OMGruyère!

I was shopping in this gourmet grocery when I came across the most amazing thing: behold a cheesy caramel, more specifically, a caramel truly infused with the essence of Gruyère cheese.

Hitting that perfect note between salty and sweet, this caramel is a wonder. Sea salt caramels have been a thing for a couple of years, but this idea kicks the salty-sweet marriage up a notch. And it works, really well. Don’t believe me? Order some for yourself. If you aren’t sold, you are welcome to send them to me. I am.

A Carb & Cheese Lovers Dream

A few weeks ago, I read about this recipe and knew I had to try it, because I obviously love cheese, but I’m also a pretty serious carb fiend, too. I mean one of the reasons I knew I needed to move to New York was when I discovered most local pizza joints offer some version of what I call the Carb-Lovers’ Pie, which consists of pasta piled atop a pizza crust and topped with cheese. Yum!

But reading through all the steps in Grilled Cheese champion Heidi Gibson’s recipe slightly intimidated me because I don’t have that well-stocked a kitchen (with the exception of the dairy drawer in my fridge). It was also a recipe for 8 and I don’t think of grilled cheeses as being all that great of a leftover dish, especially reheated 7 times over! OK, admittedly, it says an uncooked sandwich can be kept in the freezer up to a month, but this was a trial, thus I started easy.

I simplified the recipe and made my usual version of mac ‘n’ cheese in the pan starting with a very basic roux (butter + flour + milk) and then stirred in a mélange of all the various cheeses I thought might work well in this dish, mostly shredded bits of the leftover cheddars from my last post, including some of that oakwood smoked variety which “baconned” the flavor up a tad.

Working in the city and living 50 miles out, I also don’t have the sort of leisurely schedule where I can make the mac and then refrigerate it for an hour to solidify it before moving on to the grilling, so in my case, I put it in the freezer for about 15 minutes! It worked well enough. I few twirly curls leaked out and sizzled in the skillet, but it mostly stayed together.

ctmy71-ready for the grillThis is the “before” shot, when I mushed the barely frozen mac ‘n’ cheese between two slices of whole wheat sourdough. And below is the “after” once it was grilled and plated with your typical set of pickles on the side. I figured I had to have something green on my plate to combat the insanely ridiculous indulgence I was about to sample.

ctmy72-carb-lovers grilled cheese

Was it as good as hoped? Well, I’m sure Heidi & Nate’s version with its fancier ingredients and extra time for prep is quite nice, but my pared down one was pretty damn delish. So, if you’re stuck one night with simultaneous cravings for a grilled cheese or mac ‘n’ cheese, why not merge them into one, and try this new-fangled twist which allows you to indulge in two comfort foods at the same time. Really, could there be anything better? Hmm, though maybe next time, I’ll make sure to have some sort of truffley cheese on hand…

 

Just add Comté: A recipe

It’s easy for me to get stuck in a how-I-eat-my-cheese-rut. Meaning, I usually slice or cut my cheese into small bites and just eat it with crackers, bread, a pear or by itself. It sometimes never crosses my mind to include the cheese in a recipe. So when I spotted a sandwich on the menu of a local bakery that included my beloved Comté, it was a revelation to consider that a sandwich could be graced by this cheese’s presence. I quickly read through the sandwich’s ingredients, realized I had most of them in my fridge, then grabbed a chunk of Comté on my way home. A few minutes of preparation later, I was digging into this delectable sammy. Can I also say what a joy a cheese slicer is? Norwegians always have one on hand to slice their brown cheese thin, but using it on harder, savory cheeses is a beautiful thing, especially for sandwiches. It’s officially on my list of must-have kitchen tools.

This sandwich would be very easy to make vegetarian friendly, or if you’re not a pesto fan, spicy mustard would also be very tasty (oooh, and then you could add pickles!). So the next time you have a visit from Comté, invite it to come on over to your sandwich and let me know what you think!

Out of my rut Comté sandwich:
Serves 1 (or 2 if you feel like sharing)
1 Small Baguette (or any thick bread of your choice)
1 Tablespoon Green Pesto
2 Leaves Romaine Lettuce
2 slices Prosciutto
Few slices Red Onion
Thinly sliced Comté (how many slices is up to you!)

Spread 1/2 tbsp pesto on each side of bread, layer with lettuce, prosciutto, red onions and Comté, put the sandwich together, enjoy!

