Monday, March 28, 2011

Cashel Blue and Leek Soup

As you know from my previous post, I've been ill lately and spending time at my folks house being pampered with such luxuries as hot and cold running water, free laundry, awesome old cookbooks to pour over and more television than I've watched in the past three years.

Since I was as weak as a newborn kitten, Pa's been doing the cooking.  The other night he made a delightful soup with leeks and Cashel Blue cheese.  It's easy, fast and delicious and he's given me leave to share it with you all today.

Cashel Blue is a delicious, creamy blue cheese from County Tipperary in Ireland. This is one of my favorite blue cheeses.  There's a nice balance between the creamy, salty, peppery and sweet flavors.  Mild enough for the novice blue cheese eater, flavorful  enough for a die-hard blue advocate.  

You don't have to use Cashel Blue for this recipe.  I can think of a few other blues that would do the job quite nicely: 

  • Gorgonzola (try going for the slightly more aged Mountain, Dolce could be just too sweet)
  • Saint Agur-a triple creme blue from France that tastes like butter and blue cheese got it on and had a baby
  • Blue D'Auvergne-another French blue, a bit more bite than the other two.  Could be a bit strong for some blue cheese scaredy-cats.
Really you can use any blue cheese you want as long as it's a cheese that will melt well, and is mild enough to let the numminess of the leeks shine through.

According to Pa, this recipe serves 6 for a main course.  I think it's 6 for an appetizer/starter or 3 for a main course, but maybe I was just really hungry that night.

·  3 large leeks *
·  2 oz. butter (1/2 stick)
·  2 tablespoons olive oil
·  4 oz. Irish blue cheese, such as Cashel Blue (or any melting blue-veined cheese like Gorgonzola)
·  2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
·  1 tablespoon mustard, or to taste
·  6 1/4 cups chicken stock
·  Ground black pepper
·  1/2 cup blue cheese and chopped chives to garnish 

Thinly slice the leeks.  Heat the butter and oil together in a heavy-bottomed pan and gently cook the leeks, covered, for 10 - 15 minutes until soft but not brown.

Crumble the cheese into the pan, stirring over low heat until completely melted.  Add the flour and stir constantly for 2 minutes.  Add the pepper and mustard to taste.

Gradually add the stock, stirring constantly.  Bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer very gently for 15 minutes.  
Serve garnished with additional cheese crumbled on top, along with chopped chives. Serve with crusty bread and a cold Riesling.

*How to clean leeks so your guests aren't eating a soup full of grit (Pa's directions): 
Take off the very tough green leaves of the leeks.  Slice the leeks into 3-inch long sections and halved those long wise, then let the "semi-cylinders" soak in cold water. The idea is for the layers to loosen up any grit/sand/dirt hiding within to float out and sink to the bottom. You bet. Rinse the hell out of them.

I decided to add a little bit of crumbled bacon to my bowl. Quite nummy. Be aware, it's going to bring the saltiness of the soup up a bit. Go easy on the bacon if you go this route.

Bread and butter, bacon and chives.   All acceptable for crumbling into soup, or for sopping up the last little bit.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The frozen yogurt that almost cured my pneumonia

Every once in a while I have to tell you about something super awesome that isn't about cheese. And that brings us to today's post.

One of my favorite cheeses ever is Ascutney Mountain. I've talked about it before on this blog; the super melty goodness, the nutty, clover, grassy butteriness, how Ascutney Mountain is one of the best cheeses you'll ever put in your mouth etc.

Well last night  I was at the Coop with my Ma looking for some ice cream and lo and behold what do I see, frozen yogurt made by the fantastic Cobb Hill people.  Awesome!  There were three flavors available: vanilla, chocolate and maple.  Since it's sugaring season I had to go with the maple flavor.
A few things I should tell you

  1. I love maple syrup.  
  2. I love maple cotton candy and have made 4 hr round trips to sugar houses just to get it.
  3. I don't really care for frozen yogurt. Ice cream and gelato are much nummier.
Upon first glance the fro-yo* looks fine.  There's a strong maple-y smell, and a few ice crystals on top, but I blame the Coop and their weird freezers (I've been struggling with that for years now) not Cobb Hill.

So what's this frozen yogurt all about?  It is super awesome and rad? Did I want to eat the entire container until I got a full bloated dairy tummy and ice cream headache?  

Not quite.

