Profiles

Fromage Friday: Laliberté by Fromagerie du Presbytère

Laliberté, like a lot of champions, breaks the mould. Pun intended, as per usual on Cheese the Day.

The bloomy rind cheese was crowned the Grand Champion of this year’s Canadian Cheese Grand Prix back in April. I scored myself a wedge at the Great Canadian Cheese Festival, and it was the first of my haul I dug into.

Laliberte-above-side

It smells like any other slightly-stinky soft cheese – I think smell has a lot to answer for in turning people off more pungent soft cheeses and blue cheese, but that’s part of the deal, I guess – but one morsel, and it becomes clear why it’s a favourite.

It’s backwards in the best sense.

Immediately at first taste, you get a hit of mushrooms like you’ve been smacked by an oyster mushroom with a grudge. That’s closely followed by strong sidekicks of herbs and hay, and pungent vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower. But the flavour isn’t mouldy.

Laliberte-side-CU

Then, when you’re expecting it to become bitter, like any other strong, soft cheese in its position would be, it goes easy on you.

It becomes milky, creamy and light. The texture dissolves like cream masquerading as cotton candy. You don’t want to chew it, or even interfere too much with what happens when you let it sit on your tongue. It’s even better when slightly cooler than room temperature, so it doesn’t disappear too quickly and its creaminess stands out.

There is no aftertaste that comes to collect; just something reminiscent of cheese curds, mixed with surprise. The only bitterness comes from its rind.

Laliberte-above-side2

Usually, the flavours are in reverse for strong soft cheeses. A shy, delicate beginning, followed by a bit of brash bitterness. Perhaps because it’s a cream-added bloomy rind, the milkiness carries more weight – I’m not sure how that works. But it’s something to witness. I’d bet even non-cheese-nerds would appreciate the surprising turn of events that it has to offer in terms of flavour.

Honeycomb is usually a reliable wingman for any cheese, and it does its due diligence here, but I found it too sweet, really, for Laliberté. It deserves to partner with something that makes it truly sing, which in this case, is baked baguette rounds with olive oil and herbs – it becomes butter in its’ nonexistent hands, kinda like you by the end of your bite.

Laliberte-side-M

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Recipes

Cherry cheese (cheat) pierogi

It’s National Cheesecake Day, a.k.a. the thousandth time I’ve wished we had The Cheesecake Factory in Canada (yes, cheese-centric dessert is something every man, woman and child needs within waddling – er, driving distance), because you can get a slice for half-price there today.

Anyway. Cheesecake is delectable on its own, but in my opinion, it’s best served with a tart fruit topping (one of my favourites was a key lime cheesecake my dad made me for my birthday a few years ago. There was lime zest flecked in the mixture that made it look uncannily like sour cream and onion chips). For a match-made-in-heaven pairing, there’s only one fruit that fits the bill: Cherries. It’s a classic for a reason.

Cameo by my hideous mutilated cutting board

Cameo by my hideous mutilated cutting board

I’m pegging this entry to National Cheesecake Day, because although I can’t bake (except for a killer apple pie – does that absolve me?), I can riff on cherries and cheese like nobody’s business. Let’s talk cherry cheese pierogi, shall we?

I’ve had wonton wrappers in my fridge for a period of time that falls somewhere after embarrassing and before food poisoning. I’m pretty sure I bought them to make a decadent-looking squash ravioli in the dead of winter and probably went out for it or something equally lazy in the end. I forgot about them until two things happened on the same day: I bought both sour cherries and sweet Bing cherries from my grocery store (I feel a possessive impulse toward “my” grocery store because it’s so much more special than an average chain); and we talked about cherry cheese pierogi at work. Basically a sign from the universe, right? I know. Carry on.

I wanted to wait to make them until I had someone to share them with (okay, someone to show off for – I’m already mildly impressed with myself on average so I can just eat the same salad every day and a flimsy protein source), but it was worth it. I highly recommend the cheat version of pierogi (hell, pasta, turnovers, anything else that requires dough) with wonton wrappers if you’re short on time or baking-challenged, like me.

Here’s my attempt at a recipe:

Cherries2

Cherry cheese “pierogi”

(Makes about 20 with doubled-up wonton wrappers and more than a few casualties)

– Package of wonton wrappers
– 1/2-ish cup sour cherries, pitted and chopped
– 1-ish cup Bing cherries, pitted and chopped
– 1 tbsp honey
– 3/4 log of plain goat cheese
– Egg wash, for sealing

1. Start with the cherry mixture. Add your pitted, chopped cherries and honey to a small saucepan and cook on medium until they start to get soft. Add water (or more honey, if you’re feeling decadent) to the pan as needed if they’re sticking. When they’re soft, turn down the heat to low and simmer, smushing with a potato masher or wooden spoon until they reduce to a thick substance.

(Because I’m all about the cheats with this recipe, you can do exactly what I did, which was to put all that stuff in a bowl and microwave it until they were soft. I’m writing stovetop because I think it would’ve worked a bit better, but my easy way totally worked, too. Hooray, options!)

Also, preheat your oven to 350F now, because it probably takes an agonizingly long time to heat up, like mine.

Cherry-cheese

2. Once cherries have reduced, take them off the heat and add the goat cheese. Mix until combined. It should look like a questionable face scrub.

3. Start filling your “pierogi” by plunking a dollop of your cherry-cheese mixture in the centre of the wonton wrappers.

Three tips here: 1. Flouring your wonton wrappers makes them easier to work with and less prone to tears – just add a bit of flour to work surface, no need to coat them or anything; 2. You may need to double up. If your wonton wrappers are particularly thin/old/moist like mine were, there’ll be teeny holes through which the mixture will keep escaping. It’s cool, just be sure to bake them longer; 3. Don’t add more than a quarter-sized amount of mixture to your wontons, they won’t seal properly. You’ll get it after a few failed attempts, like I did, regardless.

