Crab Dip with Garlicky Gougères

Our schedules have been a bit all over the place lately, but I think we're now starting to get into a summer routine. We have our dates locked in for when we'll be on the Cape and some time spent out in the Berkshires with my family. Our annual summer reading contest has begun and I've already read four books. I find myself gravitating towards culinary themed literature (crazy, I know), but I'm really trying to include some variety. I just started The Color Purple. This was a book that many read in high school, but I was never assigned it. Neither was To Kill A Mockingbird, which I finally got around to reading last year. I wonder what 15 year old me would've thought about these books. Would I have appreciated the struggles the characters go through? I really don't know. But I'm glad I'm reading them now. 

So going back to summer. Summer, for us, is all about outdoor eating. We'll grill multiple times a week and are always up for hosting friends for and impromptu BBQ. The one thing I do always struggle with at these things are coming up with appetizers. The main proteins, the salads, even a dessert... this is where I often focus my energy. But when we were invited to attend a birthday party for a friend of ours, I put together this creamy crab dip, served with homemade gougères (French cheese puffs).

This dip is loaded with Parrano cheese, both in the filling and baked on top with breadcrumbs. I had never used it before and when they sent me some to work with, I was blown away by its complex flavors. The cheese is aged for five months, made with vegetarian rennet, and is reminiscent of a gouda, but has nutty characteristics (like a Parmesan) and a creamy, buttery finish. While it's perfect for nibbling on its own, I really enjoyed cooking with it as it shreds and melts beautifully. 

To see where you can get your hands on some Parrano (so you can make this crab dip), check out their store locator

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Parrano®. All opinions expressed here are my own. 

Crab Dip With Garlicky Gougères

10-12 as an appetizer

For the Crab Dip
2 cups chopped yellow onion, 1/2" pieces
1 1/4 cup chopped red pepper, 1/4" pieces
3/4 cup chopped fennel bulb (white and light green parts only), 1/2" pieces
1 lb lump crab meat
8 oz cream cheese
2 cups grated Parrano Cheese
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Olive oil
Black pepper
1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

For the Crab Dip
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a quart baking dish with baking spray or butter.
2. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook for one minute. Add fennel and cook for another 3 minutes. Add red pepper, season with 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika and cook for another 5 minutes. 
3. In a large mixing bowl, add the crab meat, cream cheese, parsley, and 1 cup of grated/shredded Parrano cheese cheese and mash with a spoon until combined. 
4. Add the cooked onion, red pepper, and fennel to the crab meat and cream cheese and mix to combine.
5. Transfer the dip to the prepared baking dish and use a spatula to spread it until smooth and evenly distributed around. 
6. In a separate mixing bowl, add the panko bread crumbs and grated/shredded Parrano cheese. Add the butter and mash together to create the topping. Spread evenly over crab filling. 
7. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the top is brown and the dip is bubbling. Serve warm or at room temp with pita chips or garlicky gougères (see recipe below).

For the Garlicky Gougères
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces
5 oz grated Parrano cheese
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 large eggs

For the Garlicky Gourgeres
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
2. Add butter, water, salt and garlic powder to a pot and bring to a boil.
3. Remove from heat and then add the flour, stirring until incorporated.
4. Return to medium-high heat and cook, stirring continuously, until it has formed into a dough and begins to pull away from the sides as you stir it.
5. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. 
6. Once it has cooled for a few minutes, stir in eggs, one at a time, until it has incorporated into the dough. 
7. Stir in 3 oz of grated/shredded Parrano cheese and black pepper. 
8. Transfer the dough to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2" round tip (alternatively, use a plastic bag and cut a 1/2" opening in one of the corners) and pipe 1 heaping tablespoon (measuring 1 inch wide) onto the baking sheet with 2" between each.
9. Top with remaining grated cheese. 
10. Bake in the oven until puffed and browned, about 20-25 minutes.
11. Serve warm with crab dip (or another dip of your choice... or just on their own).