A few weeks ago, Eve Yancy, a friend of mine, asked if I would consider being a judge in the 5th Annual World Champion Cheese Dip competition. I didn’t even know the first through the fourth had ever happened. Silly me! Come to find out this is a pretty big deal, and after it was all said and done, I felt most honored to have been a part of this wonderful event. Not only did I participate in the judging, the Daily Record was a sponsor, so we kind of double-dutied the event.
Now that I know a little bit about it, let me tell you about it, if you don’t already know.
The WCCD Competition is held to benefit The Harmony Health Clinic. All the judges, event coordinators, etc. are volunteer positions. The Harmony Health Clinic is a free medical and dental clinic located in Little Rock, Ark. The Clinic provides routine health care to local residents whose income does not exceed 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, and are currently medically uninsured and between the ages of 13 and 64.
Their mission statement, which I obtained from their website at www.harmonyclinicar.org is: “The Harmony Health Clinic will seek to understand and serve the health and wellness needs of the medically uninsured and underserved who live in Central Arkansas by providing access to quality medical care at no cost to these patients in a private, community-based clinic staffed by volunteer professionals and marked by a unique atmosphere of caring, compassion, respect, dignity, and diversity.”
I feel like this is one of the best non-profit organizations in Little Rock. And speaking of non-profit organizations, it just so happens that Heifer International won the cheese dip competition, and the first place prize of $1,500 was donated back to The Harmony Health Clinic. Way to go, Heifer! What a great representation you are to our capital city – and to the world.
After I learned about this important event and the Harmony Health Clinic, I was especially proud to be a part of it.
My husband estimated that there were probably around 4,000 or 5,000 people that turned out to taste cheese dip, listen to the live bands, and just mosey around the River Market regardless of the cool, rainy day.
Not only did I meet several wonderful people while judging the WCCD competition, a few days before the event, I attended an open house Eve was holding, and there I met a wonderful cook and R.N., Brooke Talley. Brooke, a friend of Eve’s, catered the open house for Eve.
By profession, Brooke is an R.N. at Veteran’s Hospital in Little Rock. With one of our sons being in the Army National Guard, we bonded immediately. Not only did we have cooking in common that we discussed at length, we also talked about the VA and our military.
During our conversation about food, I explained to Brooke that when I lived in Memphis, where I worked at LeBonheur Children’s Hospital, I also did some catering for several drug representatives. They occasionally provided lunch for doctor’s clinics that I would cater.
Brooke made a beautiful and most impressive spread of heavy hors d’oeuvers consisting of: Artichoke Canape, Pepper Jelly and Goat Cheesecakes, Parmesan Bacon Gougeres, Sweet Potato Squares, Sausage Bites with lemon garlic aioli, Pork Tenderloin Sammies with horseradish aioli, Caramel Tarlets (some were drizzled with chocolate ganache and topped with sea salt; others were topped with Chantilly cream and autumn colored dusting sugar), and Mini Cranberry Streusel Cakes. I told you it was impressive!
Anyway, Brooke was very gracious to provide her recipe for Parmesan Bacon Gougeres for my recipe this week. They were delicious, and since the time for appetizers and parties is here, this one is fabulous to carry along with you!
Parmesan Bacon Gougeres
4 strips of thick-sliced bacon
1/2 cup whole milk
1 stick butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1-1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
1-1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Transfer bacon to a plate lined with paper towels; when cool, chop to make half of a cup.
Bring milk, half of a cup of water, and butter to a simmer in medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in salt, onion powder, sugar, and cayenne pepper. Add flour; stir with a wooden spoon until a smooth dough forms. Stir over low heat until it dries out and pulls away from the pan, about two minutes.
Scrape the dough into bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Allow to cool for one minute. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing on medium speed until incorporated. The dough changes from shiny to sticky as the eggs are worked in. Mix in one cup of Parmesan and the bacon until just combined.
Using a small ice cream scoop (about two inches in diameter), scoop the dough onto prepared baking sheets. Top the gougeres with the remaining one-fourth of a cup of Parmesan.
Bake 425F for 10 minutes and then decrease to 350F; bake until puffed and golden, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Kay Bona is a staff writer for the Hamilton County Herald and an award-winning columnist and photographer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.