I'm just going to come right out and say it: I've made a deal with the devil. Sue me, scoff, wag your finger... what's done is done.
I am a cheese whore.
Look, I've been threatening to put up ads here for close to a year and haven't yet done it. I just can't take the plunge. I will eventually, and maybe soon, because every food blogger and her chihuahua's puppies have ads on their sites. Me? I keep taking pictures, and creating recipes, and putting up content with no financial reward because I like you, I really like you, at least today.
Yet I accepted sample cheese. My kingdom for a triple creme.
I'm feeling a little dirty about it, too, but let's be very clear: if this cheese tasted like a foul washrag, I'd tell you. And if it smelled like toe fungus, you'd know that, too. The temptress over at Ile de France Cheese may rue the day she wooed me, because I'm going to tell you what's what for as long as they keep me in moldy dairy.
Sorry to disappoint you, but this first sample -- of Saint André -- was mild, creamy, and buttery. If you want official cheese notes, you can find them here; while free cheese will get them a mention on this blog, it won't merit an entire disquisition. For that they'll need to send me diamonds.
Keep in mind that the longer this cheese sat at room temperature, the creamier, rounder, and more flavorful it became. Soft ripened cheeses like this one should never be served ice cold. Never, never, never. Store it in the fridge, but give it a good hour to mellow on the counter before eating.
And because I am who I am and I do what I do, I developed a thick, tangy apricot paste as a colorful counterpoint to this friendly fromage.
Ile de France, if you want this recipe, you'll have to pay for it: cash, check, or sparkly jewels.
The rest of you can have it for free.
Recipe for Lightly Spiced Apricot Paste, for Saint André
I absolutely love the way this turned out, though it was admittedly different from what I'd set out to create. I'd been envisioning something fiery, with a noticeable kick, yet this paste has only the barest hint of spice. Ultimately it was serendipitous, as too much zing would have overwhelmed the delicate nature of the cheese.
4 ounces dried apricots (select the moistest ones you can find)
1/2 cup water
1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
One 2" piece fresh ginger, peeled, cut into fourths
3 allspice berries
3 whole cloves
3 black peppercorns
2 green cardamom pods, lightly smashed with a rolling pin or mallet
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat slightly and cook for about 10 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed (but before the apricots are completely dry). Remove from heat.
Scrape into a shallow bowl and cool to room temperature, about 10 minutes. Use a small spoon to dig out the papery cardamom pods and allspice berries. (I left in the black peppercorns, but you're welcome to remove those, too, if you're concerned about biting down on them.)
Transfer to a mini food-processor and puree, scraping down the sides and clearing the blade as needed to get a fairly smooth paste. Some of the spices and bits of ginger will still be visible, and that's fine.
Serve with Saint André cheese and, if you can find them, Lesley Stowe's Raincoast Crisps.