Warm La Tur, Chocolate-Olive Oil Sauce w/ Black-Pepper-Torn Bread

La Grand Tur. | Cucina Italiana, November 2012, orignal photograph by Kelly Campbell

La Tur, the Italian cheese from the Piemonte region, it is one of those cheeses to try when you are out to learn about fermented milk.  A perfectly balanced blend of pasteurized sheep’s, cow’s and goat’s milk. During the cheese making process the curds are drained in to small molds with the finished rounds at about 3 inches in diameter and 11/2 inches tall.  The final product is then matured for only 10 days at the dairy. You don’t want to have these cheese go beyond 35 days.  To begin with it has a bold personality for a young cheese yet it is very approachable.  It has a bit of a funky smell on the nose but really if you love cheese this is but a hallmark of what’s ahead. One of the better profile notes comes from Murray’s Cheese:

Tasting this cheese “… is like ice cream served from a warm scoop: decadent and melting from the outside in.”

The center is light and airy, and gradually becomes creamier towards the edges. La Tur carries a  lemon note and with a tang much like a goat cheese, a mild nutty note as in a sheep’s cheese, and finishes rich and buttery as you commonly find in a cow’s cheese. Do also be warned that once the cheese is removed from it’s casing from the market notice that the cheese itself is wrapped in a thin paper wrapper. It is precious cargo to be sure.

Pictured above is a recipe to serve as dessert or for a Sunday afternoon post-long walk with the dogs and friends.  Serve it up with sparking waters with lime or if you are feeling decadent a sparkler such as prosseco.

Warm La Tur, Chocolate-Olive Oil Sauce w/ Black-Pepper-Torn Bread

Adapted from a Del Posto recipe appearing in La Cucina Italiana.

  • 1 wheel La Tur cheese
  • 1 ounce  (about 32 pieces) very good quality semisweet or dark chocolate chips (62% to 66%) chips
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons good-quality fruity extra-virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
  • 1 small baguette, torn roughly
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Special equipment: parchment paper

Instructions

Remove wrapping and label from cheese. Using parchment paper, wrap cheese like a present, folding paper to fully enclose cheese. Set packet seam-side down in a  cast iron skillet or small rimmed baking sheet, let stand at room temperature until softened, at least 2 hours or up to 4 hours.

When cheese is softened, fill a small teacup or with the chips and salt.  Place in microwave until nearly melted about 40 seconds. Remove and stir with fork.  Set aside.

Heat oven to broil with rack about 5 inches from heat. Place torn  bread into 9″ square pan lightly drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with cracked black pepper.  Broil until both parchment and bread are charred, 3 to 4 minutes. Be careful, don’t walk away or start doing anything else–eyes on the prize here!

Transfer baking pan to a wire rack; let stand 3 minutes, then transfer warm cheese packet to a large serving platter or wooden board. Arrange toasted bread around packet. Tear open top of packet, then drizzle chocolate sauce over warm cheese and onto platter. Serve immediately. Swoon.

Roquefort Cheese

 Culture Magazine originally shared this link to an archival video from Papillon documenting Roquefort production back in the 1920’s. As they say “Great for mustache aficionados, or anyone looking to catch a glimpse into cheesemaking’s past.” The first half is silent with French music around the 6 1/2 minute marker it’s a more contemporary and narrated show.  

Big, bold and blue in the world of cheese, blues are certainly not shy.  The three standard bearers, Stilton, Gorgonzola and Roquefort are each distinct. However, Roquefort is singularly pugent, assertive and sharp. Made from raw ewe’s  milk (a female sheep) from the south of France, Roquefort is made entirely from the milk of the Lacaune, Manech andBasco-Béarnaise breeds of sheep.  Based on overall production volumes it is the second most popular cheese of this country after Comté.

