Reprinted from the December issue of Ink Magazine
I always seem to talk about the same things at the Holidays, but isn’t that the way it is? The Holidays are about tradition and it’s the same memories you look forward to every year. I never get tired of Christmas cookies or eggnog and I must see White Christmas at least once and some version of Scrooge. So, with this being said, let’s review cheese for the Holidays.
I’ve heard, “Oh, Fondue is on its way back” for so long that I’m not sure when it supposedly left. Well, it never left in my case. That bubbling pot of melted cheese in wine makes me hungry just thinking about it. It’s such a fun appetizer or meal to have with family and friends that it never goes out of fashion.
If you are thinking of having fondue be sure to prepare in advance. In addition to purchasing the correct cheese and wine ingredients make sure your fondue pot and burner are in good working order. Don’t forget the fuel and be sure it’s the right fuel for your burner. I prefer the traditional Swiss Fondue recipe which calls for Emmenthal and Gruyere mixed with white wine. The rest of the ingredients can be found on our website if you need them.
Don’t forget that Fondue was peasant food back in the day. It was a way to put to good use dried up cheese, stale bread, and old wine that was left opened too long. Who knew?
These fully cooked little delights are great for making appetizers and desserts for the Holidays as well as all year long. They have become quite a necessity for our boater friends who don’t wish to get too involved in cooking at sea. It’s this plain phyllo shell that enables you to be creative. They require no cooking or heating. All you need to do is fill them with your choice of treat.
If you don’t wish to be creative, they offer ready-made appetizers such as Spanakopita, Baked Brie & Raspberry tarts, or mushroom tarts.
Many of our customers will fill them with a little cream cheese and smoked Salmon, then top with capers or a little mustard for a great appetizer. You can mix watermelon and Feta cheese for a second example. You can use them for little bite size cheese cakes. And of course, fill them with your cheese of choice and add any topping you would eat with cheese,
Not too many of us are still melting cheese near the fire place but that’s how it all began. The meal was often reserved for a cold snowy night where one could sit by the fire, melt some Raclette cheese and then serve it with potatoes and pickles. Fortunately, today there is a nice selection of Raclette cookers just for this task.
I like the new use of these cookers which enables you to grill shrimp, chicken, sausage, steak, vegetables, etc. on top of the included grill. Although this may not be totally traditional it still makes for a great meal. It’s like having Raclette and beef fondue at the same time without the oily mess. Because of this new device you can often find us grilling shrimp and more on our deck during a warm summer day, not just a cold winter night.
We also experiment with other cheeses such as Swiss Gruyere, French Comte, various Dutch Goudas, and Italian Cruculo. It’s nice to mix it up a little and vary the taste.
The popularity seems to be growing based on the number of raclette cookers we sell. We prefer the Swissmar Brand which offers a large selection of both Raclette and Fondue equipment. For Fondue they offer both electric and traditional fuel type burners. I’ve been using Swissmar for years and I found their products to be very reliable.
Baked Brie and Camembert
More popular than ever, baked Brie and Camembert always add to the festivities. Remember, when buying your cheese Brie and Camembert are basically the same cheese that share the same recipe so you don’t need to choose one over the other. It’s more important to know what condition the cheese is in or in other words, how ripe it is. For holiday flavor be sure to add your favorite cheese toppings such as Acacia honey, fruits, nuts, herbs, spices and various preserves and chutneys.
Gift boxes and Baskets
An array of cheese and other goodies will be much appreciated for the Holidays when friends and relatives get together. They make the perfect gift.
They are still the perfect appetizer, they can be made in advance, they don’t require cooking or re-heating, they can stay out all evening, and they are pretty much enjoyed by all.
Please do yourself a favor, shop early for your selection of cheese. There is no reason to buy the day before. You can avoid the lines, and enjoy the holiday.
Paul Partica, The Cheese Shop of Centerbrook www.cheeseshopcenterbrook.com