Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cheese School 101

Una fetta della Buona Vita

When I grow up I want to be a cheese monger. For real. I love cheese. I love anything associated with cheese. I could live on a well dressed cheese plates alone... cheese, wine, fruits, preserves, meats and little bits of bread or crackers. Oh and of course... a little chocolate. No meal is complete without something sweet.

That would be the life (mental note, must move to Europe). The good life.

I've had bad platters and I've had amazing platters... the bad ones are not worth mentioning mostly because I've blocked them out but there are simple steps that can be made to ensure that your cheese plate is up to par.

Rules of Cheese:

*When you invite friends over, buy one ounce per person per cheese; and stick to five to six cheeses total.

* Choose a fun variety of cheeses: different textures, countries, and all three milk types (goat, sheep, cow).

* Serve all the cheeses on one big board. You want your guests to start with the mildest and work up to the strongest (ie: Don't start with the Monks Head), so place the cheeses in "clock order"--12 o'clock being the mildest and 11 o'clock being the strongest.

* Take the cheese out of the fridge at least an hour before serving. Cheese should be eaten at room temperature, when it's at its full flavor and texture.

* Put out a few different knives. Goat and blue cheeses crumble if you use a regular knife, so cheese wires are the best thing to use--if you don't have one, you can use dental floss (not the flavored kind boys and girls)! Softer cheeses work best with a butter knife. Harder cheeses, like Parmesan, are good with a triangle-shaped knife. Cut circular cheeses in wedges, like a pizza.

* If you have leftovers, don't store the cheese in Saran Wrap, which will make the cheese sweat and leave a plastic-y taste. Cheese is living and needs to breathe, so wrap it in parchment or wax paper, and keep it in the most humid part of the fridge (usually the vegetable drawer).

Joanna from A Cup of Jo  recommends the following choices which are shown in the picture above (she was the inspiration for this post)
Six cheeses for the perfect basic cheese plate:
(pictured clockwise from top)

1. Cremont is a bloomy, rindy, mild cheese, which debuted last year in Vermont. (The name "cremont" is a mix of "cream" and "Vermont"!) The cheese has both cow and goat milk. Luscious, coats your tongue, fudge-y, cake-y.

2. La Tur is the little black dress of cheeses! Everyone loves it. It's a mix of goat, sheep and cow--which is is pretty unusual. Flavorwise, you get a hint of all three animals--tang from the goat, lingering buttery fat from the sheep, milky sweetness from the cow. The texture feels almost whipped, like savory ice cream! At a party, this insanely popular Italian cheese will disappear first.

3. Pyrenees Brebis. Every single person I've has ever met loves this sheep's milk cheese. It's a huge crowd-pleaser. A lot of flavor, but very harmonious. Nutty, salty, floral, semi-soft. From the southwest region of France, where there are huge herds of sheep.

4. Cabot Clothbound Cheddar. Cabot makes lots of cheddars, but this is their artisanal (read: fancy!) line. What's cool about this cheese is that it's a partnership between Cabot and the Cellars at Jasper Hill--Cabot makes the cheese, which is then aged in the Cellars at Jasper Hill. There's actually a staff of guys (football-player size!) who flip these cheeses everyday, so they'll age evenly. The cheese is wrapped in cloth, which is a more English style of making cheese. Super strong cheddar; you get little crystals. You'll taste peanuts, caramel, earthy flavors. Eat from the inside out; then take the cloth off and then eat the rind--it almost takes like dirt, but it works so well with the other flavors. (P.S. It would make the best grilled cheese you'd ever have in your life.)

5. Pleasant Ridge Reserve. Made with raw Jersey cow's milk in Wisconsin. Very fruity and smooth. The American Cheese Society just named it "Best in Show" for the third time (it's the only cheese to have been awarded Best in Show more than once!). You've gotta try it.

6. Cambozola Black Label is a very, very delicate blue cheese. Just a tinge of that mineral flavor; very buttery with a bit of a cashew flavor. A great beginning cheese for people who think they might not like blue cheeses. (Once you put it on bread and add a grape, it will mellow out, if you’re feeling timid!) Blue cheeses and chocolate also go together really well--a great balance of salty and sweet. It's also epic with pineapple of all things and something a little salty.

And then obviously, the pairing... you can get creative with this... nuts, home made crackers, good dark chocolate, french bread, preserves (sweet and savory), dried and fresh fruits,  curred meats (that is a whole other post!) and of course keep the wine flowing.


So, what is your favorite cheese? Do you prefer a soft, mild cheese or something with some bite?

Post and Pictures borrowed from: Cup of Jo


Calvin said...

I'm a cheese anarchist. No rules! Muahahahah!

mmm.... Cambozola... said...

I am a huge fan of cheese too, I don't think I dis-like any...
Thanks for the tips!
My favorite? I can't live without good feta cheese...

Rolley said...

mm yeah we love cheese, its easy to spent a small fortune on cheese alone at the shops, especially when there's pizza involved.

My fav pizza cheeses are:

1: a soft goats cheese rolled in ash, this is fantastic just blobbed around a pizza with roast pumpkin, pine nuts and some pesto.

2: a traditional style mozerella, made from buffalo milk rather than any other animal, the difference is simply amazing (so is the price!). There's only two buffalo dairies in Australia, I'd love to buy the milk alone but all the milk is used to make traditional italian cheeses.

3: an aged parmesan, old and crusty, hard as a rock, grated finely around the edges of a pizza. mmmm.

4: a cow's or sheep's milk crumbly fetta cheese; also great for pizza and a million other things.

5: one of my ULTIMATE FAVS is marscapone, the dessert cheese! I use it for scones and other items of yummy goodness.

amourissima said...

oh my goodness, I am SO HUNGRY now!!! Mmmm...