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Archive for Cheese-Yogurt-Dairy

TIP OF THE DAY: Stenciled Cheese For Holidays (St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Christmas…)

Add a little luck of the Irish to cheese and other foods, by creating a shamrock garnish made of herbs.

You can apply the same technique to other themes: Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day hearts, stars for Christmas, Independence Day and New Year’s, pumpkins for Halloween, and so forth.

You also can use edible glitter, which provides no flavor but adds gorgeous color.

Spices allow you to play with the colors of the garnish, for example:

  • For Christmas, make separate stencils for green herbs and red spices.
  • Red spices for hearts: cayenne, chile flakes, kebab masala, paprika, red tandoori spice blend.
  • Yellow spices or gold glitter for stars: coriander seeds, cumin, curry, fenugreek, ras el hanout, turmeric.
  • Orange spices for Halloween and Thanksgiving: Cajun seasoning, tandoori masala.
  •  
    RECIPE: STENCILED CHEESE

    Select any cheese(s) that’s moist enough to hold the herbs: burrata, cream cheese log, goat cheese log, feta, fresh mozzarella, paneer, queso panela or ricotta salata.

    Print out the shamrock stencil (or other design) here. Print out a few copies for cutting practice.

    You can make a regular stencil or a reverse stencil, both shown in the photo.

    Ingredients

  • Assorted fresh herbs, finely chopped
  • Cheese(s) of choice
  • Paper stencil
  • Small piece plastic wrap
  • For serving: bread, crackers, fruit
  •  
    ________________
    *Blend two or three herbs: dill, chervil, chives, parsley or tarragon, etc.

     

    Shamrock Cheese

    Herb & Spice Colors

    [1] Shamrock style with a stencil (photo and recipe idea courtesy Vermont Creamery). [2] Spices and herbs provide colors for any occasion (photo courtesy Renegade Expressions).

     
    Preparation

    1. CUT out the shamrock stencil and press it firmly onto the cheese.

    2. PRESS the herbs into the stencil. You can place a piece of plastic wrap over the herbs for easier pressing.

    3. GENTLY PEEL off the plastic and stencil. Clean the lines with a pointed tweezers, as needed.

    4. SERVE with bread, crackers and fruit (apples, grapes, orange/mandarin segments, pears, etc).
     
     
    TIP FOR SLICED FRUIT

    Instead of coating apples or pears in lemon juice to keep them from browning, coat them in calcium-fortified 100% apple juice.

    Here are more ways to keep fruits from browning.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Irish Beer & Cheese Party

    basiron-green-pesto-close-ig-230sq

    Kerrygold Dubliner

    Kerrygold Dubliner With Irish Stout

    [1] Basiron Pesto Rosso has an Italian name, is made in Holland and is perfect for an Irish celebration (photo courtesy Atalanta Corp). [2] Kerrygold’s Dubliner is a unique cross between cheddar and parmesan cheeses. [3] It also is made in a limited edition with Irish stout.

     

    Yesterday we featured a recipe for “Irish Nachos,” made with potatoes. We recommended serving them with a tasting of Irish beers:

  • Beamish Irish Stout
  • Fuller’s
  • Guinness Draught, Extra Stout, and Foreign Extra Stout
  • Harp Lager
  • Murphy’s Irish Red
  • Murphy’s Irish Stout
  • O’Hara’s Celtic Stout
  • O’Hara’s Irish Wheat
  • Porterhouse Brewing Co. Oyster Stout
  • Smithwick’s Irish Ale
  •  
    If you don’t want to cook anything, taste the beers with a platter of Irish-themed cheeses.

    Today we feature four brands. Three are Irish—Cahill, Cashel and Kerrygold—but we couldn’t help but recommend our favorite green cheese, made in The Netherlands.

    All cheeses Your local cheesemonger may carry them; or look for them online.

    All cheeses are made with milk from grass-fed cows, who enjoy a natural life (no hormones).

    1. BASIRON PESTO VERDE

    This green beauty (photo #1), made green with the addition of basil-garlic pesto, is a a Gouda*-style cheese, made from pasteurized cow’s milk and vegetarian rennet.

    It is made in The Netherlands by the Veldhuyzen family, who make other fabulous-flavored Goudas (below).

