Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Composed Cheese Plate

Of the many outstanding Swiss cheeses, there is a special place in my heart for the Tete de Moine. Typically, mountain cheeses are made in large wheels of twelve pounds or more. The Tete de Moine is a small wheel, less than two pounds, made of raw cow's milk, and typically aged two to three months. It's name means "monk's head," and refers to the cheese's resemblance to the shorn heads of the abbey brethren after the first slice has been removed. Today, it is produced by cooperatives surrounding the town of Bellelay, and is sometimes called by that name.

The Swiss have a penchant for gadgetry, which is probably why I am so fond of their customs and traditions. A devise called a girolle is used specifically to cut this cheese into beautiful, thin ruffles. The cheese has a sharp and intense flavor, quite nutty and salty, with sweet fruity notes, so these light curls of cheese are an appropriate means of approaching it without being overwhelmed. I thought this unique appearance would be the perfect way to start serving a composed cheese plate.

Taking advantage of the early spring shoots and wild herbs, I thought it would be fun to imitate the mountain pastures where this cheese originated. The base of the dish is made of crumbled honey walnut cake, which is then covered with an assortment of foraged greens, wood sorrel, lemon balm, watercress, wood violets, miner's lettuces and dressed with a sherry walnut vinaigrette. A few florets of cow's milk cheese and some fried strips of salsify for crunch, and a pastoral pleasure is ready to serve.

Great cheeses deserve great accompaniments. Come try it this spring,


1 comment: