Valençay

1 11 2011

Valençay

Valençay is one of my favorite goat cheeses.  I picked up a gorgeous one at the market last weekend, and when Nick decided to take some lovely photos of it, I realized it was high time I gave this flat-topped pyramid a moment in the spotlight.

This cheese, which is named for the Loire Valley town in which it is produced, earned AOC status in 1998, making Valençay the first place in France to have AOCs for both their wine and their cheese.  Legend has it that Napoleon, upon returning from a particularly unsuccessful business trip to Egypt, stopped at the château in Valençay and flew into a rage upon seeing the local cheese in the shape of a pyramid.  He lopped off the top with his sword, thus giving the cheese its current signature shape.

Stories aside, Valençay is made using only raw goat’s milk.  It’s rubbed with salted ashes and left to mature for about 3 weeks, during which time a thin, bloomy gray rind develops.  Just underneath the mellow, earthy rind lies the firm yet creamy interior.  It has a pleasant citrusy tang, and is only mildly goaty.  Even though it may look intimidating to cheese newbies (I myself used to shy away from ashed or ashy-looking cheeses), Valençay is not at all challenging.  Which is not to say that die-hard cheese lovers don’t appreciate it.  On the contrary, I think this is one that just about anyone can enjoy.

I bought this particular cheese from the very friendly proprietor of La Ferme de la Prairie (known in some circles as the UCG – Ultimate Cheese Guy), who sells only goat cheeses, and for very reasonable prices.  While a typical Valençay might cost 7 or 8 euros, his comes in at 5 and change.  He also provides samples of several of his cheeses, with a liberal tasting policy – knives and cheeses are placed on top of the counter, it’s up to you to cut your own tastes.  He’ll ask how aged or fresh you’d like your cheese, and if you’re not sure, he’s happy to give his opinion.  A visit to his stand is a must if I’m at the Grenelle market on Sunday morning.

On this day in 2010: Chartres

Originally published on Croque-Camille.

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Apple-Goat Cheese Quickbread

27 10 2011

A play in one act

Scene 1: Sunday evening, 5:00 pm.  Nick and Camille return home after a much-longer-than-anticipated outing.  Nick is carrying a baguette.

Snoopy: Mew!

Nick: Hey, Snoopy. (Goes to the kitchen to set down the bread and pour glasses of water.)

Camille: Hi kitty! Did you miss us?

Snoopy: Mew!  (Runs away to the living room, where she lies down on the floor.)

Camille: Oh, you need to be petted. (Kneels down and pets the cat.)

Nick: Did you have a hard day, Snoopy?

Camille (Looking at clock): Holy crap, is it five already?  How long was that bike ride?  Three hours?

Nick:  I guess so.

Camille: Damn!  I know I planned on writing a blog post, but now I don’t feel like writing anything.  I want to bake a cake!  And make chicken stock.  That just feels more important right now.

Nick: Go for it.  Do what makes you happy.  I’m not going to complain about any of that.

Camille: I saw this recipe for apple-cream cheese bread on emiglia’s blog.  And we need to use up some of these apples.

Nick: Who?

Camille: You know, we went on the hike and picnic?  And it rained?

Nick: Right.

Camille: Anyway, we don’t have any cream cheese, so I’m going to use the rest of that goat cheese in the fridge.

Nick: Fine, and if you want to write about it…

Camille: I’m not going to write about it, I’m just making her recipe with one little change.

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Moving Week, or Eating Down The Pantry

12 04 2011

I had ambitions to write up a lovely parting post for my street this week. I went out on Saturday, which was gloriously sunny and took lots and lots of pictures, and even a little video, but now the thought of going through them all and writing something worthwhile about each one feels too daunting. I seem to have forgotten, despite the fact that I did it just one year ago, exactly how much physical and mental energy it takes to pack up your entire apartment. Time, too. The good news is that we did finally find an apartment, one we’re excited to move into, in a completely new neighborhood which will be fun to explore and get to know. Don’t worry, I’ll give my current neighborhood a proper sendoff. It will just be after the move.

Logic would dictate that the more things you eat out of your pantry and fridge before you move, the fewer things you have to move. I think we’ve been doing a pretty good job with this.  The freezer is now empty, save for a few trays of ice cubes and a couple of ice packs, and the fridge contains mainly condiments.  Tonight I finished off the bag of frozen spinach, the tomato paste, the milk, the cream, and the harissa – all went into a bread pudding that smells delightful.

