I’ve been looking for accompaniments for our cheese plates in the new restaurant which is opening soon. I wonder if this is the kind of study and pleasure a sommelier feels trying to find the perfect yet unexpected balancing and harmonizing of flavors and that satisfaction when the flavors sing together? Well, here are some of my favorite cheese pairings:
(blue cheese with a drizzle of rosemary honey mellows the strong flavour of blue cheese)
Sweet cheese accompaniments
Honey steeped with herbs such as lavender and rosemary which are both very fragrant --almost pungent -- make a great fit with aged cheeses such as Emmenthaler and Gruyere from Switzerland which are made from herbaceous cow’s milk grazing in the Alps. Blue cheese paired amazingly well with black truffles, simply chopped and combined with chestnut honey.
(pickled vegetables make a great companion with medium textured cheeses such as Emmenthaler)
Sour cheese accompaniments
We like pickled vegetables such as Jalapenos which lend some heat, combined with crunchy carrots. A simple pickled cucumber does the trick too especially paired with fairly young double or triple cream chesses. All that rich wonderfulness in a cheese paired with that acidity of pickles and spices works really wonderful.
And then there is moustarda
I know moustarda from working in an Italian restaurant when I prepared it to accompany a boiled mixed meat plate called bollito misto. It matched the strong beef, pork and mild chicken flavors just perfectly I thought it may pair well with cheeses in a similar way. It hit like a lighting strike - a combination of sweet, spicy and acidity harmonized all the components we sought or to accompany our varying cheese board. We serve it in a little ramekin and it works perfectly.
(pear/cranberry moustarda sweetened with maple candy - great for Thanksgiving turkey)
(recipe yields 2 cups)
4 tablespoons brown mustard seeds
4 cups apples such as Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Braeburn
1 tablespoon honey
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon chili flakes
1 tablespoon salt
- Soak mustard seeds in water for 24 hours then put into a colander and rinse with water. Combine mustard seeds in a pot with water then cook on low heat setting for 60 minutes or until soft. Poor mustard seeds in a colander then rinse with water (this will rinse off sticky residue)
- Peel apples and cut into cubes (discard core). Cook cut apples in a skillet on medium heat setting then add honey, bay leaf, chili flakes, salt and cooked mustard seeds
Chef’s Big Sour Apple Note:
I get exhausted from New York City’s restaurant stress but strolling through the Farmer’s Market is a relief - a short trip to a hidden gem outside the city of sorts. But the other day when I was hunting for the perfect apples for my moustarda a bag of carefully selected apples, about 20 different ones, all hand chosen –was stolen from my usual spot where I collect various vegetables from other stands! I know when life gives you lemons you make lemonade, but what do you make when someone steals your apples?!