This post is the culmination of a long story that spans the course of a week’s meals . . .
My meals this past week were all inspired by cheeses leftover from the cheese course of a meal I that served to friends last weekend. Each meal this week featured one or two of those leftover cheeses to maximum effect.
When I serve a cheese course, I like to have at least three cheeses–one blue, one goat, and one (or two) mild cow’s milk cheeses of some kind. A cheese course requires just as much thought and planning as any other part of the meal. You want a balance of flavors and textures that harmonize yet contrast with each other (and with the other foods being served at the meal). I serve my cheese course along with salad and bread.
Last weekend, I featured four cheeses.
First, below: a goat cheese known as “Humboldt Fog”, made by Cypress Grove. Very refined and earthy, with a layer of ash in the middle.
Second, below, Gorgonzola Dolce (as opposed to aged, crumbly gorgonzola)
Third, below, Montasio, a slightly tart semi-soft cows’ milk cheese (the cheese for making Frico).
I picked all of these cheeses with leftovers in mind, knowing that only a fraction would be eaten by my dinner guests, whereas, I’d enjoy creating dishes with the leftovers all week long.
PASTA WITH BROCCOLI AND TRUFFLE CHEESE
The first of the week’s meals featured that luscious truffle cheese. Ever since I took one bite of it, I knew I had to have it grated over pasta. In its grated form, the tiny flecks of black truffle became even more diffused and subtle.
I knew that some egg pasta and butter would do this cheese justice. To lighten the dish, I added some sweet, local broccoli, blanched and chopped.
The ingredients were simply tossed in a skillet with cooked pasta, some pasta cooking water and grated truffle cheese. More grated truffle cheese was sprinkled on at the table.
STEAK SALAD WITH HUMBOLDT FOG GOAT CHEESE
The following night’s meal consisted of a light salad with arugula, tomatoes, and beautifully grilled porterhouse steak, all topped with the Humboldt Fog goat cheese.
I’m not a huge steak eater, therefore, this is my preferred way to eat steak–grilled, thinly sliced and served around a pile of salad. The real star of this salad, however was the cheese.
SALMON WITH SAVOY CABBAGE AND BACON
SALAD OF RUSSIAN KALE, PEACHES AND HUMBOLDT FOG GOAT CHEESE
The following evening, we had some grilled wild salmon, with boiled potatoes and savoy cabbage.
The potatoes were local new potatoes, boiled with their skins on, then peeled with a paper towel, sliced into rounds and dressed in layers, with salt, pepper, fresh chopped dill and olive oil.
The cabbage was blanched, then sauteed with bacon.
The main course was followed by a beautiful salad, featuring chopped russian kale (crunchy, firm and mustardy) with beautifully ripe, sweet local peaches, dressed with red wine vinegar, agave and olive oil. This was topped with (once again) the Humboldt Fog goat cheese–a clean and luscious palette cleanser.
PASTA WITH SWEET GORGONZOLA AND WALNUTS
The following evening, our meal featured the sweet gorgonzola. This cheese is a wonderful foundation for a decadent pasta sauce, along with butter and walnuts. The butter diffuses the cheese, and the walnuts add a bit of crunch, texture, and of course, nuttiness.
The dish is as simple as pasta gets. While the pasta boils (I prefer linguini), in a skillet, melt some sweet butter, and add walnuts.
Saute the nuts just for a minute or two (no need to toast them). At the last moment, add the pasta, along with some cooking liquid, and a couple of ounces of the gorgonzola (to taste).
Toss and stir until the sauce is the consistency of reduced heavy cream.
You may want a touch of grated parmigiano on top, or you may decide the dish is rich enough on its own. It’s a dish that will stay in your sense memory, due to its unique and luxurious flavors.
Finally–Friday night–time for the star of this post–Frico. Frico is a cheese crisp, from the region of Friuli, featuring montasio cheese (although some people make it with parmigiano or other cheeses).
The frico can be an appetizer, or a meal on its own. It can be made using only cheese, or with added ingredients, like potatoes, etc., to add some texture and interest.
By the time Friday came, I had the perfect leftovers with which to make three varieties of frico: cooked potatoes with dill; savoy cabbage with bacon, and cooked pasta.
The frico begins with a mass of grated montasio.
The technique for the frico is very simple: place a handful of the cooked ingredient in a nonstick skillet with a teaspoon or so of olive oil. Saute the ingredient until fully cooked and slightly golden, then toss in some grated montasio (about a third of a cup) and toss briefly. Allow the mass to melt and slowly turn golden for about 5 minutes, while shaking the pan to make sure the cheese is not sticking. Flip and repeat on the second side.
My potatoes with dill from the salmon meal were fully cooked and nicely seasoned. I placed them in an 8″ skillet with no added oil, since they were dressed with plenty of oil. After browning them slightly, the cheese was added.
After 5 minutes, the frico was flipped and allowed to brown on the other side.
The cabbage and bacon received the same treatment, and the cabbage is especially good when it begins to caramelize.
The pappardelle with the truffle cheese were the foundation for the final frico.
This combination of fried pasta made an unexpected and extremely crisp and golden frico.
The only thing to serve with frico is a crisp, refreshing salad.
Just because I may not post for a week, doesn’t mean I’m not cooking!