Jul 31, 2008

The Almighty Truffle

Where in all of Toronto can you get a hold of your very own Fresh Truffle?

Cheese Boutique! And very few other places, as far as I can tell. Certainly you may go to a restaurant to have them, but how easy it is to prepare for yourself!

They are shipped here every Wednesday, the location of origin depending on the time of year. Molisa in Summer, Umbria in Winter. The peak season is rapidly approaching, when the flavour will be at its best.

My experience of cooking with truffles is using infused oil or honey made from the pungent white truffle, but I found my fresh black truffle to be another matter. It was very fragrant, filling the refrigerator with an earthy smell. A wonderfully ugly, stinky little thing, promising to elevate my breakfast of scrambled eggs from blasé to gourmet.

The eggs are from Schulz Farm, fresh and free-run, as you see from the picture:

Big eggs with nice, rich-coloured yolks.

Truffle and Eggs, "Before"

The fungus is quite firm, and slices or shaves well

It's worth it to scramble eggs the traditional French way: slow and steady, incorporating a small amount of cold butter. The result is marvelously smooth and creamy.

Put the pan on low heat coated with a small amount of melted butter, add the whisked eggs, some chives and pepper, and stir constantly. Add tiny bits of cold butter as it cooks.

The important thing to note here is that the minced truffle is added only at the very last minute of cooking, as well as being sprinkled as a garnish, to avoid killing the delicate flavour.

The cooking time was about ten minutes for six eggs.

Serve with toast (and Mimosas) if desired.

Truffle and Eggs, "After"

What a splendid breakfast! I only wish I had used more truffle, but I was unsure of how much would be too much. On the plus side, a truffle will live for a good week and I have a fair bit left over.

Perhaps there will be bonus Truffle recipes on this blog in the coming days...

Today's list of ingredients is short and sweet, and all items can be found at Cheese Boutique:

Fresh Black Truffle
Fresh Farm Eggs
Butter (unsalted)

Jul 24, 2008

Burrata: International Cheese of Mystery

Burrata is an Italian cheese made from fresh cream and Mozzarella curds, traditionally wrapped in green asfodelo leaves, and best consumed within 48 hours of production.

There was an article published last year in the Star featuring both Creamy Burrata and Cheese Boutique:

"It's flown in from Puglia and it's something, literally, that we have no idea if it's going to come, when it's going to come, or how much we're going to get."

"It's under the counter here. People come up and whisper `Is burrata here? Is burrata here?' Our customers know when it's going to come better than we do."

Since then, however, there have been a few changes. A local Ontario dairy farm now produces Burrata exclusively for Cheese Boutique, and there is a sign in the store advertising its availability-- whispered requests no longer necessary.

I brought home my container of burrata, mysterious in its wrapping and swimming in cloudy liquid. If you are taking it directly from refrigeration, allow it to sit at room temperature for half an hour before serving. Unwrap and allow the water on the outside to drain off.

I knew there was something inside the ball, but was unsure of how liquidy it would be. Would I poke it with a knife and get a squirt to the eye? Would the whole thing collapse like a failed souffle? Bravely, I cut into it and found a gooey, fairly viscous filling. The knob on top fell off and was promptly eaten, and I found it does taste similar to the mozzarella we are all familiar with, but with a very light and springy texture.

I arranged wedges of the cheese over a bed of baby spinach and vine-ripened grape tomatoes. I topped it with healthy drizzles of balsamic crema and olive oil, a good pinch of sea salt flakes and some fresh ground pepper.

This is truly a summer cheese-- fresh, delicate in flavour and time-sensitive. We need nothing more elaborate than to serve it in a traditional Italian style, relying on the purity of a few complimentary ingredients.

Simply delicious!

The List (of course, all found at Cheese Boutique):

Creamy Buratta
Vine Tomatoes
Baby Spinach
Cheese Boutique Premium Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Solai Vecchi Crema di Balsamico
Bellamessa Sea Salt flakes
Fresh Ground Pepper

Jul 18, 2008

Sparkling Limonade, Flat Chicken

That's right, Flattened Chicken; no, it didn't have a mishap crossing the road, it was prepared in-house by Cheese Boutique. A whole chicken to roast or grill quickly: chest cavity removed-- no breast or rib bones, leg bones intact, ready-to-cook with a Balsamic and Herb Marinade.

Basic Elements of a Chicken Roast

In this case I used the marinade to my advantage and didn't need to add much in the way of seasoning, apart from fresh rosemary, chicken broth, salt and pepper. Some of the rosemary I placed under the skin on the breast, and the chicken rested on wedges of onion, for that extra bit of flavour in the meat.

With only a few minutes of prep time for the veggies, it all went into the roasting pan: corn cobs, carrots, new potatoes, and onion. Oven temperature at 380F. I start it off covered for about 30 minutes, then remove the lid for browning-- about an hour. More or less if you lower the temperature, it's flexible, and pretty much ready when you are. I basked it in the juices periodically, and by the end of cooking time the liquid had reduced to just the right amount of natural gravy.

Fresh out of the oven

A bowlful of comfort

Before long the house smelled delicious-- "like Home" in that nostalgic way you only get from a chicken roast. The meat was falling off the bone, quite aromatic from rosemary. The corn cobs were sweet as candy and they, along with the ice cold Limonade, gave the meal a definite summer-ish twist.

Serve it up with some Rieme Sparkling (Orange) Limonade. If a little vodka happens to fall into it, that's okay too.

Here is the list of Ingredients used in today's Recipe (all from Cheese Boutique!):

Flat, Balsamic, In-House, whole Chicken
New potatoes
Corn on the cob
Spanish Onion
Chicken broth
Fresh Rosemary Sprigs
Pepper, salt

Rieme Sparkling Orange Limonade

A Shout Out for Langdon Hall

They've landed the prestigious Relais Gourmands status, as described in this article today in the Star: Langdon Hall joins exclusive culinary club.