4. Brush two edges of the wrapper with egg wash, fold it over and use a fork to press down and seal.

5. Repeat 3 and 4 for what seems like forever, until you run out of mix or wonton wrappers. This recipe worked out pretty evenly for me, I think I had two or three wonton wrappers left in the end.

6. When you’ve finished filling and sealing your pierogi, put them on a tinfoil-lined (viva cheats, man, no dishes!) baking sheet with enough space that they aren’t touching ([insert weird joke about leaving room for The Holy Spirit here and then delete it because, what? You didn’t even go to a Catholic school]).

7. Bake the pierogi until the outside is light brown like a toasty marshmallow (I undercooked mine a bit, so just pretend they all look the ones at the edges of the pan in this picture). You can also boil them until they float and then fry them in a pan for outside crispiness, which would be even better. I was afraid mine would burst because of my flimsy wrap-work, so I baked them and they turned out fine just the same. Smacznego! (Google says this is the Polish-equivalent of bon appetit.)

Pierogi-foil

Have you ever used wonton wrappers? I’d love to hear your cheats, cherry-cheese musings, and of course, any recipes you’d like to share in the comments below. If you have been to The Cheesecake Factory, I await a detailed description of your visit and your dessert choice. Happy National Cheesecake Day!

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Entertaining, Pairings

Cheesy Caesar combinations for Canada Day

We did a segment on Caesars recently at work, which focused on all of the weird, wonderful and winning combinations that are possible with Canada’s signature summer drink.

(Sidenote: Though the Caesar is often touted as a Canuck creation – not just from drunken braggarts, it’s been featured in more than one Canadiana commercial – it was not actually invented here. Back in 2010, National Post columnist Adam McDowell unearthed a recipe for the Caesar that he said dated back to before Walter Chell, the purported creator, mixed and popularized it in 1969 in Calgary. McDowell’s discovery was greeted with surprising furor, presumably from people that put all their national pride in one Clamato-wielding basket. Guys, it didn’t take off before Chell. We may not have made the first Caesar, but Canada made the Caesar what it is today.)

There are numerous pickled, salty, briny treats that can be added to the cloudy scarlet concoction. Pickles and olives and/or their juices are classic. You can riff on rims with sweet and spicy additions like steak rubs or maple syrup. Skewered snacks and veggies like bacon and spicy green beans have become de rigeur, and seafood is an always-welcome bonus – one of my favourite restaurants adds a whole lobster tail to their Caesar.

Where’s the cheese?

I’m a firm believer in the possibility to incorporate cheese into any dish. Yes, any (if you don’t believe me, add your challenge in the comments and I’ll use it for a future post). I know cheese isn’t exactly an orthodox addition to a drink, but Caesars are rarely a straight-up drink. Nibblets are practically a requirement. Hell, Score on Davie in Vancouver is infamous for its $60 Checkmate Caesar, which comes with a whole roasted chicken, burger, pulled-pork slider, onion rings, chicken wings, pulled-pork mac ‘n’ cheese hot dog and a brownie, because, y’know, everything in moderation.

Davie-Caesar

Score on Davie’s Checkmate Caesar. (Facebook)

When I was collecting tried-and-true mix-ins for my part of the Caesars segment, the only cheese-like suggestion I got was blue-cheese-stuffed olives. We can do better than that, not least because I don’t even like the two together. Without further ado, here are a few cheesy additions I think would be nothing short of delectable in Caesars, just in time for Canada Day – because it’s still our drink, damn it:

  •  Bocconcini cheese: I’m not the first person to conjure this up (aforementioned Score on Davie has a Caesar that uses bocconcini), but I have yet to see it on a menu in person. Don’t underestimate these dreamy, delicate orbs, especially in a sweeter Caesar with basil.
  • Arancini: One of my favourite Italian treats; risotto balls that are best when accompanied by a smear of arrabbiata sauce. What else is spicy and tomato-y, like arrabbiata? Why, a Caesar! Don’t skimp on fresh, gooey mozza – preferably buffalo, or burrata if you want to get downright decadent – in the centre and stick to minis, skewered, for logistical reasons.
  • Cream cheese: It’s sacrilege to leave out the celery stalk, and cream cheese is perfection slathered on it. If you’d like to add a creamy texture to the drink, cover the whole stalk and swirl it around. Cover only the portion above sea level if you want your tomato tonic undisturbed. Bonus points for using hot red pepper jelly as your rimmer liquid.
  • Frozen feta: I have, admittedly, never tried this because it didn’t occur to me until just now. But why not freeze feta as “ice” cubes in a tray? You get more flavour instead of less as it melts (thanks, brine!) and a yummy treat at the bottom. Not sure if it would disintegrate when melting, but I’m going to try this soon.
  • Provolone: Specifically, stuffed in hot cherry peppers with prosciutto, the kind you can find at most supermarkets with the olives. Low-maintenance, sophisticated skewers. Add a spring of fresh rosemary to take it up a notch.
  • Grilled Halloumi: It’s delicious on its own, but I’d love to try a chimichurri marinade before grilling. Herbalicious crust? Yes, please.
  • Brebis Rousse: I know this stuff doesn’t come cheap, but how decadent would it be slathered inside a halved jalapeño pepper and baked with panko? So much better than your standard filling. If you’ve never had this sheep’s milk cheese before, make you you save the majority to savour on its own, too.

Who’s thirsty? Writing this made me want to throw an all-Caesars mixing party, so I’ll be trying the above suggestions and will post the results. If you try any of my cheesy combinations or have some killer add-ins of your own, let me know in the comments! Happy Canada Day and cheers to Caesars!

 

Main photo by: luckyfish/Flickr

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