Comte sammy

 

Époisses Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Époisses grilled cheese

As I mentioned in my previous post, a recipe lead me to wanting to try Époisses, so of course I had to try the recipe for myself! I adjusted the recipe to work with what I had in my pantry and fridge. I read that Époisses worked really well with raisin bread, and we always have some raisin and apricot Muesli bread on hand, so I used that for the bread in my grilled cheese. The original recipe calls for hot pepper jelly, which we didn’t have. I replaced it with the orange marmalade we had in the fridge and added some thai chili to it for an extra kick. Époisses melts like a dream, so this grilled cheese was an ooey-gooey delight, as you can imagine. I’ll definitely be making this again, and might even skip the marmalade; cheese, bread and butter on their own have always been just fine with me.

Époisses Grilled Cheese and Orange Marmalade Sandwiches
(adapted from Vivian Howard)

Serves: 2
Ingredients:

1/4 c pecan halves

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Four 1/2-inch-thick slices of raisin bread (or your bread of choice)

2 Tbsp. Orange Marmalade (I used Marks & Spencer’s Sicilian Orange Marmalade) + 1 tsp. finely chopped thai chili mixed in

1/2 chilled round of Époisses cheese, cut into 1/4-inch slices

Directions:

1. In a heated skillet, toss the pecans with the salt until they start to brown slightly and you can smell the nuttiness – about 2-3 minutes.

2. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Spread 1/4 Tbsp. of the marmalade on the other side of each slice. Put the Époisses on the marmalade side and top with the pecans. Cover each sandwich with another slice of bread, butter side facing out.

3. Heat a skillet over moderate heat. Add the sandwiches and grill for about 4 minutes, cooking them on each side until golden brown and you see the cheese melting. Transfer to a plate, slice diagonally (if that’s your thing), and enjoy!

Not Just Dessert

Since Valentine’s is just behind us and you might have some chocolate lying about, I thought I’d focus my first post upon this unique pairing: chocolate & cheese. In fact, just a few years ago, Trader Joe’s was selling a delicious english cheddar with ribbons of chocolate mixed in, but as much as I loved it, it ended up in their product graveyard, as so many of their specialty items that I adore do.

ctmy4-murray's heart

Thankfully, Murray’s, a local cheese shop in NYC, has put together some yummy new combos of my two favorite snacks. Their new munchies line includes bars of chocolate meant to be shared alongside particular cheeses.

ctmy1-salty caramel & smoked gouda

The first set I tried was a salty caramel square with the recommended gouda. My gouda was smoked, not aged, but it still paired quite well.

Lately, I have taken to buying large hunks of this smoked gouda, grating it all, and mixing it with mayo and pimientos for that special Southern spread: “mentacheese”*. The smokiness in the gouda lends a bacon-like quality to the sandwich. My thanks to Grapes & Beans in Clayton, Georgia for turning me on to this twist on an old favorite.

ctmy2-espresso with parmigiano

The next pairing was a coffee-infused chocolate with that “king” of cheeses: Parmigiano Reggiano! Though I have Italian roots, I was raised far from the boot or its D.O.P. formaggi, so my childhood experience with this cheese was via its snaggle-toothed sixth cousin, a mild powdery nastiness shaken out of a green can. And if you’ve ever wondered why that stuff tastes more like cardboard than cheese, it’s because it’s got wood pulp (cellulose) in it!

Anyway, years later, I was shocked to watch an Italian mamma slice large chunks off a real Parmigiano half wheel and hand them over to her rather picky four year old son, who would greedily devour them. By this point, I had happily made the conversion from parmesan to Parmigiano, but to treat the cheese as I do cheddar, slicing, or rather chipping off chunks and eating it whole?… well, folks, these days, I’m just like li’l Marco. Anytime I cut off some Parmigiano for the grater, oops, a few extra shards just have to been eaten whole.

ctmy3-parmigiano on rana pasta

As you can see, my cheese and chocolate appetizer was followed by a plate of pasta, liberally sprinkled with the good stuff. And now, perhaps it’s time for a bit more chocolate to round out the flavor of this royal cheese?

*Today’s Special:

While fancified versions of pimiento cheese do exist and you are certainly welcome to try them out, at its roots, this Southern spread is an easy pantry concoction.

1. Grate a hunk of sharp cheddar cheese (or smoked gouda, or any hard cheese with robust flavor).

2. Simultaneously, mix in enough mayonnaise to make it sticky (I like mine on the less-is-more mayo side but my Uncle John’s version is swimming in the white stuff) and at the same time, open a small jar of pimientos (I go for the diced over the sliced), drain the juices, and then mix them into your cheesy-mayonnaise (or mayonnaisey-cheese) mixture.

