The Cheese Course

Sometimes the most pleasurable repasts are the no-cook ones: just a smattering of cheese, fruit, and cured meats, plus a baguette and, of course, a nice bottle of wine. According to Epicurean, there are no hard rules for cheese pairings, but there are some no-fail plans and a few winning flavor pairings that provide the perfect no frills meal.

When selecting your cheeses, look for a nice mix, such as a mild cheese, a strong cheese, a soft washed-rind cheese, and hard cheese-and it’s always fun to mix up your milk base, whether it be goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, or cow’s milk. Don’t forget that not all cheeses can stand high heat. When selecting breads and crackers, steer clear of highly salted versions; you don’t want the flavor of the crackers to compete with the flavor of the cheese.

When purchasing the cheese, figure that each person will eat about 3 ounces. If picnicking, pack any soft cheeses in a protective hard container with a lid; a cardboard box will work, as will a plastic container. Don’t place ice packs or ice directly on the cheeses; you don’t want them to get wet. Keep cheeses cool while transporting, but once you’re ready to serve, let them sit out until they come to room temperature before eating. It’s a good idea to bring along a small cutting board and cheese knife, too.

Try these winning flavor pairings:
Parmesan, or a similar hard, nuttyflavored crumbly cheese with sticky sweet dates or quince paste
Pungent blues, such as Gorgonzola, with sliced apples or red grapes
Mild, soft-ripened cheese, such as Teleme, with cherries
Fresh cheeses such as ricotta or fromage blanc with berries
Fresh, tangy goat’s milk cheeses with fresh figs, honey, and walnut bread
Gorgonzola with honey or pears and raisin bread
Roquefort with toasted walnuts and ripe pears
English-style Cheddar with chutneys and pickled onions
Shaved pecorino with fresh shelled fava beans (try shelled soy beans as an alternative)
Fennel wedges with Reblochon or another mild, cow’s milk cheese [via link]

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~ by eaesthete on 04/23/08.

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