French Hoofbeats – A Capricious Winter Cheese Plate

French Hoofbeats - A Capricious Winter Cheese Plate on http://www.theculinarylife.com

- A French cheese plate that channels cheerful little hoofbeats. -

The dark weeks after the holidays always seem harder than the weeks before, don’t you think? For me January comes in like a freezing wet blanket, with its biting chill and blank, bewildered skies. The frenetic pleasure run of December is gone now. Maybe what I’m feeling is an activity hangover, or perhaps it’s grief over the sudden loss of holiday cheer. The world has traded its vivacious reds and greens for a more muted palette: dark gray, light gray, and that indescribably depressing color of dirty snow.

I’m not one to linger in apathy, though. I subscribe to the “feed a cold” line of thinking, and I treat bouts of seasonal lethargy the same way. And can you think of a better way to dispel the winter doldrums than with an inspired cheese plate?

These four French goat cheeses make up a lively cheese plate, each in their own individual way. Some are tart, others are more subdued. At least one prances between both camps, leaving little hoof prints across both your palate and your heart. If you’re feeling down, I recommend digging up a handful of almonds, a few fresh apples, and a bowl of dried cranberries — then faceplant straight into the middle of this cheese plate, no holds barred.

Just what the doctor ordered. [Read more...]

Two Goats + Two Sheep = One Fabulous New Years Cheese Plate

Two Goats + Two Sheep = One Fabulous New Years Cheese Plate on http://www.theculinarylife.com

- An whimsical cheese plate for an epic new year. -

We’re about a week into 2014 and I’m determined to make this The Year of Artisan Cheese (with this delightful book as my text). Americans spend a lot of time worrying about how their meat was raised, where their eggs came from, whether to not their veggies have an organic stamp of approval. But what about the cheese we eat? Folks spend so much money and effort making sure they’re eating high quality food, and then I watch them snack on cheap, processed cheese, cobbling together a cheese plate of generic deli slices. I’m not judging, I swear. Rather, I find the situation baffling. If you care where your meat, eggs, and vegetables come from, how does the cheese you eat not warrant a questioning glance?

Just like meat and vegetables, cheese can be produced cheaply, like the stuff you find sliced at a huge box store — or it can be hand-crafted locally, seasonally, and of high quality milks. Along with responsibly produced milk, cheese makes up another corner of the Unprocessed Food Triangle.

To kick off 2014, here’s a quirky little cheese plate, not one that many cheesemongers would sit together, but they work surprisingly well. Two sheep, two goats, all fun, all flavor. Here you’ll find grassy Chèvre d’ Argental; salty, creamy Fromager d’Affinois de Brebis; Little Miss Manners Melodie, who is wise beyond her years; and rich, bubbly Lamb Chopper, who’s always down for a party. [Read more...]

Very Dairy Literary: Di Bruno Brothers House of Cheese

Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese on http://www.theculinarylife.com

- Di Bruno Brothers House of Cheese – an epic cheese tome. -

The past few years have seen a lot of new cheese books in bookstores, due to the fact that cheese is becoming a hot topic here in the United States. As Americans, we’re finally waking up to an idea that the rest of the world has been keen on for hundreds (maybe thousands) of years. Cheese is an art form, and it should not be taken for granted.

To celebrate this awakening, I’m very excited to introduce you to one book in particular: Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese: A Guide to Wedges, Recipes, and Pairings. Written with wit and candor by cheese writer Tenaya Darlington (of Madame Fromage fame) and the legion of cheese knowledge behind Philadelphia-based gourmet grocery shop Di Bruno Brothers, this relatively new release is a testament to dairy appreciation. Here you will find 170 of the world’s most beloved cheeses, divided into categories as charming as the cheeses themselves; think of anthropomorphized personality types, such as Mountain Men (alpine cheeses), Sugar Mamas (sweeter, desserty varieties), Wise Guys (cheeses that have been celebrated for ages), and Stinkers (not for the faint of olfactory sensibilities). Tenaya’s descriptions share all you wish you knew about each cheese, such as its origin, what milk it is made from, its overall personality, and a list of pairings that include wine, beer, and nibblings. With this book in hand, it’s like having a little cheesemonger in your pocket, whispering advice whenever you need it. [Read more...]

