Father’s Day french/cheese style

 

Sometimes it is a sunday and sometimes it is father’s day and sometimes you have just recently returned from france and sometimes your father takes you to the wine superstore and cheese monger and then when all of these sometimes have occurred you have a beautiful blog post to write. So this day we visited Total Wine superstore (so huge, so expansive, so tempting, so prolific) and picked up two muscadets, a côte du rhône, a crément, a bordeaux, and a fresh washington rosé. With and after this selection we decided on a west coast fun chèvre and a thrilling leaf-wrapped blue. Hence there are things to be read.

First we have the Valdéon blue: cow and goat’s milk cheese. Spanish, striking, and not young. Hence.

valdeon blue

The first thing I noticed of this cheese was the leaf-wrapped rind. Upon further research I see that it is wrapped in sycamore leaves which I understand impart a flavor compound. Biting into the cheese provides an uncannily sweet, creamy, striking, and granular initial taste. Further eatings demonstrate smokiness, nutty aftertastes, and fungal airs. The smoothness and cream nature of the valdeon were surprising and I heartily enjoyed them. I had been used to a biting blue aftertaste but this pungent moldiness, although apparent, has no degrees of pain associated with them. Conclusion: spain you got some good cheeses mang!

Then 2nd course finds our “west coast fun chèvre” that is actually a Cypress Grove purple haze varietal. Look!

cgppFennel pollen, lavender, and sea salt are creatively imbued here to create a tension between pure, unadulterated, velvety chèvre and the powerhouses of lavender and fennel that result in a piney, exotic, tangy, HIGHLY spreadable taste feeling. Sumpin I rill enjoy are the vivacious lavender kernels that can be seen on the outside of the cheese. I rarely find whole lavender blossoms as most producers of lavender thangs prefer to use an oil or some sort of extract. The presence of lavender here adds a texture element that really makes me stop and think about what makes up this cheese. Also it reminds me of the Lavender Festival (July 19-21, http://www.lavenderfestival.com/) because it is so thrilling and uncommon that food producers are able to incorporate the entire lavender taste into their products. Kudos to you, cypress grove.

Another conclusion: America has ver good cheese and I thank capitalism (omg) that we can get good, artisan cheese nationwide. Until next time!

Ricotta fait à MA maison

Yeah that’s right – I made cheese! I’m embarassed/ecstatic to announce that this is my very first foray into the murky, rewarding world of cheesemaking. I’ve been waiting all of four years to make this ricotta, starting when I read an article in Food & Wine and said “Maria Helm Sinskey you are a brilliant chef and more than anything I want to try your sweeter-and-fluffier-than-store-bought ricotta rendition” and VOILA. I’ve enjoyed spreading ricotta on english muffins with honey and substituting ricotta for cream cheese or sour cream in soups or dips over the years. As a child, manicotti with spinach and ricotta was the double death whammy of taste aversions; imagine my prim surprise at the age of 15 that ricotta was not only palatable but enjoyable! Thus we arrive at the day of today: a sort of renaissance in my life as a cheese lover.

All that my recipe require was whole milk (yum), heavy whipping cream (more yum), salt and vinegar. Combine the milk and h.w.c and heat until just before boiling, where you see frothing and steaming and general good things occuring. Per the white expanse of a photo below. milkricotta

Next to do is add vinegar and stir for 30 seconds. Twas amazing to see the milk start to curdle almost immediately; at this point I could imagine the tenderest of curds that I would soon be pressing. Next comes the salt and stirring for 30 seconds. After these two steps, we respect the fermentation process and let our volatile new compound rest for 2 hours, covered with a nice cloth towel to let the curds sweat in peace. Then buhbam we spoon the curds with a slotted spoon into a colander draped with cheese cloth, wrap up our curds, and squinch the top with a rubber band. per the picture below.

ricotta blossom

SSSSLIKE wow how did 2 quarts of milk and a cup of h.w.c turn into a cute as a button blob of curd the size of my two fists? And the answer is of course cheesemaking magic. I let the ricotta bulb rest for another 30 minutes, interspersed with systematic squeezing and pressing to rid the booble of whey. After this 2.5 hours of relatively no work, we ended up with a creamy, light-as-heaven, stunningly pure looking, moist (not soggy) ricotta that I bet you can’t find in the stores.

ricawtta

Like so white! I pressed so good you can still see the cheese cloth crease lines on the outside. The curds range from like 1.5 millimeters to 4 millimeters in diameter and spread delicately throughout the mouth. I ate mine on toasted whole wheat bread (wanted to take a picture but it looked like a mess haha) and that was divine, and also on top of a broiled tomato and also with a salmon filet and that was a.o.k. Case in point, ricotta is NOT a side dish and it is the mildest, sweetest diva you’ll ever want to put in your mouth. Another fun thing about cheesemaking is that at the end, you have like way too much whey! “What can I do with this whey??”  you think – and then I tell you like anything you would do with regz milk. I set some aside for a pork marinade tomorrow, mixed some powdered drink mix into the whey for a refreshing afternoon sip, and made a red peppa soup with the whey as a base instead of just boring old water. Unfortch most other cheeses take muuuush longer to make than ricotta so there will be more of a patient waiting process for prets much anything else I concoct but never mind, let the cheese MAKING begin! Also Happy Cheese day to everyone yesterday but really why not make it Happy Cheese day everday amirite??

If you are interested in making your own ricotta, here is the recipe: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/creamy-ricotta
Many thanks to Maria Helm Sinskey and Food & Wine because duhhhh

Hometown America

This weekend passed in a blur of hugs, iced tea, various meat entrées, coffee iterations, long-lost friends, farmer’s markets, and good old portland charm. The sun came out, chalk-drawings were on the menu for saturday night, and late-night eggs-in-a-nest was definitely a thing. Best part of the weekend: I found a job at a local creamery! I shall be representing a small, fledgling chèvre-based creamery that has some wildly pure products. My favorite was just the baseline chèvre (fresh, tangy, spreadable, unassuming like ricotta but significant like pecorino-romano) dipped in salted caramel…. Talk about decadence like omg. Immediately the idea of an ice cream flavor of goat cheese and caramel came to my mind and to my greatest delight it already exists! Salt & Straw, a portland ice cream boutique (so silly/so good) does a version using the chèvre from the new creamery! Anyway portland is as happy, grassroots, and welcoming as ever and it shall be an amazing year.