I hope everyone is enjoying a restful weekend. Mine so far has been quite low key, which after a typically hectic week I especially appreciated. This afternoon my boyfriend and I decided to embrace what might be one of our last semi-warm days of the fall by having a picnic. We visited our favorite gourmet store, Formaggio Kitchen, and ended up with an assortment of picnic-perfect goodies. Central to our picnic was of course – cheese. Our selections included a new favorite we sampled in the store and two that I remembered from the cheese certificate course I took during the Spring. Cheese #1 (top right corner) was Bleu D’achel. Lightly golden color and veined with blue it is impeccably creamy with a nice earthy flavor. The cheese has a slight spiciness and bite to it, but less so than other blue cheeses we have tried. Previously the Bleuchatel from Switzerland was our favorite blue, but this one has easily overtaken it. Cheese #2 (bottom) was Crottino al Tartufo, a cow and goat milk cheese from Piedmont, Italy. It’s a semi-soft crumbly cheese that has small pieces of black truffles distributed throughout the cheese. The result is a deliciously earthy cheese perfectly balances truffle flavor with that of creamy milk. Last, but not least, cheese #3 (top left corner) was a creamy Bucheron, a goat milk cheese with a milky white center and a stronger, riper layer right until the rind. It’s mild and pleasant with the expected slight tang of goat’s milk. We ate the cheeses with some fennel-y salami, a nice pate, apple slices, and my new favorite, Effie’s Homemade Crispy Corncakes. They were sampling these at the store and they were so good we couldn’t pass up a bag. They are crisp corn tea biscuits inspired by regional American recipes like cornmeal flatbreads, corn pones, and johnnycakes. They are deliciously buttery with a subtle sweetness and a delicious toasted corn flavor. Best of all, they are made locally in Hyde Park, MA. I only wish I had the recipe because they were awesome and I would love to recreate them at home.
If that’s not enough cheesy goodness for you I also recommend you check out my recipe for Cuban-Inspired Mac and Cheese. It’s a playful take on one of my favorite sandwiches and absolutely irresistible. The inclusion of pickles may seem bizarre, but the acid and salt perfectly complements the cheese. I include my favorite recipe for Cuban-inspired pork to make this extra flavorful, but you could easily use leftover pork or buy roast pork from the supermarket prepared foods section.
-1/2 pound dry pasta, medium shells preferred
-4 tablespoons butter, cubed
-2 eggs, lightly beaten
-one 5-ounce can evaporated milk
-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
-Fresh black pepper to taste
-1/4 teaspoon dried mustard
-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 8 ounces Swiss cheese, shredded (approximately 2 cups)
-10 ounces black forest ham, cubed (Preferably, ask for single piece that weighs 10 ounces at your deli counter – it makes for more substantial cubes of ham than thin slices.)
-1 cup pickles, drained of excess liquid and diced
-10 ounces thinly sliced heated roast pork, store bought or homemade (recipe follows)
In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente and drain. Return to the pot and melt in the butter. Toss to coat.
Whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, pepper, mustard, and cayenne. Stir into the pasta and add the cheese. Over low heat continue to stir for 3 minutes or until creamy. Fold in pickles and ham.
Serve topped with slices of roast pork.
Cuban-Style Roast Pork
Yields 2 pounds roast pork
-2-pound boneless pork shoulder roast
-10 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
-1 teaspoon kosher salt
-1 teaspoon black peppercorns
-1/2 cup orange juice, preferably freshly squeezed
-1/4 cup lime juice, preferably fresh squeezed
-1/4 cup grapefruit juice, preferably freshly squeezed
-1 medium shallot, minced
-2 teaspoons dried oregano
-1/2 cup olive oil or other mildly flavored oil
Using paring knife, make 1/2-inch-deep slits over pork about 2 inches apart.
Using a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic, salt, and peppercorns together in a paste. (Alternatively, you can use a food processor.) In a bowl, mix together the juices, onion, oregano, and olive oil. Add the garlic paste to the bowl and mix until well combined.
Add the pork, skin side up. Refrigerate for 8-10 hours turning the meat once or twice. Bring the meat to room temperature before cooking.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Transfer the pork and its marinade to a roasting pan. Roast until the meat is very tender and a meat thermometer inserted into center of pork registers 170 degrees F, about 2 ½-3 hours. Transfer pork roast to cutting board; let rest 10 minutes. Slice pork thinly and transfer to platter.