Congratulations to them and Executive Chef Jonathan Gushue, whom we saw most recently for the Strawberry event in June.

And look, Cheese Boutique gets a mention:

"The cooks produce as much as they can in-house, bread and butter most famously (both sold in Toronto at the Cheese Boutique, 45 Ripley Ave.)"

There you have it, the only Relais Gourmands restaurant in Ontario, one of four in Canada, selling their famous bread and butter right here at Cheese Boutique!

Jul 10, 2008

"Three Cheese" for Summer!

On a hot summers day, what could be more perfect for dessert or a light meal than a Cheese Plate?

Today, I have before me Young Walnut Preserves, fruits and biscuits. Yea, young walnut preserves is new to me, too.... and quite unlike any other kind of candied nut I've tried.
It looks like this:

Candied Green Walnut Preserve from Armenia

The cheese keepers at Cheese B suggested three "summery" cheeses for me to use, and provided the following descriptions for each:

A sheep’s milk cheese from St. Benoît-Du-Lac in Quebec. Aging for eight months, this gives the cheese a firm texture but tasting it you’ll note a smooth nutty flavour.

(I found this one very pungent and smoky, rich and creamy. Highly recommended for blue-cheese lovers, or people who usually don't like strong moldy cheese!)

Vento D'estate
A raw cow’s milk cheese from northern Italy, Veneto. This cheese ages in grass from the farm where its produced. The name translates to ‘The Summer Breeze’. Aged one year in-house matures a quite sharp bite and has notes of white wine and lavender."

Monte Enebro
The creator, Senor Baez, is considered a Spanish cheese hero, and this cheese is considered one of the nation’s premier food artifacts. Produced in Avila, west of Madrid, the goat’s milk is semi soft, smooth, with a creamy paste that yields tangy, lingering,and complex goaty flavours.
Pictured Here:

The Monte Enebro: looking too good not to get its own caption

I also chose an assortment of fruits that looked like they would be particularly nice: flat, honey sweet peach, red seedless grapes, fig, and medjool date. Assembling the plate was fun, but eating it was even better. A goat, a sheep, and a cow cheese, each one possessing very unique characteristics to be savored. Voila:

Vento d'estate on the front left, L'erimit upper left, and Monte Enebro on the right.

The wine is Inniskillin 2007 Late Autumn Riesling. It was recommended to me by Cheese Boutique that I use a late harvest or ice wine, or fine port. I found that the wine was good for cleansing and refreshing the palate, as an overly sweet drink may have fought with the syrupy walnuts.

All the cheeses were delicious, but my personal preference by far was the Monte Enebro, especially with the walnut and a drizzle of syrup. Pictured:

Taking a bite of Monte Enebro, walnut, and fig... it defies description!

The cheese counter is so varied I could theoretically make a different plate like this one every week and never get bored, not to mention sweet or savory accompaniments to chose from. What a lovely thing it is-- and no cooking involved!

To summarize, here are the ingredients I used today:

Vento D'estate
Monte Enebro

Cheese Companions:
Red Seedless Grapes
Medjool Dates
Noyan Young Walnut Preserve
Almondina biscuits

Inniskillin Late Autumn Riesling
(from LCBO)

Jul 3, 2008

Boutique de Fromage Extraordinaire!

Last night, equipped with a spatula and some really good Cheese, I conquered Dinner. The Croque Monsieur: a grilled-cheese sandwich from heaven-- well, France, to be precise.

It's a perfect vehicle for the enjoyment of large amounts of cheese, in this case Cheese Boutique's wonderful Cave-aged Gruyère of Switzerland, and grated Swiss Emmanthal to melt on top.

Further Shopping:

From the meat counter, a paper-wrapped package of Jambon de Paris, described as "Parisian style". Best ham ever.

To add some aromatic zing, a jar of "Roland" Tarragon Dijon Mustard. Not that this was an easy decision-- the selection of mustards and mayos and other condiments lining the shelves is quite thought-provoking.

Bread was an easy choice-- throw in a nice crusty loaf of French, and it's time to get cooking!

To do this in proper style, we need to whip up a Béchamel sauce...

Roux the day

I flavoured the scalded cream with a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg and some bay leaf.
As that was cooling off, I melted a couple of tablespoons of butter in the pan, then added less than half the amount of flour. It gets to froth and do its thing for a few minutes before I slowly whisk in the cream-- somewhat less than a cup, as it should be on the thick side so it will stay in place on the bread.

To make the Croques:

Spread some butter or margarine on the frying sides of thick sliced bread. The filling goes as follows: the Tarragon Dijon, then the Ham, then the Gruyere.

Place the Monsieurs in a hot pan and browned them on both sides. The thick, nutmeg-scented sauce gets spooned on top and blanketed with lots of the grated Emmanthal.

After a short time under a hot broiler they are ready to eat-- Voila!

Simply Oozing Cheesy Goodness

And there you have it: Croque Monsieur, a.k.a "Mister Crispy", done Cheese B style. I served it with an Heirloom tomato salad and Drew's All Natural Raspberry Vinaigrette. I imagine a soup (tomato?) would work equally well depending on what kind of "comfort" factor you want.

The following Ingredients starred in this weeks Production:

French Bread
Cave-aged Gruyère of Switzerland
Swiss Emmanthal
Jambon de Paris
"Roland" Tarragon Dijon Mustard
Another slice of French Bread

Half and Half cream
Bay leaf

Heirloom Tomatoes
Romaine Lettuce
Purple Onion
Drew's All Natural Raspberry Vinaigrette

Thanks for reading and Happy Croque-ing!