiff.

When the show, which will air on ABC, is over, don't be surprised if you walk away with an award for Best Appetizer at an Oscar Party.

GOAT CHEESE PHYLLO BITES

3 packages (each package contains 15 cups) phyllo pastry cups

1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter

1 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour

½ cup 1 percent milk

4-ounce log soft goat cheese, crumbled

1 ounce finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1 large egg, separated, plus 1 large egg white, at room temperature

1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Pinch of cream of tartar

45 fresh dill, tarragon or miniature fresh basil sprigs or snipped chives

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Arrange the phyllo cups on a rimmed baking sheet. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and whisk for 2 minutes. Add the milk in a stream, whisking, and bring to a boil, whisking. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the goat cheese, half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, the egg yolk, the mustard and salt and pepper, to taste, stirring until smooth. Set aside.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat both egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until they just hold stiff peaks. Stir a third of the whites into the sauce, then fold in the remaining whites, gently but thoroughly.

Spoon the mixture into the phyllo cups. Bake on the oven's middle shelf until they are puffed and golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a platter, sprinkle the tops with the remaining cheese and some herbs, then serve immediately.

Makes 45 bites.

Nutrition information per bite: 30 calories (15 calories from fat, 50 percent of total calories); 2g fat (0.5g saturated, 0g trans fats); 5mg cholesterol; 3g carbohydrates; 0g fiber; 0g sugar; 1g protein; 55mg sodium.

Create light-as-air souffles for your Oscars party 02/18/14 [Last modified: Thursday, February 20, 2014 3:41pm]

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