Tag Archives: Cheese

Roquefort and Chocolate, the science of Blue Cheese

This is not a new flavor combination in fact it has been around for a long time in France. Dark Chocolate and Blue Cheese was made famous by Chef Michel Bras in a dessert called Coulant. We are going to make Roquefort Bites which are Roquefort cheese rolled into balls and then rolled in chocolate pieces. But first some history.

The Legend

A long time ago, every story starts out this way and because this is a French cheese you know it has to include a little romance.  So we begin, at the base of the Combalou Mountain, a shepherd spotted a beautiful young woman. He ran after her, leaving behind his flock and his meal, which included ewe’s milk curds, in a cave with some bread. The young woman didn’t want to be caught and so she ran and hid from the shepherd having him chase her for days. He looked and looked for her but could not find her. He slowly made his way back to his flock. He found his meal which was now less than appealing with green veins running through the curd.  But the shepherd was starving from days of searching for the love of his life so he tasted the cheese…..and fell in love with the magic of the cheese and now you know the legend of Roquefort. He forgot the beautiful young woman and started making Cheese.  What I am a Cheese Monger you didn’t really expect him to get the girl did you?

Now for the science of the Roquefort

The unique look of blue cheese is a result of a specific type of mold added during the cheese making process and an additional step in the ageing process called “needling”. The molds added to blue cheese are derived from the genus Penicillium. The most widely used molds in blue-veined cheeses are Penicillium Roqueforti and Penicillium Glaucum. These fungi are found commonly in nature and were “discovered” by cheesemakers ageing their cheeses in damp, cool caves.

Penicillium Roqueforti is named after a French town called Roquefort with caves full of naturally occurring Penicillium mold spores. It is cheesemakers in the town of Roquefort who created, and still creates, the famous blue cheese called, of course, Roquefort. Original recipes for Roquefort cheese required that cheesemakers leave loaves of rye bread in the caves near the town. The loaves became hosts to the ambient mold in the air. After a month or so, the mold inside the loaves of bread was dried, ground and combined with cheese curd. (Remember, the bread simply acted as a host for the ambient mold spores in the cave; Penicillium Roqueforti is not the same type of mold that grows on any old loaf of bread one might leave out.) To further encourage the growth of mold that flavored the cheese, the wheels of cheese were aged inside the caves. Today, most cheesemakers use commercially manufactured Penicillium Roqueforti cultures that are freeze-dried.

After the mold cultures are introduced to blue cheese, the “needling” begins. Wheels of cheese are pierced (either by hand or by a device that can poke many tiny holes at once) to create tiny openings. Air enters the wheel of cheese, feeding the mold, and blue/green veins form.

The flavor of Blue cheese is often an acquired taste. Some people initially find the pungent, almost peppery, flavor of varieties such as Roquefort, Stilton, Gorgonzola, Danish Blue and similar cheeses to be overly strong. However, when one becomes used to the flavor, it is quite delicious. The flavor of Blue cheese is dominated by a class of compounds known as n-methyl ketones (alkan-2-ones). Spores of the blue mold, Penicillium roqueforti, germinate within mechanical openings (needling) in the cheese mass to form the blue veins characteristic of these varieties’. roqueforti produces two potent extracellular lipases which dominate lipolysis in these cheeses which have the highest levels of free fatty acids of all cheese families. However, liberation of fatty acids from triacylglycerols is only the start of the process of producing the Blue cheese flavor. P. roqueforti converts fatty acids to n-methyl ketones by a four-step pathway corresponding to the early stages of beta-oxidation. Heptan-2-one and nonan-2-one are the predominant n-methyl ketones in Blue cheese and contribute greatly to its pungent flavor.

So now that you are full of knowledge here are a few pictures to get you back to that nice romantic place you were in when I told you the legend first. We know that if you are brave and try this combination with a good red wine you will understand why the shepherd gave up on the beautiful woman.

blue cheese and chocolate 1

blue cheese and chocolate 3

blue cheese and chocolate

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Strata the Gourmet Cheese and French Bread Casserole!

strata 1

Strata – the “gourmet casserole” It’s got all the homey, comfort food qualities of its predecessors, and a name that brings to mind layer upon layer of savory, custardy bread, melted cheeses, salty meats and seasonal vegetables.

Ingredients
¾ cup shredded Maasdam cheese
¾ cup shredded Gruyere cheese
Cooking spray
1 loaf French bread (approximately 16 thin-sliced pieces)
4 ounces Serrano Ham
1 cup (about 4 ounces) roasted asparagus*, chopped into 1-inch pieces
6 eggs
1 ½ cups milk
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Preparation
Mix the Swiss and Gruyere cheeses together in a small bowl and set aside. Liberally spray an 8” round casserole dish with cooking spray, and place half of the bread slices in the bottom of the dish. Layer half of the Serrano slices over the bread, followed by a layer of half of the roasted asparagus, and half of the cheese mixture. Repeat layering process, ending with a layer of cheese.

In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture over strata. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight.

When ready to bake, remove the strata from the refrigerator, and let it rest for about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350°. Bake strata for 50 to 60 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, and strata is slightly puffed and golden.

Serves 8.

∗ To roast 1 pound of asparagus: Preheat oven to 400°. Wash asparagus and break off bottoms of spears. Place asparagus on baking sheet, and drizzle with about 1 teaspoon olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Roast for about 10 minutes, until slightly browned and tender. If you like, pour about 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice over asparagus and garnish with some grated lemon rind.