Last night I indulged in a fresh goat cheese crottin in the name of going through a large quantity of lettuce.

Salade de Chèvre Chaud

Yep. I made a lovely salade de chèvre chaud.  The rest of the baguette and cheese also ended up in tonight’s dinner.  Speaking of, the oven timer just went off!  Time to eat.

On this day in 2010: Fribourg d’Alpage (A wonderful cheese.)

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Feuille du Limousin

26 01 2011

Feuille du Limousin

Now that I have a cheese shop across the street from my apartment, my cheese consumption has increased dramatically.  Their selection isn’t humongous, but it does change a bit with the seasons, and I’m always on the lookout for cheeses I haven’t tried before.  Last week, I found this pretty, teardrop-shaped specimen called Feuille du Limousin.

One of the first things I do when I bring home a new-to-me cheese is check Loulou’s cheese list to see if she’s written about it.  I am excited to report that this one is not on her list!

Feuille du Limousin is a goat’s milk cheese, formed in the shape of a chestnut leaf, which is the symbol of the Limousin region.  The goats whose milk is destined to become feuille du Limousin must have a diet of at least 50% grass from the region.  They are also allowed to eat beet pulp and whole corn.  I guess all that sugar leads to sweeter milk?  To make the cheese, the milk must be raw, untreated, and used within 24 hours of milking.  It takes about 800 grams of milk to make one 140-gram cheese.

This cheese was a real winner in my book.  It is surprisingly fresh-tasting for this time of year, when most of the “seasonal” cheeses are either very firm or extremely gooey from several months’ aging.  The flavor is that of fresh goat’s milk, with a hint of piquancy from the wrinkly white rind.  The interior of the feuille du Limousin is rather dense and slightly crumbly, but it absolutely creamy on the palate.  There’s a hint of chalkiness to it, but not in a bad way.  Maybe that’s what they mean by “mineral.”  Just underneath the rind, the cheese has a ring of ripened gooiness, but the rest remains solid.

Feuille du Limousin, Bleu d'Auvergne, Abondance

Keep an eye out for this one – Feuille du Limousin makes a lovely addition to a winter cheese board!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine and My New Favorite Fromagerie

18 07 2010

Julhès: the fromagerie/caviste

Admittedly, one of the reasons this is a favorite is that it’s less than half a block from my apartment.  Even so, I’m a little sad that I didn’t know about Julhès before moving to the rue du Faubourg St. Denis.  Yes, it’s a cheese shop.  It’s also a wine cave.  With an impressive selection of liquor.  And select charcuterie.  Plus bulk free-range eggs and fresh dairy products like yogurt, milk, and butter.  Not to mention the snacks – Tyrell’s chips, bars of Valrhona and Zaabar chcoclate – and condiments – a truly mouthwatering array of mustards, sauces, and jams.  It’s a one-stop shop for a picnic if I ever saw one.

But the best part is that the cheeses (and wines…) are good.  The service is friendly, too.  One time I saw them make a camembert sandwich for a customer.  And they’re open seven days a week, though they close for lunch on weekdays, as well as on Sunday afternoons.  Pretty good for Paris.  The cheese/wine shop (a category that gave me some trouble when I was adding it to my map because my current color-coding scheme doesn’t allow for such a thing), however, is just the tip of the iceberg.

Julhès: the boulangerie-pâtisserie

Julhès also has a boulangerie-pâtisserie two doors down.  I like their baguette au levain bio (organic sourdough baguette) quite a bit – I think it’s one of the best 1-euro baguettes in town.  A full gamut of pastries are on display, which I have yet to try, as well as a coin traiteur (deli counter) serving various salads and sandwiches, and they even offer outdoor table service!

Julhès: the foreign products

And then there’s the produits étrangers.  Just past the Kurdish sandwich place, Julhès has yet another outpost.  Here they specialize in products from around Europe, particularly Italy, Greece, and Eastern Europe.  Fresh raviolis and other non-filled pastas, a myriad of olives, sun-dried tomatoes, stuffed peppers, and various dips and spreads are sold in awesome, re-usable plastic containers.  In addition, the walls are lined with olive oils, non-French wines, and a parade of Polish and Russian vodkas.