The maple flavor was awesome.  After my first bite I exclaimed "It tastes like maple cotton candy, but cold and awesomer"!  It has a slight burnt sugar flavor, and almost finishes a bit like roasted coffee beans. Yum! Then I had a few more spoon fulls.  I developed three cavities, got a huge sugar rush, crashed and got diabetes. I actually had a vanilla ice cream chaser to get some of the super sweetness out of my mouth. **

No decision has been made yet, and I think I'm going to have to try the vanilla or chocolate flavor to decide if I'm ever going to be a frozen yogurt convert.  Until then, I'm going to stick with their cheeses, Ascutney Mountain and Four Corners Caerphilly.  

*I hate the word "fro-yo".  It's right up there with "jeggings" and "frenemies".  "Fro-yo" is just so...blech!

**I'm an adult, and know that ice cream is not an appropriate chaser for sweet frozen yogurt, but I've been sick lately, so that's what happened.

This post is for Ma who knows that the only thing that really helps you get over a hospitalization is ice cream. Antibiotics are a distant (and not nearly as tasty) second.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Montasio Vino Rosso

One of the things I love most about cheese is that there's always something new to discover. Today we're taking a look at Montasio Vino Rosso from Italy.

This cheese is made of cows' milk, aged for ten months or so and is covered in Cabernet and Merlot must. This is also one of the more interesting rinds I've encountered in my cheesy travels.

No, this isn't some alien skin under a microscope, it's the super cool rind of the cheese.

Very similar to Drunken Goat from Spain this cheese has a nice sweetness to it, and the aroma is...winey.

Reading that just bored the pants off of me. Let me try again.

Here goes. So you're out on a second date with this guy/girl, and the first date was pretty good, but you're still kind of nervous and trying to figure out what you're going to say because you've already talked about your respective jobs, pets and hobbies and so you decide to get a glass of wine and you end up spilling some of it on your shirt, but luckily its a dark color so it's not noticeable until the next day when you go to do laundry and you smell a faint, sweet hint of wine from the night before.

Although subtle, in this cheese the wine is noticeable in the paste as well. Since it is made from cow milk it has an additional sweetness and some dry hay notes. it's absolutely delicious! I would use this on a cheese plate, or shaved over a salad of greens (arugula would be fantastic).

Friday, March 11, 2011

Animal Animation is Fun!

Thanks to Culture Magazine for bringing the funny!

Monday, March 7, 2011


It's official! I left my job, packed up the apartment and moved back to Vermont. I've been in town for just a few days and I thought it was about time I checked in with everyone.

One of the things I loved best about working in the cheese shop was I had fantastic cheese at my fingertips every single day. The negative was that even though I got an employee discount, I ended up blowing a lot of my income on cheese.

A little while back (pre-Vermont move) I splurged on some nummies to share with some friends. Today we're talking about Grayson (wedge with deep russet coloring) and a brand new cheese Mini-Grayson (isosceles triangle in the front)

Both cheeses come to us from Meadow Creek Dairy in Virginia. In fact, I wrote a post about Grayson here if you want to check it out.

Grayson comes in a large 4# format, is made of raw cows' milk and bathed in a brine solution. The wheels have developed a strong, mammalian odor mixed with hay and barn stall. Mini Grayson on the other hand is a wee little thing coming in at about 1# per wheel. The other big factor in this cheese is that it is washed in beer from Highland Brewing Company.

So how does a beer wash and a smaller wheel change the flavor and texture profile of the cheese? Since both cheeses are made from raw milk they have to be aged for 60 days before they can be sold to the public. In the smaller wheel, this means that the cheese is ripening a bit faster, and when we get it in the stores it's not just creamier than the regular sized Grayson, but has developed more of its flavor by the time it reaches us.

While Mini Grayson definitely brings the funk to a party, it's milder than her big cousin. Now, part of that is because it's wintertime, and the cows have a different diet going on, so you're not getting those big grassy, sunshiny flavor components that can be found in summer and autumn wheels. What it does have is a nice yeastiness that comes through, and some flavors of hay, licorice, hops and a very faint browned butter aroma. Quite yummy and a must for spreading on toasted bread.

So which one is my favorite? I'm sticking with the original, preferably the wheels that we get in the late summer. Those wheels might not be as creamy in texture as those made with winter milk, but the depth of flavor and stinkiness is right up my alley.