  • Breakfast: Green cheese grits or a cheese omelet.
  • Lunch: Green grilled cheese, ham and cheese, etc.
  • Happy Hour: With a beer, an Irish whiskey and soda, or a glass of fruity red wine.
  • Dinner or Snack: On a cheese plate.
  • Dinner: Gouda fondue; shaved over pasta, potatoes, rice or vegetables; melted over anything; stuffed in a chicken breast.
  •  
    The line includes Alpine (with herbs from The Alps), Garden Herbs, Garlic, Kummel (caraway), Hot Chili (deep yellow for Halloween), Jalapeño, Mustard, Nettles, Olive Tomato, Pepper, Pesto rosso (a deep orange color for Halloween or Thanksgiving), Smoked Bacon, Sweet Red Pepper, Tricolor, Truffle, Walnut, Wasabi and Wood Garlic!

     
    Obviously, there’s quite a demand for Basiron flavord Goudas.

    We’ve had four of them, but on our bucket list: to try them all at one big tasting.
    ________________

    *How Do You Pronounce Gouda? Most Americans pronounce it “GOO-duh.” But the Dutch might not understand your request. The name of this cheese is pronounced variously as “GAOW-duh” or “HOW-duh” (with the H standing for the Dutch guttural “ch” sound, like clearing your throat).

     

    2. KERRYGOLD

    Kerrygold (photos #2 and #3 above) may be better known in the U.S. for its Irish butter, which has national distribution.

    But its cheeses deserve equal recognition!

  • Aged Cheddar is an outstanding, limited production, one-year-aged cheddar, noted for its rich, rounded flavor and firm, smooth body (more).
  • Dubliner is a unique cheese, a mixture between Cheddar and Parmigiano Reggiano (more).
  • Skellig is a popular cheddar variety in the U.K., a class of European cheddars that focuses on complex flavors, without the intense, sharp bite of traditional aged cheddars. The complex cheese is firm yet creamy, with a distinct nuttiness and sweet apple and butterscotch notes (more).
  •  
    Kerrygold also makes specialty versions of two of these cheeses

  • Kerrygold Dubliner With Irish Stout.
  • Kerrygold Aged Cheddar with Irish Whiskey.
  •  
    Serve one or all of them. Kerrygold also makes a Swiss cheese, if you want to see how Ireland interprets Switzerland.
     
     
    3. CAHILL’S FARM CHEDDAR

    Marion Cahill of Cahill’s Farm is recognized as a pioneer of today’s fine Irish cheese.

    The Cahill family has been farming and cheesemaking for four generations. Originally the milk was sold locally and the cheese was made for the family. Thankfully, that has changed.

    Using a base of tangy Irish cheddar, Marion experimented with flavors, and developed a head-turning range of flavored cheddars (photo #4).

     

    cahill-farm-cheddar-ig-230

    Cashel Blue Cheese Ireland

    [4] Cahill makes cheddar infused with three different spirits: porter, elderberry wine and whiskey (photo courtesy Cahill Farms). [5] Cashel Blue is an Irish blue cheese in a sweeter style, not salty (more).

     
    The curds are variously soaked in elderberry wine, porter and Irish whiskey. While elderberry and porter are visually stunning, all three deserve a place on the cheese board.

    Cahill’s makes other flavored cheeses which can be hard to find in the U.S. But keep an eye out for Ardagh Chalice Wine Cheese, Ballintubber Cheese with Chives, Ballyporeen Cheese with Mixed Irish Herbs and Kilbeggen Irish Whiskey Cheese.
     
     
    4. CASHEL BLUE

    When you think of Irish cheese you don’t think of blue cheese. But Louis and Jane Grubb of Beechmount Farm produces Cashel Blue, a noteworthy blue among all options.

    From the rolling hills of Tipperary, will delight people who don’t like robust blue cheeses. It’s extra creamy and not salty (photo #5).
     
     
    So eat, drink and be merry, as you treat friends and family to a special “Irish cocktail hour” or beer tasting.