Have I mentioned how great it smells on my street?  I mean it, even if I do have to step over the occasional bum to get to the sidewalk from my apartment.

I seem to have gotten a little sidetracked.  I was supposed to be writing about cheese.  Just this morning I popped over to Julhès (the fromagerie) to get provisions for an afternoon snack.

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Couronne Lochoise

12 01 2010

Like a doughnut, but cheese!

It’s time once again for the monthly International Fête du Fromage hosted by Chez Loulou.  Now that I am no longer limited to specific French regions, I don’t even know where this one comes from!  But that doesn’t make for a very interesting post.  Hang on…

(20 minutes later, you know how Wikipedia is)  Couronne Lochoise is from Loches, a small commune in the Loire valley.  It is a raw-milk goat’s cheese in the shape of a doughnut.  I mean crown.  The name means “Crown of Loches,” but I’m having a hard time finding out much more about this cheese.  I chose it because I liked the shape, and I was certain that I’d never had it before.  The rind is thin and a little bit moldy, which gives it a sharp, zippy flavor.  The firm white cheese inside is smooth and buttery, really good, although it might be a bit nondescript without the rind.  And the shape, which is not only fun, but one of the most intuitive-to-cut cheeses I’ve found.  (Really, I find cheese cutting etiquette baffling at times.  Cue flatulence jokes.)

Inside the crown

Before I embarrass myself any further, I’m just going to tell you to head over to Loulou’s on the 15th for the roundup, which will hopefully feature some more informative posts than this one.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Rocamadour

12 12 2009

Rocamadour Moelleux

Welcome to Périgord month!  I’ve chosen the Périgord for December because it is where to find some of France’s most decadent treats.  Foie gras, black truffles, and chestnuts are cultivated in the Périgord, and they are indispensable for end-of-the-year holiday celebrations.  It wouldn’t be Christmas in France without a slab of foie gras or chestnuts roasted with a turkey or goose.  And you can’t go into a shop in Paris in December without finding marrons glacés, those delicious candied chestnuts.

It is also time once again for Chez Loulou’s Fête du Fromage.  (Be sure to check out the international roundup on the 15th.)  One of Périgord’s most famous cheeses is the tiny Rocamadour.  This raw-milk goat’s cheese is no bigger than two inches in diameter – a perfect serving size for one person.  It is sold either fresh and soft or firm and dry.  This time, I picked a couple of lusciously gooey-looking specimens, with thin, silky rinds and insides like spreadable cream.  The first smell that hit my nose upon unwrapping them was one of grassy fields, which quickly faded away.  On the palate they were ultra smooth, with a rich, creamy flavor, mild goaty tang, and a hint of pepper on the finish.  Robust reds from the neighboring appellations of Cahors and Bergerac (as in Cyrano) would pair well.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Green Pizza

26 03 2009

This is one of those posts written in desperation – the kind of desperation that comes when something is on its way out of season.  In this case, broccoli.  And while sage is pretty good year-round, its flavor is indelibly tied to the colder months.

The dish was invented in a different kind of desperation – the kind when you’re wandering around the grocery store looking for something to cook for dinner.  Preferably something easy, quick and healthy.  It was St. Patrick’s Day, but the sky was too blue and the air too almost-warm to consider cooking one of the more traditional celebratory dishes.  I still wanted to make something to commemorate the day.  I caught a glimpse of some deep green broccoli and thought that it was both nutritious and dressed for the occasion.  Into my basket it went, next to the Guinness, and I wondered how to make a meal out of a head of broccoli.  Well, I had pizza dough in the freezer, and some goat cheese and sage in the fridge… sweet!  Done shopping!

Pizza dough spread with sage pesto

Somewhere along the way I realized that I had all the necessary ingredients (pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, Parmigiano-Reggiano) for pesto just sitting there in the kitchen.  And the pizza came together.  Pesto and broccoli first, then a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, a drizzle of olive oil, and a handful of crumbled goat cheese. 

St Paddy's Day Pizza

Luck must have been with me, because this pizza was everything I wanted: fast, healthy, and holiday-appropriate.  Because I know that some of you out there like recipes, here’s how I made the sage pesto.  You should be able to figure out the rest of the pizza yourself.  (Those of you who don’t like recipes, well, I’m sure you’ll wing it anyway.)