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Montboissie Morbier

MORBIER

Montboissie is a Morbier style cheese that is made in the highest part of the Jura Mountains in a small farm village in the Franche-Comte region.  The cheese dates back to the 19th century when producers of Comte cheese decided to make a smaller cheese for their own consumption. They take the leftover curd from the day and sprinkle it with ash to prevent it from drying out overnight. The next morning new curds are added and the wheel is pressed and washed with brine for form a protective rind.  Because of the washed rind the cheese has a pungent aroma that is surprisingly mild. It has a supple silkiness that is sweet, rich and has a nutty aftertaste with hints of fruit and fresh hay that pairs well with fruity white wines, nuts and grapes. This cheese is made with the milk of the Montbeliarde cow which is typical of this area and is a great melting cheese and is used in recipes like Quiche Lorraine, Potato Gratin

Try melting it over potatoes and bacon for a special treat on this cold mornings.

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Parmigiano Reggiano La Traversetolese “White Gold”

La Traversetolese logo

Known as the “king of cheese” there are more than one kind of Parmigiano Reggiano.  For example there is Parmigiano Regiano Solo Di Bruna made with milk from the Brown Apline Swiss cows, or Parmigiano Regiano Vacche Rosse made from the milk of the Regiano cow. Italy has 33 PDO cheeses and the La Traversetolese has a history dating back to the mid-13th century.  To be a PDO cheese the cows must eat at least 75% of their feed from the region, along with several other regulations, one is the sound the cheese makes when you strike it.

This version of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is produced from the cream of raw milk skimmed from the evening milking and whole milk from the morning milking. The color of the crust is straw color with branding that identifies the month and year made and the dairy.  The paste is hard with a color ranging from a light cream (pale straw) to a darker yellow (straw).  The structure of the cheese is hard with “crunchies” which are amino acids that are formed by proteolysis (the breaking down of proteins).  The crunchy bits facilitate in the digestion of the cheese making this an excellent cheese for young children and the elderly, it is rich in bioavailable calcium, absent of lactose and low in cholesterol.

La Traversetolese also known as “White Gold” takes its name from the village where the dairy was founded. The Cooperative has 73 farmers supplying milk for the 20,000 wheels made each year. The milk comes from cows that graze in the mountains, where they eat a particular mountain grass and flax.  Its rich taste pairs well with white wines.

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Parmigiano Reggiano Vacche Rosse

red cow

As part of the slow food movement it gives me great pleasure to share with you this wonderful cheese and its history.  It’s about this lovely cow that was almost lost to us and how it has been reinvigorated.

Up until the post WWII era, the Reggiana was the main breed of cow in the province of Reggio Emilia. This beautiful cow had the most striking red coat. But sadly it did not produce as much milk as its black and white cousins.  By the last 1980’s there were only a few of these cows left. However, during the last few years Fanticini family has brought this breed of cow back from the brink of disaster. In their family dairy in Villa Sabbione they use the milk of the Reggiana to make Parmigiano Reggiano of yesteryear.  It has a higher butterfat content and contains more proteins. This combination allow for a longer period of aging. Its unique nutty, fruity, grassy flavor is richer than most Reggianos and its texture is creamier.

The Vacche Rosse (Red Cow) is made from 100% grass fed, unpasteurized cow’s milk. Most Parmigiano Reggiano’s are made from 80% grass fed cow’s milk. The farm only makes 2000 wheels per year so most Italian reserve this cheese for special dishes or eat it chunked and drizzled with thick expensive Balsamico.

This cheese carries several marks very proudly on its shell. This cheese is certified that no GMO was used in the feed, no methods to force the production were used and the animals were given a high level of attention.  This is cheese at its best!


vache Rossa Parm

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Baked Brie with Caramelized Onions and Bacon

brie with carmel onions bacon

I love caramelized onions, and they marry well with Brie.   Baked Brie is a classic.  It is served with toast or bread. It is usually made with jellies, fruits and nuts or some combination.  I made this one with caramelized onions left over from an apple onion hot pepper chutney, which, to me, sounds so good with this cheese.  Then as everyone knows bacon makes everything better so we sprinkled it with bacon pieces.

To save time I baked the brie in the microwave and started the onions there also.

Ingredients Baked Brie:

1 mini brie

caramelized onions

two slices of bacon

Ingredients of the caramelized onions:

3 large onions, chopped

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon of corn oil

 Preparation of onions:

To speed up the cook time, place the chopped onions in a glass baking dish in the microwave on high for 4 minutes. Transfer to a saucepan with the oil and butter and cook for 10 minutes over low heat. Increase heat to medium and cook until onions become caramelized, about 15 minutes.

Preparation of baked Brie:

Line a plate with paper towels and arrange the bacon slices. Microwave for 1 ½ minutes.  Then let cool and break it into pieces.

Remove the top of the brie and place a spoonful of onions on cheese. Microwave for 1 minute and sprinkle with bacon. Enjoy!

 

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Asparagus and Cheese Dip

asparagus dip

For those moms who can’t get their kids to eat healthy food this is a great dip made with fresh Asparagus, parmesan cheese and almonds.  Serve over a colorful pasta or with vegetable sticks. Asparagus has a lot of nutritional values, the potassium in it can lower your blood pressure and It’s also rich in soluble fiber to help lower blood cholesterol levels.

Ingredients:

1 bunch of asparagus, cut into pieces and cooked

2 cloves of garlic

¼ cup almonds toasted

1 cup parmesan cheese

1 pinch of garlic roasted sea salt

½ cup sour cream

½ cup cream cheese

Directions:

Cook asparagus in boiling water until crisp-tender about 3 minutes. Remove asparagus from water and dry.

Once asparagus is cooled transfer to food processor, add garlic, almonds, cheeses, salt and pepper and sour cream. Blend until pesto consistency.

This is a tasty creamy preparation that does well as a dip for parties or used as a topping instead of pesto.  It can also be baked at 350 until bubbly and served hot.

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