    You don’t have to hold it on St. Patrick’s Day. No one would turn down the opportunity, whenever the invite arrives.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Casa Noble Tequila & A Tequila-Cheese-Chocolate Tasting

    Casa Noble Blanco Crystal Tequila

    Casa Noble Reposado

    Casa Noble Tequila Carlos Santana

    Casa Noble Alta Belleza

    [1] Casa Noble Crystal Tequila: the best blanco/silver tequila we’ve ever had. [2] Add a bit of age and you get a reposado tequila. [3] The special edition named for company director Carlos Santana: Casa Noble Santana Reserve 5 Years Anejo. [4] The top of the line, Casa Noble Alta Bellezza, is as great as tequila gets. But let us quickly say: They’re all great! (Photos courtesy Casa Noble)

     

    You’ve no doubt seen more ads or advertorials that promise “the finest tequila in the world.”

    We haven’t had a side-by-side comparison tasting of them, but we have tasted most of the , and most recently had have the most exquisite tequila tasting of our long life, with the founder and master distiller of Casa Noble Tequila, Jose “Pepe” Hermosillo.

    Don’t take only my word for it: Musician Carlos Santana preferred Casa Noble to the extent that he joined the board and had a tequila aged for five years (the bottle bears his signature).

    Casa Noble has two more features that will especially interest some consumers: It’s certified organic and certified kosher (by Star-K).
     
    WHAT MAKES THE FINEST TEQUILA?

    The best agave plants from the species Agave tequilana (commonly called blue agave), aged to maturity (10-14 years) before harvesting.

    As with everything, time is money. The most time-intensive production techniques, from roasting the agave piñas (they look like pineapples) to 100% natural fermentation and triple distillation (most tequilas are only distilled twice).

    Yet, the prices are reasonable for such great spirits.

    THE EXPRESSIONS OF TEQUILA

    If you know spirits, you know there are different expressions based on age. In the case of tequila, the expressions are aged according to law:

  • Blanco Tequila (“white”), also called plata (“silver”) or crystal. Clear and transparent, the tequila is bottled or stored immediately after distillation, or aged no more than two months.
  • Joven Tequila (“young”) or oro (“gold”): un-aged tequila blended with rested or aged tequilas. In some lesser brands, caramel coloring, sugar-based syrup, glycerin, and/or oak extract are often added in order to resemble aged tequila. Don’t buy based on color!
  • Reposado Tequila (“rested”): light yellow and translucent. The tequila is aged for at least six months but less than a year. Reposado began to emerge as a new category of tequila in the late 1980s
  • Añejo Tequila (“aged” or “vintage”): brighter yellow, aged at least one year, but less than three years.
  • Extra Añejo Tequila (“extra aged” or “ultra aged”): a golden color, aged at least three years in oak.
  • Older Expressions. These specialty expressions are not age-regulated per se; they can be as old as the distiller likes and designated by age (e.g. 7 Años) or by a proprietary name. For example, the limited edition Casa Noble Santana Reserve 5 Years Anejo (MSRP $549.99; we found it online for $499.99).
  •  
    Different distilleries can create even older expressions, in limited editions. These top-of-the-line offerings are typically housed in an exquisite bottle. While the bottle appeals to everyone, the taste is a connoisseur’s delight. They are priced accordingly (Casa Noble’s Alta Belleza—only 563 bottles available for the world—is $1,200).

    Here’s more about tequila.

    THE JOY OF CASA NOBLE TEQUILA

    First, let us say that we had the privilege of tasting Alta Belleza, the first release of Casa Noble’s Colección del Fundador. It is offeredin extremely limited quantities, priced at $1,200, and for those who don’t concern themselves with price, well worth it. For a spectacular tequila gift, look no further.

    The rest of us can find joy in Casa Noble’s Crystal (the best blanco/silver we’ve ever had) and the other expressions, all of which are affordable to reasonably affordable.

     
    These are the suggested retail prices (which, of course, can vary by retailer):

  • Casa Noble Crystal Tequila, $39.99
  • Casa Noble Joven Tequila, $49.99
  • Casa Noble Reposado Tequila, $59.99
  • Casa Noble Añejo Tequila, $69.99
  • Casa Noble Single Barrel Extra Añejo Tequila, $129.99
  •  
    After having the privilege to enjoy a tasting with Pepe a few months ago, the amazing Crystal (blanco, silver) has become our gift of choice for tequila lovers. Our gift note says: “Don’t make Margaritas with this: It’s meant to be savored straight!”