Sage Pesto

 

In retrospect, just the pesto spread on the pizza dough and baked would make some fantastic breadsticks.  The recipe makes just the right amount for a two-person pizza, but it would also be great on pasta or spread on a turkey sandwich.

 

1 bunch sage, leaves picked, washed, and chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

3 Tbsp. pine nuts, chopped

2 Tbsp. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated

Squeeze of lemon juice

Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  The texture will be chunky and “rustic,” but you could easily put the mixture into a food processor or blender if you want a smoother end result.

 

Makes about 1/3 cup (85 ml).

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Fournée au Chèvre

4 12 2008

Or, to sound less fancy-pants, bacon-wrapped goat cheese.

How could I not buy this?

Here in France I am often stumbling across “convenience” products like this which I suppose are commonplace to French consumers but are totally awesome to me.  I mean, bacon-wrapped goat cheese?  For two euros?  That’s awesome.  You might be able to find something like this in the prepared-food section of some gourmet grocery stores with a huge markup, but in France, it’s at the supermarket.

Obviously, I had to buy it.  I hatched a lovely plan to pan-fry these beauties and serve them warm on a bed of watercress dressed in apple cider vinaigrette.  The watercress was already washed and waiting in the fridge, the vinaigrette was already made, it was going to be the fastest appetizer salad ever in my kitchen.  I busted out the nonstick pan (didn’t want to risk my precious cheeses getting stuck to the pan) and started frying.

The great duo of bacon and cheese

That’s when I went into the fridge to get the rest of the salad ingredients.  Vinaigrette?  Check.  Gave it a little shake in its tiny Tupperware and it was good to go.  Carefully washed, dried, loosely wrapped in a paper towel and an open plastic bag a day or two prior, my watercress should have been fine.  But it had all gone yellow.  Crap!  Nick, intrepid soul that he is, tasted a leaf as I asked hopefully, “Does it taste yellow?”  “Blech.  Yeah.” Came the reply.  Into the garbage can it went, and the warm, crisped cheeses went onto our plates alone.  And we ate them that way.  Smoky, salty bacon and creamy, tangy goat cheese, it turns out, need no other adornment.  I will be buying these again for sure.

I’m sending this to Chez Loulou for the monthly Fête du Fromage roundup.  Look for it on the 15th!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Potimarron-Fingerling Gratin

2 12 2008

Celebrating holidays in a foreign country means making certain sacrifices.  As a case in point, I have yet to see anything resembling a fresh cranberry in Paris.  The various American épiceries are fully stocked with jars and cans of cranberry sauce, but if you want to make your own (like I always do) you’re out of luck.  However, as you can probably imagine, the markets of Paris offer up an incredible bounty from which to devise seasonal dishes from locally-grown ingredients.

Naked Chestnut Squash

Like this potimarron.  I forgot to get a picture of it before I stripped it bare, but there’s a good before photo herePotimarron is one of the more commonly seen winter squashes in the Parisian markets, yet somehow I had yet to cook one.  A little research turned up some interesting facts about the potimarron: the thin skin is edible, the name is derived from the French words for “pumpkin” and “chestnut,” and it apparently increases in sweetness and vitamin content the longer you store it (to a point, I’m sure).

Potimarron insides, with paring knife for scale

I purchased the cute little squash about a week before Thanksgiving without any real plan regarding what to do with it.  The same market trip yielded a bag of fingerling potatoes, another impulse buy.  A few days later, when I realized it was high time I start getting my Thanksgiving menu in order, the two supremely seasonal vegetables jumped out at me.

*Peeling not required

Recalling a butternut squash gratin I have made in years past to generally good reviews, I thought I’d riff on the idea, working potatoes into the mix.  The potimarron, taking after its namesake nut, is one of the starchier winter squashes out there.  While this makes it able to hold its own when combined with potatoes, I didn’t want the dish to be too heavy (this was for Thanksgiving, after all).  I figured the tangy sweetness of leeks simmered in hard cider would offset the richness of the squash and potatoes.  Top it all off with my favorite fresh chèvre, and I had just the gratin I was looking for.  I may not have had sweet potatoes as usual, (ed. note: except that I did, on this salad) but it didn’t feel like I was sacrificing a thing. 

Click through for the recipe and Nick’s gorgeous photo.

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