Turkey Mac-and-Cheeselets on KATU – Turkey Leftovers (Video)

Turkey Mac-and-Cheeselets on AM Northwest - Turkey Leftovers Video on http://www.theculinarylife.com

 

A few days ago I posted the recipe for our Turkey and Gouda Mac & Cheeselets, a great way to use up those turkey leftovers from Thanksgiving. In the few days since then, KATU in Portland aired a segment I filmed on how to make these cute little portable baked macaroni and cheese dumplings. It’s a long segment that essentially shows the entire turkey leftovers recipe from beginning to end. To print the recipe, go here.

Enjoy!

 

Gruyère and Emmentaler Macaroni and Cheese Casserole with Ham and Cubed Sourdough

Gruyère and Emmentaler Macaroni and Cheese Casserole with Ham and Cubed Sourdough on http://www.theculinarylife.com

 - This macaroni and cheese casserole is a culinary trinity of Gruyère, Emmentaler, and Black Forest Ham -

Thanksgiving is coming up. Even though it’s later than usual this year – to the degree that it’s magically synced up with Chanukah – it still creeped up on me, sneaking around in little mousy slippers. I love Thanksgiving, but this year I’m just too tired to cook. The book tour for Melt: the Art of Macaroni and Cheese was short but intense, and left me with a lingering cold that thinks it’s found a cozy place to hang out for the winter. (I heartily disagree and am doing all I can to evict said ick – out, damn bug!)  I am so, so glad to be home; I am so, so glad that the cold, reflective season is upon us; and I am so, so beat that the idea of cooking for the holidays makes me want to curl up into a tiny ball and wave the white flag.

But cook I will, because that’s what I do.

So my solution is to make a dish so easy I could prepare it in my sleep. And, perhaps, do all the work the day before so that my actual Thanksgiving holiday isn’t gummed up by a kitchen panic. You know I’ve got macaroni and cheese on the brain lately, so here’s a super simple macaroni and cheese casserole recipe for you. A game changer of a hearty mac that takes very little work but yields  awesome results. Huzzah!

This dish has a long name but a short timeline: Gruyère and Emmentaler Macaroni and Cheese Casserole with Ham and Cubed Sourdough. These cheeses are available pretty much everywhere, though you can use all Gruyére if you want, or all Emmentaler. You could swap out Gouda or cheddar for the Gruyère, and plain Swiss cheese or Monterey Jack for the Emmentaler. In other words, use whatever damn cheeses you like in this dish, as long as they’re melty and decadent.

Note: you can find Gruyère and Emmentaler cheeses at Trader’s Joe’s, Whole Foods, Costco, or most natural food stores and artisan cheese shops. I’ve even seen them at Fred Meyer, Safeway, Albertsons, Kroger, and Lucky’s, though it will entirely depend on the ordering habits of the store’s cheese buyer.

If you’re hoping to beat the Thanksgiving kitchen craziness, I recommend constructing this macaroni and cheese casserole the day before, including everything but the cubed sourdough topping (we don’t want those lusciously crunchy little cubes to get soggy, do we?), and then keeping it tightly wrapped in the refrigerator. Pull the casserole out of the fridge about an hour before you bake it to let the dish come to room temperature. Then, as soon as you pull the turkey out of the oven, add the bread cube topping to the casserole and slide it into the oven to bake while the turkey rests.

This dish is a game changer on so many levels: it’s simple but elegant, with a gorgeous array of textures that will tempt even the most sullen bah-Thanksgiving Scrooge. And since you can make it a day ahead with not a whole lot of work, consider this my early Christmas gift to you.

And for my awesome vegan readers? Here’s a vegan macaroni and cheese dish, just for you!

And Now for Something Competely Different: Steph and Garrett on Fox40 TV

As a side note, Garrett and I recently appeared on Fox40 News in Sacramento, where we made the avocado mac and sampled it with the news crew. We thought we’d share the segment so you can take a peek. Enjoy!

[Read more...]

Five West Coast Cheeses You’ll Love

Best West Coast Cheeses - Our West Coast cheese plate brings all the boys to the yard -

Unless you’re living under a rock where no cheese exists, you’re probably aware that the West Coast is home to many inspired varieties of artisan cheeses. We’ve got coastal breezes, temperate weather, and rich grasses that quite literally spread for days in all directions. Can you think of a better breeding ground for happy farm animals? And of course fat, content ruminants make for stellar milk. Which makes for one killer cheese plate.

Given the number of small-time cheesemakers in Washington, Oregon, and California, these Pacific states churn out an incredible variety of artisan cheeses. Which are the the most reliable favorites? That’s really hard to say, but we’ve all got our favorites–and I’m here to present you with five of my tried-and-true dairy BFFs.

I present you with a cheese plate of five West Coast cheeses you simply MUST try. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed! [Read more...]