    Of course, if you want to make Margaritas with it, it’s your palate and your right! The Crystal will give an extra lime lift to the fresh lime juice in the cocktail.

     

    TEQUILA, CHEESE & CHOCOLATE TASTING

    We had our second memorable Casa Noble experience last week, at Murray’s Cheese. There, Adam Goddu, a general manager at Murray’s and a Certified Cheese Professional, joined Pepe Hermosillo to escort a group of food writers through a celestial pairing of great tequilas and memorable cheeses.

    Most of us are so oriented to having cheese with wine or beer, that we don’t think of serving a cheese tasting plate with tequila. But with a glorious tequila like Casa Noble, the pairing is as natural as a Burgundy or a Barolo.

    We asked Adam Goddu to advise all of us on how to put together a pairing of cheese and tequila.

    Then we thought: Add a chocolate pairing and make a terrific party of the four food groups (alcohol, cheese, bread, chocolate).

    In general, what do you look for in a cheese/drink pairing?

    Adam: We look for some magical math: 1 + 1 = 3. You want the items to complement each other but you also want the flavor combination to evolve into something more.

    We go by three basic pairing principles: “Like with Like,” “Opposites Attract” and “What Grows Together, Goes Together.” These work for pairings with crackers, jams and honeys as well as drinks.

    Certain regional pairings (Loire Valley goat’s milk cheeses with a crisp white from that region) are a natural pairing…they’ve been made in the same area for centuries. I personally prefer the opposites approach: if you have a rich, decadent sheep’s milk or triple crème, you want a white with a strong acidic back bone (and perhaps some bubbles!).

    Why do tequila and cheese work well together?

    Adam: I think wine and beer hog the limelight when it comes to traditional cheese pairings; but tequila can be just as versatile and special with the right combination or flavors.

    It can be difficult to pair cheese with high-alcohol beverages because that booziness can overpower many elements. When you have tequila with nuance and charm like Casa Noble’s Single Barrel Añejo, the sky is the limit. A funky washed rind or fudgy, spicy blue cheese pair wonderfully.

    Talk us through some of the more specific pairings of different tequilas.

    Adam: There are general rules you can use with certain styles, but you really need to remember that no two expressions* are exactly alike. Blanco and Joven [the two youngest expressions] are quite boozy [alcoholic] and pack a punch, so you need a cheese strong enough to stand its ground. [Editor’s note: We find Casa Noble tequilas to be so finely crafted, even the youngest are not alcoholic or “hot.”]

    Higher butterfat cheeses do very well overall (sheep’s or water buffalo’s milk cheeses).

    Anejo’s oaky/vanilla notes lean toward Alpine cheeses with caramel and roasted almond flavors dancing beautifully together.

    Blanco tends to have a clarity and subtly with sweet corn and grass coming to the forefront. You don’t want a big brassy cheese to overpower the tequila in this case so sticking with a milder, “sweeter” Brie style is perfect.
     
    What’s your favorite type of tequila to pair with cheese?

    Adam: I like a challenge, so finding the perfect cheese for Joven was a lot of fun.

    As far as straight up tastiness, the barrel-aged tequilas (reposado, añejo) allow a bit more freedom. You can play around with Gruyère, a clothbound Cheddar and a mild blue (Gorgonzola, Stilton) and find that each pairing brings out a different side of the tequila.

    For our tasting of Casa Noble’s Crystal, Joven, Reposado, Añejo and Single Barrel Añejo, Adam created the following pairings, served with honey, Marcona almonds, dried fruits, baguette slices and crackers.

    While the pairings were “textbook,” based on flavor profiles, we couldn’t find a mis-match. That’s what happens when all items are the best of their kind.

  • Crystal Tequila (not aged; no vegetal notes but flavors of lime zest and sweet corn) with Camembert (strong bloomy rind, full-flavored Brie style)
  • Joven Tequila (aged 6 weeks for sweet floral and tropical fruit notes) with Cornelia, a house specialty washed rind cheese with a creamy paste
  • Reposado Tequila (aged 364 days in French white oak, just one day short of a legal añejo) with Bianco Sardo, a rich, “wooly” raw sheep’s milk cheese. Tangy yet creamy, with earthy and sweet grass notes.
  • Añejo Tequila(two years in French white oak, beautifully balanced), with Annelies, an Alpine style raw cow’s milk cheese redolent of cooked caramel and nuts.
  • Extra Añejo Single Barrel (aged five years with Colton Bassett Stilton and Greensward (Jasper Hill Farm’s Harrison, washed in-house to create deeper flavors)
  •  
    CHOCOLATE & TEQUILA

    While chocolate was not part of the Murray’s event, we host chocolate pairings a few times a year (here’s what we do with wine, beer).

