12 January 2010

The Cheese Course

I would rather have a cheese course at the end of a meal rather than dessert.

Janet Fletcher wrote The Cheese Course for those of you have never served a cheese course or eaten a cheese course. This book is a good basic primer, including how to pick cheese, how to serve it, and what to drink with it. If you eat cheese, you probably know how to do all this. Perhaps its best feature is just showing what a cheese course can look like.

The Cheese Course is about the cheese and the recipes are a kind of afterthought for accompaniments such as breads, vinaigrettes, marinades, and fruits. The recipes usually feature a single cheese with an accompaniment like this one.

Basque Sheep’s Milk Cheese with Poached Quince

2 quince (about 1 pound)
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cardamom seeds, crushed in a mortar or spice grinder
2 cups water
1 pound Pyrenees sheep’s milk cheese

Quarter, core, and peel the quinces. Cut each quarter into 4 slices. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, cardamom, and water. Over moderate heat, bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the quince, cover and adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until the quince are tender and rosy pink, about 2 hours. Let cool in the liquid, cover, then refrigerate.
Divide cheese and quince evenly among 8 individual plates.

Quince is a favorite fruit to accompany cheese. The French like prunes in Armagnac. I make figs in Cointreau. What ever you choose, skip that sweet dessert and have a cheese course instead. OK fine, have the cheese course and then, HAVE dessert. That may be the best plan.

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