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Cooking with Cheese Thoughts from Gurth
My first book, The Definitive Guide to Canadian Artisanal and Fine Cheese (Whitecap Books 2006), fuelled readers' appetites to discover and taste our delicious Canadian cheese. With the book in hand, they could explore the world of Canadian cheese. And foodies are doing it!
A cheesemaker informed me that tourists from Ontario stopped at her retail outlet in rural Quebec to buy her cheese. She wondered how they learned of her small artisanal farmstead operation and they showed her my book. They were using it as a Canadian travel and food guide. Hallelujah! My goal of Canadians travelling more in our country, meeting cheesemakers, and learning about local culture is being realized. Experiencing more of what Canada has to offer, meeting Canadians from other provinces, and tasting the local flavours can't help but make us more aware of what a great nation this is. We live in a wonderful country and let's be proud of it! (My patriotic rant is now over.)
This book is the answer to a question I heard many times at events while promoting my first book: "Can you give more ideas and tips on how to cook with cheese?" Cheese is such a versatile ingredient. It can be used in sauces and soups, melted over other ingredients (gratins), added to stuffing, baked -- only your imagination restricts your creativity. Have fun, play, experiment, and cook more with cheese.
Canada produces a wonderful variety of cheese. A Camembert-style cheese produced in Quebec will taste different from one made in British Columbia. The influence of the local terroir, or environmental growing conditions, will give each cheesea subtly different flavour from the others. Prepare the recipes with different brands of cheese from across the country and the dish will never taste exactly the same.
Readers also asked if I matched wines to cheese in my first book. Little did they know there are over 1,700 cheese entries in The Definitive Guide to Canadian Artisanal and Fine Cheese. If I had suggested wines, the guide might still be in the process of being written. I would be tipsy and very, very, very happy. I asked Tony to complete that portion for this book. He used his great knowledge and experience of wines and other beverages to make suggestions that complement my delicious recipes.
A recipe is a guideline. It provides you with the map to reach your culinary objective. You can easily modify the recipes to your taste and to whatever ingredients you have in your kitchen. Write down the changes you make right on the recipe's page, so you can repeat the outcome when you open this book to prepare the recipe again. However, if you try to modify a baking recipe, be prepared for a different final result. Baking is a science, involving chemical reactions of the ingredients used. You can't replace baking powder with baking soda and expect the cake to rise as well. In this case, you'll have to experiment more to obtain the desired results.
The most important thing is to have fun in the kitchen-and cook more with Canadian cheese!
--Wine with Cheese Thoughts from Tony
The best cheese and wine match I ever experienced was in Alsace. In a small restaurant outside Colmar I ordered a Munster that had been baked in layers of flaky phyllo pastry. It was sliced birthday cake-style and served warm so the cheese layered throughout the pastry was almost molten. The wine was a chilled glass of Gewurztraminer. I can still remember the combination in my mind's palate -- the velvety, rank, salty cheese, the flaky, buttery pastry, and the spicy, aromatic wine of contrasting yet complementary flavour. My mouth waters as I write.
Wine and cheese. Cheese and wine. Almost like love and marriage when the partners are carefully chosen.
There is an old adage in the Bordeaux wine trade that merchants swear by: "sell on cheese and buy on apples." Try the test for yourself. Take a Granny smith apple and a slice of mature cheddar. Try them with a glass of any red wine -- starting with the apple -- and see what happens. Apples, especially Granny smiths, contain malic acid, which is sour. In fact, winemakers in cool climate regions put their wines through what is called a malolactic fermentation in the spring -- a secondary fermentation that converts the sharp malic acid into the softer, less aggressive lactic acid (the acidity you find in milk). If a wine can overcome the malic acid in an apple, it must have lots of concentrated flavour and is therefore a good, marketable wine.
On the other hand, cheese flatters wine. The fat in cheese coats the palate and smoothes out a wine's rough edges, making the tannin in red wines appear more supple and the acidity in whites seem less astringent.
But not all wines go well with all cheeses. There is a commonly held notion that red wines are best with a variety of cheeses whether they're soft, semi-soft, hard, or blue. This misconception was compounded by the fact that most hosts offer the cheese tray after the main course, during which a red wine is most often served. The cheese is meant to "mop up" the remainder of the red wine. But in my experience white wines with light or no oaking are far more compatible with most cheeses.
Charts on pages 22 and 23 set out my recommendations for the kinds of wine to match with a wide range of cheese types. For each of Chef Gurth's delicious recipes I have recommended a range of beverages -- wine, fortified wine, beer, spirits, and liqueurs-that will complement or contrast with the flavours in the dish. Some of the best matches pit a salty, savoury cheese dish against a sweet wine (think Stilton and port). But please don't feel constrained to follow any recommendations rigidly. To help you experiment, I have listed the style of wine that pairs most successfully with the dish (for example, a dry, unoaked, medium-bodied white with good acidity, or fullbodied red with a touch of sweetness). Just enjoy.