    Chocolate and tequila are a delicious marriage, whether the groom is young (an unaged blanco), old (a well-aged extra añejo), or any age in-between.

    Plain chocolates are the purest way to merge the flavors. We like:

  • White chocolate with blanco or joven tequila
  • Milk chocolate with joven or reposado tequila
  • Dark chocolate with reposado or añejo tequila
  •  
    What about flavored and filled chocolates?

  • Fruity flavors—fruity ganaches (our favorites: orange, raspberry), chocolate cherries, bars with dried fruit, can pair with all expressions of tequila. They pair even better according to our chocolate-and-expression guide immediately above.
  •  

    Anejo Tequila With Cheese

    Greensward Cheese

    Bianco Sardo Sheep Cheese

    Colston Basset Stilton

    Amedei White Chocolate

    Stack Of Dark Chocolate

    Mexican Chocolate Tiles

    [5] All of Casa Noble’s tequilas are delicious with cheese. Shown here: Greensward and Stilton (photo courtesy Casa Noble). [6] Greensward, We love chocolate with tequila. [6] Bianco Sardo, a Sardinian sheep’s milk cheese. [7] Cossett Bassett, a beloved Stilton (cheese photos courtesy Murray’s Cheese). [8] Casa Noble’s Crystal, with its lilt of lime, is a perfect pairing with white chocolate (photo courtesy Amedei Chocolate). [9] For milk or dark chocolate, head to the aged tequilas (photo courtesy La Chocolate). [10] Aztec” chocolates with chile and other Mexican spices work well with tequila (photo courtesy Bespoke Chocolate).

  • Mint and tequila are also a classic pairing, with the bright, grassy heat of the tequila emphasizing the coolness of the mint.
  • Spices: According to the “universal law of food pairing,” wine and spirits were made to complement the local cuisine. Thus, spicy chocolates with chiles, cinnamon and other warm-to-hot spices like pepper go well tequila. Look for Aztec bars, which typically have all three.
  •  
    And get ready for a great Valentine’s Day (Or Anytime) Party!
     
    MORE PAIRINGS

  • Bubbly & Chocolate Pairings
  • Cheese & Chocolate Pairings
  • Scotch & Chocolate Pairings
  • ________________

    *An expression is a different variation (think recipe) of the distillery’s spirit. The variations can be based on age, single grain/malt vs. blend (whiskey), single barrel/cask, etc. The highest-regarded distilleries can produce limited editions expressions that are aged longer, with other features that appeal to a connoisseur’s palate.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Back To Butter, Now OK To Eat

    Butter - Lard

    Butter A Rich History

    Bowl Of Butter

    Bread and Butter

    [1] Butter and lard: out of the shadows and back onto the table (photo courtesy A Canadian Foodie). [2] Butter lovers will enjoy Butter, A Rich History. Also check out Nourishing Fats: Why We Need Animal Fats for Health and Happiness.

     

    If your new year’s resolution includes cutting back on butter, you might re-think it. After years of being shunned as a contributor to heart disease, butter is in again.

    Recorded use of butter dates to 2,000 years B.C. (the history of butter).

    At butter’s peak in the 1920s, annual per capita consumption in the U.S. was 18 pounds about 72 sticks. At its nadir, in 1992, with research reports giving it the thumbs-down, per capita consumption dropped to 4 pounds.

    As recently as 2006, margarine sales outpaced butter’s. For those on a budget, margarine was/is $1 to $2 per pound less expensive.
     
    THE HISTORY OF MARGARINE

    In 1913, French chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul discovered margaric acid; but it was not turned into a foodstuff until much later.

    Commercial margarine was invented in France in the 1860s, when Emperor Napoleon III offered prize money to whomever could find a cheaper substitute for butter, to feed the army and the poor.

    A French chemist, Hippolyte Mège-Mouriés, took the prize by inventing oleomargarine, an imitation butter made from refined vegetable oil and water. He patented it in 1869.