Legend and lore abound, suggesting that this cheese was pure chance.  A love-stuck shepard who while eating his lunch of bread and sheep’s milk cheese was distracted by a sun-kissed maiden and left his meal in the caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon. Forgetting about his meal he returned days later only to discover the cheese covered in mold.  In 1411 Charles VI of France gave sole rights to the ageing of Roquefort cheese to the village of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, and all Roquefort still must be aged in the caves there today. Today the mold is injected into the cheese to ensure even distribution, but it is still aged in the same caves.

The blue veining is the mold Penicillium roqueforti, and originally came from the walls of the limestone caves in the south of France where the cheese was ripened. I once read a profile on James Beard that on his first TV show, the 1946 ‘I Love to Eat’,  he applied ink to color the veining of Roquefort cheese so it would be more pronounced on television.

The Roquefort Association designates a genuine Roquefort cheese with the marking of a red sheep on the foil label.  Only those cheeses aged in the natural Combalou caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon may carry the name as this cheese has AOC protected status.   Typically there are around 40,000 round pains, (loaves) maturing in these caves for around 3 to 4 months. Leftover ewe’s milk from Roquefort production is used to make Valbreso French Feta, an equally tasty brined cheese. Roquefort is typically best between April and October after its ripening period.

There are seven Roquefort producers with the largest being Roquefort Société followed by Roquefort Papillon and Gabriel Coullet. The four other producers are Carles, Fromageries Occitanes, Vernières and Combes (Le Vieux Berger).

A Passion for Charcuterie

Short video on how to make Lonzino, (air-dried pork loin).

Charcuterie: (noun) cold cooked meats; 2. a shop selling cold meats

The word charcuterie is derived from the French language ‘chair cuit’, which translates as ‘cooked meat’. Simply, it is the preserving of meat, usually pork with salt. You know what I’m talking about— bacon, ham, sausage, terrines, galantines, pâtés, and cured meats such as prosciutto or salami.

As of late, charcuterie is experiencing a bit of a renaissance as many of us take on DIY kitchen projects large and small. Once you start to demystify the process of say making homemade sausage, American bacon or Italy’s bacon–pancetta you will be hooked. For those that prefer to spend more time eating than creating there is more than likely a small producer in your area. Start by your local farmers market. And next time you are asked to bring an appetizer to a dinner party choose an assortment of cured meats, a cheese or two, a bit of country paté, nuts and dried apricots. Your friends will be impressed with your originality and boldness.

Other helpful links for those that crave more:

Recipe: Lonzino from Hank Shaw

5@5 – The Bare-Bones Basics of Charcuterie

Charcuterie The Craft Of Salting, Smoking, And Curing by Michael Rhulman & Brian Polcyn

Cabot Clothbound Cheddar

Cabot Creamery is one of the largest cheese producers in Vermont. The Cellars at Jasper Hill is one of the smallest. Together they make an excellent partnership doing what each does very well.  Every three months, Cabot produces 60 wheels of cheddar and then sends them to Jasper Hill where they are carefully wrapped and matured in their caves.

Sweet and folksy is this video from Cellars at Jasper Hill.  Illustrating their partnership which began back in 2003, when Cabot Creamery asked Jasper Hill Farm to age a special batch of English-style clothbound cheddar.  Huh, you say, where’s the wax? Not here, true lovers of cheddar know that real cheddar ages in  carefully wrapped layers of cloth as it ages in a cave so that it releases moisture resulting in a more pronounced, deeper taste.

The way the partnership works  is that the 40 lb. wheels are about a few days old, they are delivered to the Cellars at Jasper Hill.  Here the wheels are bandaged and aged anywhere from 10-14 months until the classic Cabot Clothbound flavor profile is present– sweet, butterscotch, savory, and nutty.

Fun fact from this video:  It takes 40 lbs of fresh curd to make a 32 lb. wheel.  Talk about flavor!

Murray Cheese Cave

As you linger in front of the massive cheese cases at Murray’s attempting to make a decision or three on what will be your next cheese, just below is many types of cheese aging to perfection.  This video is tempting.  Affinage, the careful maturation of cheese, is both an art and a science.  However, one thing I know for sure, I don’t think I could be left alone here.

