At Monogramme, we own a beautiful cheese platter. Made from the top of a barrel that once aged Cabernet, it's quite dramatic and useful when serving a cheese course to many guests. Given our locavore tendencies, we prefer to stock it with locally produced cheeses. In the midwest, we've got such great aged cheddars, Wisconsin parmesans like Stravecchio, and a variety of goat cheeses ranging from fresh logs to aged boules with at least one Camembert-style one thrown into the mix. Up until recently, however, I've been stymied on blue cheeses. Yes, there's Maytag; but I'm just not a big fan - the samples that I've tried recently just haven't the depth of flavor that I prefer in my cheeses. My dilemma was recently solved when our friend, Tracy Kellner began stocking a lovely gorgonzola-style blue called Mindoro at Provenance Food & Wine.
Mindoro is made by Swiss Valley Farms, a cooperative of dairy farmers, in Mindoro, Wisconsin, which is located in the southwestern part of the state. According to their website, Swiss Valley specializes in blue-veined cheeses and the Mindoro plant manager is a certified Wisconsin master cheesemaker.
The Mindoro gorgonzola is a semi-soft cow's milk cheese with bluish-green veins. The taste on the tongue is creamy with crystalline bites. It's full flavored, but not overpowering, spicy at the back of the throat with just the right touch of saltiness. It's great for cooking, but stands well alone or with a few toasted pecans. The Mindoro has been a very popular cheese at our events. And if I these weren't enough reasons to like this cheese, there's always the price: about $12.00 a pound.
Using a little of what I left over from our last event, I made a compound butter to top a Cedar Valley ribeye.
Blue Cheese Butter
1 tablespoon blue cheese at room temperature
1 teaspoon butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon Madeira or Port
Mix together all ingredients and put a dab of it onto a just cooked steak.
The last of the few ounces, three to be exact, went into a souffle, an outstanding way to finish of almost any cheese.
Blue Cheese Souffle
Adapted from Ina Garten's recipe in Barefoot in Paris
Serves 3-4 depending on appetite and size
4 tablespoons unsalted butter plus 1 tablespoon for the dish
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese plus more for dusting
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk, heated to 110 degrees on the stove or in a microwave
pinch nutmeg, cayenne
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
5 large eggs, separated
3 ounces blue cheese, chopped
pinch of cream of tartar
METHODS: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 4-quart souffle dish with 1 tablespoon butter and dust with 1 tablespoons parmesan cheese. In a medium saucepan, heat the remaining butter over medium heat until the foam subsides. Add flour and cook for 2 minutes stirring. Whisk in hot milk until smooth and cook stirring for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and add 4 egg yolks* one by one. Add salt, spices, remaining parmesan and blue cheeses and stir until relatively smooth (there will likely still be small chunks of blue cheese). Cool slightly while beating the egg whites. Put the whites in the bowl of a stand mixer, a beat on low speed until frothy, approximately one minute. Add cream of tartar and increase the speed to high and let it go until the whites hold a stiff peak when the beater is lifted. Incorporate a 1/3 of the egg whites into the sauce base by folding very gently. Add the remaining egg whites, combining quickly and softly. Scrape the batter into the prepared dish. Place in the center of the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 375. Bake for approximately 45 minutes.
*SECOND USE: The remaining egg yolk can be frozen. Depending upon how you plan to use it, break it up with a 1/4 teaspoon sugar or salt to prevent it from getting gummy.