    Yet, while margarine was served to the army, it never took off in France: The French knew which side their bread was buttered on (the history of margarine).

    The good news: He sold the patent to the U.S. Dairy Company in 1871. Butter became very expensive during the Great Depression, and World War II rationed the supply, as dairy farmers went off to war. Margarine came into its own.
     
    LEAVING BUTTER BEHIND: THE 1980s

    Margarine never passed through the doors of our mother’s house. Her palate would only accept the best creamery butter, plus lard for her lauded pie crusts.

    When we first tasted margarine on bread in the college cafeteria, we agreed: Better no bread spread than one of vegetable oil.

    To those who can taste the difference, there is no substitute for butter in baking. We could tell at first bite if a cookie or cake was not made with butter…and tossed it.

    But it was the attribution of heart disease to animal fats that caused many people to back off of butter. Beginning in the 1980s, Americans were programmed by mass media reports to equate butter and fat with heart disease and poor health, and to head to low fat diets.

    Fortunately, research pointed to heart-healthy olive oil as an alternative, and many of us decamped to EVOO.

    But over the past few years, new research has deflated the biggest myths about cholesterol. It’s OK to eat an egg every day, and to butter your bread. And you need at least a tablespoon a day of butter or oil for skin and hair health. Add a second tablespoon of EVOO for heart health.

    These studies have shown that consuming butter (within reason, as with any food) is not bad for you, but is actually beneficial (source).

    Butter is full of vitamins and healthy fatty acids that help prevent tooth decay, cancer and even obesity (!). [NOTE: THE NIBBLE is not a medical expert. Consult with yours if you have questions or issues.]

    Animal fats are no longer demonized, at roughly the same time as plant-based trans fats were removed from the marketplace. The result: an animal fat renaissance.

    Americans have responded to the news. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, per capita consumption rose to 23 sticks of butter, the highest quantity since World War II.

    And many restaurants never left it behind. Today, animal fats are more popular than ever. Chefs are cooking with not just butter, but with beef tallow, duck fat, even schmaltz—rendered chicken fat that was a mainstay of European Jewish cooking.

    Yes, chefs know that the secret to great flavor often lies in animal fat. So consult with your healthcare provider, and safely enjoy your share in the new year.
     
    OUR FAVORITE BUTTERS

    Do your own taste test; but in ours, the winners were, in alphabetical order:

  • Cabot Creamery (Vermont)
  • Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter (imported)
  • Plugrá (European-style butter made in the U.S. with 82% butterfat vs. the standard 80%)
  • Organic Valley (U.S.)
  • Vermont Creamery Cultured* Butter (our personal favorite)
  •  
    Depending on your preference for unsalted or salted butter, your favorites may vary.

    There are other great butters made in the U.S., including regional and artisan butters such as Kate’s Homemade Butter from Maine. But they are made in small quantities and hard to get ahold of.

     
    MORE “BUTTER IS BETTER”

  • Check out the different types of butter in our Butter Glossary.
  • European-Style Butter, an even richer version.
  • Butter Conversion: How to substitute salted butter for a recipe that calls for unsalted.
  •  
    ________________
    *After each milking, the cream is set aside and natural, lactic bacteria ripens it into cultured cream, a.k.a. crème fraîche.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Baked Brie With 21+ Festive Toppings

    Holiday Brie

    Baked Brie With Olives

    Santa Margherita Sparkling Rose Wine

    Packaged Olives

    Pimiento Strips

    Peppadews

    [1] Holiday baked Brie with liqueur-accented cranberry compote, walnuts and thyme (here’s the recipe from Liren Baker of Kitchen Confidante). [2] Baked Brie with olives, recipe below (photo courtesy DeLallo). [3] Whatever bubbly you serve, Baked Brie is a delicious companion (photo of sparkling rosé from Santa Margherita). [4] Pitted, chopped olives make an already easy recipe a breeze (photo courtesy DeLallo). [5] For a red accent, use pimiento strips (photo courtesy Conservas Martinez)… [6] or or chopped peppadews (photo Biozinc | Wikipedia).

     

    Some foods pair better with champagne and other sparkling wines, and are our New Year’s Eve go-to foods. Caviar, pâté, seafood and smoked salmon are the luxury foods are simple made to be enjoyed with bubbly (more).

