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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Feeling blue

     Feeling blue is not always a bad thing, especially when it comes to cheese. I love cheese in all its forms, but blues, I have to say, are my favorites. I mostly eat French cheese, but when it comes to “blues” I do like the whole spectrum. Italian Gorgonzola and very British Stilton have a special place in my heart. Recently, I came upon what may be considered the world’s most complex blue. Fellow foodie Sudi Pigott recommended a mysterious fromager in Oregon, with a particularly coveted cheese called Rogue River Blue, which is produced in the old-fashioned way and with lait cru. This unique delicacy of a cheese matures wrapped in Syrah leaves that have been previously soaked in pear brandy. The result is an intensely flavoured cheese, quite similar in intensity to Stilton; however the pear brandy provides the difference in flavours. This cheese also has an accentuated taste of hazelnut and oak. If well-paired, it will burst your palate into delectable heaven.

The leaf-wrapped, brandy soaked, Rogue River Blue
     What do I mean by well-paired?  We all know that proper cheese must be consumed with proper wine.  Generally, blue cheeses pair marvelously with sweet wines, especially Rieslings or Voigners.  Even maybe a Sauternes, for which I would recommend starting your meal with a supreme foie gras.  That being said, my best recommendation for the Rogue River Blue is the great Marcel Deiss and his Altenberg Grand Cru.


          I’d recommend a vintage for this wine no more than six years old.  So if you can get your hands on a 2008 or 2009 bottle, never mind the expense and splurge for your own good.  Alternatively, if your pocket allows for less splurging, you can also try a more mineral Riesling, but nonetheless great with cheese, like “Recas”, from scary Transylvania.  This wine has a soft flavor of peaches and is also floral, with just enough body to pair with blue and slightly strong cheeses, like a Comté or an Emmentaler.


     For an exemplary plate of blues, include also another version like a Bleu de Gex, a creamy, semi-soft cheese from the Jura mountains, also made with unpasteurized milk.  Both of these cheeses will benefit tremendously with a small topping of fruit compote or confit, made from Alsatian white wines and fruits.  Try those from L’Epicurien to impress your guests with the talk of the evening.


     Because it is also made with pears, this confit brings out the flavor of the Rogue Blue unlike anything else.

     And so I made my plate, the two blues, a slice of a very nice Comté reserve and yet another special confit for it, and delectable, melt-in-your-mouth Stilton and pecan crackers.


     They are quite addictive, and taste like heaven in your mouth.  You can double or triple the recipe and keep several logs in your freezer.  Then defrost in the fridge overnight when you’re ready to bake them.

Blue-cheese-pecan Icebox crackers:

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup pecan halves
  • ¾ all-purpose flour
  • 4 Tbsp. very cold, very good, unsalted butter (I use Echiré)
  • 3 oz. blue cheese, such as Stilton, crumbled
Preparation:

     Place the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes.  Let cool.  Transfer the pecans to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely ground.
     Add the flour to the ground pecans and pulse briefly to combine.  Then add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add the cheese and process until the dough comes together and is well combined.  Transfer the dough to a clean work surface and shape into a 2” wide log.  Wrap the log in wax paper and refrigerate for at least 24 hours or freeze for later use.
     When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325F.  Slice the well-chilled log into ¼” thick slices.  Transfer them to a baking sheet and bake immediately, rotating the sheet half way through cooking, until the crackers are golden brown and firm in the center, about 20 to 25 minutes (the crackers should not get brown around the edges).  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Homemade blue cheese cracker
topped with Rogue River Blue.
Pure heaven.