Queso Fresco

Queso fresco, or queso blanco as it’s called in Spain, sounds a lot more than what it is–fresh cheese. A Mexican cheese, it is light, crumbly, somewhat spongy  and acidic in flavor.  It’s a terrific everyday cheese–sprinkle it on beans, garden salads or use it in quesadillas.  Many taco trucks, stands and restaurants dust the crumbled bits over a snack or entree before serving. Commonly found just about everywhere throughout Mexico it is easily found just about everywhere in Northern and Southern California.  While traveling in Mexico I’ve seen the cheese curds being ground on a metate before they are pressed, by hand into round baskets.  Introduced to Mexico from Burgos, Spain,  it is typically made with a combination of cow and goat milk. A very mild French feta can often be used as a substitute if need be. It’s fairly easy to get your hands on if you are in a major metro area.
In fact, it was the Spaniards who introduced cows and goats, as sources of meat and milk, to the Mexicans, changing their diet forever. From my research:

This is strikingly evident in the realm of cheesemaking which, though introduced by conquerors from another continent, evolved into a regional occupation, producing distinctly Mexican cheeses. In many parts of Mexico, this trade has become a family tradition, its secrets and techniques passed on from one generation to the next.

In the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua, where cattle descended from animals brought from Europe provide a major means of sustenance, the production of cheese is an important and respected industry, and one which is still frequently carried out in the home. Ranchers arise early each day to milk the cows, initiate the curdling, and begin the process of making queso ranchero, the ubiquitous appellation for many different types of cheese, including the ricotta-like requeson,the smooth, moist panela, and the pale yellow queso chihuahua.


Sugar-Dusted Emapnadas With Queso Fresco

Yield: 12 servings

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

1 large egg yolk

1/2 cup cold water

4 ounces queso fresco cheese, grated (about 2 cups; see note)

2 quarts vegetable oil, for frying

Peach or strawberry jam, optional

1. Sift flour, salt and 2 tablespoons sugar into a large bowl. With a pastry blender, cut the shortening into the dry ingredients until it is fully incorporated. Add egg yolk and mix well. Knead in the water, 2 or 3 tablespoons at a time, until a smooth dough forms. (Alternatively, make the dough in a food processor using the pulse function.)

2. Pat the dough into a round, flatten into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

3. Divide the chilled dough into a dozen 1-inch balls. Using a manual tortilla press, a rolling pin or the heel of your hand, press each ball into a circle about 1/8 inch thick and about 6 inches in diameter.

4. Mound about 2 tablespoons cheese in the center of each round; fold the dough to form a half-moon. Use a dinner fork to crimp together the outer edges. Make sure the edges are well sealed so they don’t leak while frying. You can roll and crimp the edges a few times to help ensure that they’re closed tightly. (Alternatively, use a plastic empanada press from a Latin market.)

5. Pour the oil into a large stockpot over medium-high. Heat until it reaches 350 degrees (use a candy or deep-fry thermometer to monitor the temperature). Line a baking sheet with paper towels.

6. Working in batches to avoid crowding the pan, fry the empanadas until they are golden brown and crispy, about 3 to 4 minutes, turning once. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the empanadas to the baking sheet to drain excess oil. Using the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar to dust the empanadas as they drain.

7. Serve, topping if desired with a dollop of jam.

Per serving: 260 calories; 19g fat; 3.5g saturated fat; 20mg cholesterol; 4g protein; 18g carbohydrate; 1g fiber; 170mg sodium.

Notes: If queso fresco isn’t available try substituting with ricotta salata. After assembly, uncooked empanadas can be wrapped tightly in plastic and foil and frozen for up to two months. Thaw in the refrigerator before frying.

Adapted from “The Latin Road Home,” by Jose Garces (to be published in October by Lake Isle Press)