    And then there’s cheese.

    Double- and triple-creme cheeses are sumptuous with sparkling wines:

  • Brie and Camembert are popular double-crèmes (here’s the difference between Brie and Camembert).
  • Also consider a Brie fondue.
  • Triple-crèmes like Brillat-Savarin, Explorateur and St. André are even richer and creamier than double-crèmes.
  • Mild Cheddars and nutty Goudas pair with toasty, nutty Champagnes (among sparkling wines, Champagne is unique in its toasty, nutty qualities).
  •  
    Served with slices of fresh baguette or specialty crackers, these are the cheeses to usher in the new year.
     
    WANT MORE PANACHE?

    Baked Brie with holiday panache is impressive, yet so easy to make. You can top it with something sweet or savory; for example:

  • Cranberry Baked Brie
  • Cranberry-Pomegranate Holiday Brie
  • Baked Brie With Kiwi Compote
  •  
    MORE SWEET TOPPINGS

  • You can also mix nuts and honey as a topping, or honey and a dried fruit medley of blueberries, cherries, cranberries, raisins and sultanas.
  • Or use a festive jam or preserves like cherry and fig, or chutney (you can also mix in a bit of liqueur).
  • Leftover cranberry sauce or relish also works. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar for a tangy counterpoint.
  • Herbs and honey: Spread on the honey and sprinkle with herbs, and even a few edible flowers. We like lavender and thyme.
  • Marinate canned or frozen cherries in a balsamic reduction, wine or a liqueur, such as Grand Marnier or kirsch.
  • Spread the Brie with apple or pumpkin butter and top with salted nuts, for a sweet-and-salty effect.
  •  
    FOR “DESSERT BRIE”

  • Top with candied walnuts or pecans, a praline topping or dulce de leche and chopped nuts.
  • Popular and colorful: sliced fresh strawberries marinated in Grand Marnier or other liqueur.
  • Ditto, honey and fresh berries.
  • Yum: diced apples and/or pears mixed into salted caramel.
  •  
    Next up: savory toppings for Baked Brie.

    RECIPE: BAKED BRIE WITH OLIVES

    DeLallo created this recipe using their Olives Jubilee, a colorful medley of Kalamata, Niçoise-style, Picholine and plump green olives in an herb marinade. Pitted, chopped, marinated: All you need to do is drain and spoon the olives over the cheese.

    Instead of adding tart, uncooked cranberries—which look great but aren’t so palatable—we chopped a small jar fire-roasted red pepper strips (pimiento, piquillo, etc.).

    You can also chop peppadews or grape/cherry tomatoes.

    For more color and flavor, we also tossed in some pink and green peppercorns we had at hand—mild, not spicy like black peppercorns—and some shredded basil.

    This recipe is for a small “baby” Brie; but if you’re having a large crowd, you can buy an entire 17-inch wheel (and adjust the amount of toppings accordingly).
     
    Ingredients

  • 1 baby Brie (8 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup chopped olives
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans, pistachios or walnuts
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cranberries or substitute
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • Optional: capers, minced fresh basil or thyme
  • Bread, crackers, toasts
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Place the Brie on a nonstick baking sheet. Bake until softened, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, onto a serving plate.

    2. TOP with olives, nuts and cranberries/peppers. Drizzle with honey and serve with bread/crackers and cheese spreaders.

     
    MORE SAVORY BRIE TOPPINGS

  • Bacon jam (recipe).
  • Caramelized onions (recipe—use a small dice) and chopped thyme.
  • Curried diced vegetables* with optional chopped bacon.
  • Greens: baby arugula, baby spinach and watercress wilted in garlic oil.
  • Ham and cheese: Spread grainy mustard or Dijon and top with minced ham and optional chopped herbs.
  • Olive-oil marinated sundried tomatoes, capers, garlic and parsley: a classic.
  • Pesto; consider half green pesto, half red pesto.
  • Sautéed wild mushrooms and thyme.
  •  
    We deliberately left out jalapeño and other “heat” because Brie has a subtle flavor; but you can add a dash of cayenne or red pepper flakes if you like.
     
    ________________
    *Raw bell peppers, carrots, celery, fennel, onions, etc.

     
      

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