Once the spread is ready, put it on whatever bread, crackers, chips or whatever you have on hand that can serve as transport to your mouth. I am personally a big fan of toasting some bread and then smearing it with “mentacheese”. It’s also a great add-on to a burger, in place of that traditional wimpy slice of American (not)cheese.

Eat up, y’all!

Waffle and Brown Cheese Friday!

It wouldn’t be right to spend a week with brown cheese and not eat it on a waffle. It’s a favorite Norwegian snack to have alongside afternoon tea or coffee. I’d go so far as to say that Norwegians love waffles with brown cheese as much as they love hot dogs, but that’s a different story for a different blog.

This waffle recipe comes from my mother-in-law, and she added a little touch from her sister-in-law, so it’s got strong Norwegian bones. My husband makes it every Friday for work and I always get a few leftovers at the end of the day. I don’t want to know a week without a Waffle Friday.

Waffle and brunostMamma’s Waffles*

(Metric measurements in parentheses)

Ingredients:
2 eggs
7 tbl sugar (100 ml sugar)
4 tbl melted butter (75 ml melted butter)
2 1/4 c milk (500 ml milk)
7 tbl sour cream (100 ml sour cream or crème fraîche)
2 1/4 c flour (500 ml flour)
2 tbl club soda or sparkling water (30 ml club soda or sparkling water)

Instructions:
Beat the eggs and sugar until creamy then stir in melted butter, milk, and sour cream. Slowly mix in flour until batter begins to thicken. Gently mix in club soda or sparkling water.

Let the batter set for 15-30 minutes before cooking in a waffle maker.

*Just a little note for any readers who are used to firm, thick Belgian-style waffles…this recipe makes very soft waffles. They are more like a pancake with a waffle imprint. But that makes them so much easier to fold over (and therefore portable).

Håper det smaker! (Enjoy!)

What cheese do you use to hide a horse?

What cheese do you use to hide a horse? …. MASCARPONE! Welcome to the inaugural and slightly unorthodox cheese of the week. A thick, creamy, spreadable cheese that originated in the Lombardia region of northern Italy in the late 16th or early 17th century, the name ‘mascarpone’ may come from the Spanish mas que bueno (better than good), or from mascarpia, the name for ricotta in the local dialect, because both ricotta and mascarpone are made by very similar processes.

Mascarpone is made by curdling pasteurised cow’s milk cream with a small amount of citric or acetic acid then draining residual liquid through a finely woven cloth. It does not contain any rennet and is therefore completely vegetarian. This cheese is best known as the essential ingredient in Italy’s signature dessert – Tiramisu – which means, literally, ‘pull me down’ – a name that might be attributable to mascarpone’s deliciously high fat content of 60-75%. It can also be used in savoury dishes, adding creaminess while not detracting from flavour. Available in potentially every supermarket’s dairy section in the entire world, this incredibly un-cheesy cheese is apparently ridiculously easy to make at home … next time!

So how did I devour my cheese of the week? Here we come to the unorthodox part of this high-pressure first blog post … (drumroll please) … I made Machamisu! A Japanese variant of what the BBC so appallingly describes as Italy’s ‘coffee trifle’, using macha (green tea powder) instead of coffee, along with copious amounts of hidden horses. How do you like your mascarpone???

Machamisu

Ingredients (serves 4):
• 3 tablespoons of macha
• 3 egg yolks
• ¼ cup white sugar
• 250g mascarpone cheese
• A splash of grand marnier
• 6 ladyfinger sponge biscuits

Instructions:

  1. Dissolve 1 tablespoon of macha in a small glass of hot water. Allow to cool and add a splash of grand marnier. Don’t taste this concoction, it’s not very nice – but it WILL be. Leave aside.
  2. Whip egg yolks and sugar until a creamy yellow. Fold in mascarpone. Sift in remaining 2 tablespoons of macha, or until it looks roughly like this:
  3. Trim the ladyfinger biscuits to fit the size of the dish in which you would like to serve you machamisu – I chose individual duralex glasses. Dunk the lady fingers in the glass of macha and grand marnier for a few seconds, then place at the bottom of the dish (layer 1). Cover with the macha and mascarpone cream. Repeat layer 1 two more times, finishing with the mascarpone cream.
  4. Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to serve. Before serving sprinkle the top with sifted macha. Serve with slices of kaki (persimmon) and a fine Japanese whisky (I chose a 17 year old Hibiki).Enjoy!