Monday, July 15, 2013

Castello Moments and I Throw A CheeseFest!

Disclosure notice: I was provided with free product by Castello cheese for the purpose of writing this post.  All opinions stated within are my own.

    I've got to get one thing straight here and that is I Iove Cheese. I do mean love. I also happen to live in one of the cheese centers (mmmmm cheese centers) of the USA, Sonoma California. You can't throw a rock around here without hitting something/someone that makes cheese, not that I'm in the habit of chucking rocks at cheesemongers, but I don't really use cheese in my cooking all that much as Indian food is not exactly known for their cheese heavy dishes (props to paneer aside). So when I was given the opportunity to get my pie hooks on some real deal European cheese from Castello, I jumped at the chance. "Yes," I said, "Yes!! Send cheese please, yes!"

   And so they did. Before I knew it, I was the proud recipient of the Castello Alps Selection. Oooooooh Triplets! A selection of cheeses known as HirtenWeissbeir and Classic.

I quickly did some research as to what foods would go with what cheese.

I smoked wild Pacific Salmon over alder wood, pork tenderloin on apple wood, and chicken on maple wood. I  made a cranberry chutney, pear chutney and a sour cream sauce for the salmon. I caramelized fennel for a salad (Hirten cheese goes great with fennel) made coleslaw, opened jars of homemade spiced and pickled cherries, brought out the pickled carrots and bought breads from Sonomas' famous Mike the Bejkr.

Since Hirten Cheese goes great with figs and walnuts, I baked a Gluten Free Fig and Walnut Tart.. be served with homemade Hirten Cheese Ice Cream. For those who didn't want tart, I made a Stout Caramel to go with the Hirten Cheese Ice Cream I'd made.

As to the beverages I called up my friends at Mutineer Magazine who came to my rescue bearing beers and ales...

...wines and stout, and a big bottle of Kirschwasser for dessert.

I also made my first ever Mac n' Cheese (yes, that's one basic food that I've never ever prepared.) Before CheeseFest I hate to tell you that my sole mac 'n' cheese experience had been the  88 cent boxes of Kraft I'd been fed as a kid. I soon discovered, there is a huuuuuge difference.

Once the menu was in place we invited about 18 people over to what I dubbed "CheeseFest!"

   The cheeses were amazing. The Weissbeir which is soft and smooth and a bit hoppy, has its rind  brushed with Weissbeir (German wheat beer) 3 times a week during its 12 week ripening period, something that's bound to improve the disposition of almost anything. The Classic made with raw milk, is smooth and smokey. These two cheese were the ones I decided to  combine in my first ever Mac n' Cheese since they were both excellent cooking cheeses melting easily right on cue. I figured if I was going to try something new, I may as well start with the best ingredients. But what did I know about making mac 'n' cheese? Nothing. So, I went to the heart of Mac 'n' Cheeseland, the American South.

   I read through a lot of traditional and some not so traditional mac 'n' cheese recipes. Some had dry mustard, bacon and bread crumbs. Some called for eggs and panko. But with such exquisite cheese I wanted to keep the ingredients as clean and simple as possible. I didn't want to mix the complex flavors of the cheese with anything else. This was the good stuff, the real cheese deal,  Alpine gold. No way  I was messing around with that. Finally, I stumbled across a very basic recipe from an old copy of Southern Living Magazine. A recipe that cast the spotlight where it belongs, on the cheese.

   As to the Mac, well I'm Italian and I just couldn't do the regular old elbow macaroni. Putting elbow macaroni with that cheese would be like wearing Chucks with a  Marchesa ball gown. I selected  a dry Tortigiloni pasta.

With everything set up, I was good to go. The rest was simple. The secret of making a good mac and cheese is making a simple roux and adding to it the very very best cheese you can get your hands on, which was where I had my Castello Moment. The rest is cheese history.

Castello Moments Mac and Cheese

Here's What You Need:

(This recipe serves 8 )

1/2 of a 16 oz box of pasta
2 cups of milk
2 Tbs of unsalted butter
2 Tbs of flour
1/2 tsp of salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
5 oz of grated Castello Weissbeir Cheese
5 oz of grated Castello Classic Cheese
1 healthy pinch of aleppo pepper (optional)

Here's What To Do: 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Lightly grease the inside of a  2 quart baking dish and set it aside.
Slice the cheese.

Grate it.

Put a large pot of water on to boil, add a dash of salt.
Heat 2 cups of milk in the microwave on high for about 1 and 1/2 minutes.
Melt  the butter in a large skillet.
When it's melted whisk in the flour.

Whisk, whisk, whisk.
When it's all whisked together slowly, a bit at a time, add in the heated milk.

Keep whisking all the while. Don't stop as you don't want lumpy roux.
Whisk the roux until it thickens.
Meanwhile put the pasta into the boiling water.

Cook the pasta for 7 minutes. It should still be al dente as it's going to be cooked further in the oven.
Drain the pasta and set it aside for a moment.
Stir the cheese into the thickened roux along with the salt and pepper.

Mix it together well until it;s nice and smooth then add in the pasta.

Stir everything together.
Put the cheese and pasta mixture into the greased baking dish.

Pop it into the oven to bake for about 20 minutes . It should be hot and bubbly when done.

   Now, here's where it gets tricky. I really wanted to show you a picture of the finished mac and cheese, but before I could get Alan and his camera...

It was all gone. Yeah, that's him (my photographer) with a plate of Mac and cheese in his hand. You'd think he'd have gotten a picture of it, but noooooo....he ate it! The nerve.  Our friend from Bristol Virgina was obviously happy to get one of his hometown favorites.

He was the first guy to the mac and cheese pot.
So that we'd have a picture, I made another batch a couple of days later and we had it for lunch. I did manage to get one picture of that.

Yes, I know it's a tough job but somebody's got to eat it. Once you've made mac and cheese with the good stuff you'll never go back.

   I want to thank the nice people at Castello Cheese for allowing me to toss this CheeseFest. Their cheeses are truly amazing and this is from someone in the heart of dairy country! But cheese is not all mac can also be a dessert. Coming up next, Hirten Cheese Ice Cream with a Stout Caramel Sauce. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Win a Private Cheese Tasting in your own home - enter by clicking on the banner below. Castello Moments and this post is a collaboration between the blogger and Arla Foods USA. 

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