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.

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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).

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!

Today is marked…

Today is marked clearly as tax day however I do like to look on the glass as half full of milk side.  So it is with glee that today’s calendar marks the start of milking season for Parmigiano-Reggiano.

The milking season runs from April 15 to about November 11 ensuring that the unpastuerized milk produced comes only from fresh pasture. The cheese started today is aged 14 months.  The cheese wheel is removed from its mold after a few days, washed with brine over the course of several weeks forming a rind.  The wheels are then placed on very tall wooden shelves and are brushed and turned throughout the aging process.  (See the video — imagine the aroma!)

This short and informative video was produced by Cravero Cheese Cellars (there’s some very artistic b&w photos of the terroir and process at that link) who have been doing so for 150 years.

Parmigiano Reggiano

Today is marked clearly as tax day I do like to look on the glass half full of milk side.  So it is with glee that today’s calendar marks the start of milking season for Parmigiano-Reggiano.

The milking season runs from April 15 to about November 11 ensuring that the unpastuerized milk produced comes only from fresh pasture. The cheese started today is aged 14 months.  The cheese wheel is removed from its mold after a few days, washed with brine over the course of several weeks forming a rind.  The wheels are then placed on very tall wooden shelves and are brushed and turned throughout the aging process.  (See the video — imagine the aroma!) 

This short and informative video was produced by Cravero Cheese Cellars (there’s some very artistic b&w photos of the terroir and process at that link) who have been doing so for 150 years.

asparagus, thyme & parmesan bread pudding

This dish could be served for a spring brunch with sausages as an accompaniment.  I prepared this for a book club dinner potluck and it went over well.  I ended up having to revise the method that Joanne Chang, of Flour Bakery in Bostonm suggests because I simply didn’t read nor understand the instructions properly.  All worked out well and the bonus was that it cut back on preparation time.

adapted from Best of the Best Cookbook recipes published by Food & Wine.

asparagus, thyme & parmesan bread pudding

2 large eggs

6 large egg yolks

1/4 cup AP flour

1 quart half & half

1 tspn chopped fresh thyme

1 cup feshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Kosher slt, freshly ground pepper

12 oz. baguette, torn into 1/2″ bits (about 6 cups)

1 pound asparagus

1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 400F.

Place asparagus in the 9″ x 13″ dish you’ll be baking the bread pudding in.  Pour olive oil over stems and toss together so that it is more or less distributed evenly. Sprinkle a bit of salt and peper over asparagus.  Roast for 10 minutes. Let cool in pan. When cool cut into 1 1/2″ pieces. Set aside. Do not remove oil from pan.

Reduce oven temperature to 250F.  Place torn bread pieces on a cookie sheet.  Place in oven for about 8-10 minutes.  You want the bread pieces to be almost like croutons but not that dry.  You shouldn’t be able to squish them–they should hold their form but feel a bit of density. Remove from oven. Let cool. Place bread in a large bowl.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, egg yolks, flour, half-and-half, thyme, 3/4 cup of Parmiginao-Reggiano, 1 1/2 teaspoons of slat and /2 teaspoon of pepper.  Pour mixed liquid over the bread bits.  Let sit a bit, then toss with a wooden spoon to ensure all the bread is wet.

Let sit for 1 hour.

The liquid should be more or less absorbed by the bread, if there’s a bit left that’s ok.  Place all of this into the baking pan.  Let sit for 20 minutes so the remaining bit of liquid is absorbed.  Distribute asparagus over the top of the bread pudding along with the remaining cheese.

Bake for 35 minutes, so that pudding rises and sets.