Cheese For Dinner

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Murray’s Cheese is often celebrated as the best cheese shop in New York. Frequently I walk past it and wonder, “If I go in there, what will I buy? And how can I make a meal out of that?” I’m very meal-oriented when I food shop: I usually ignore long-term ingredients like high-end oils and designer vinegars in favor of short-term ingredients like vegetables and meats that I can put to use right away. And with cheese, there are very few short-term things you can do with it, in terms of making a meal, that I find satisfying. 1: you can make mac and cheese; 2. you can…? See my point? So the only reason to buy cheese is if you want to keep cheese around long-term to snack on. But I don’t shop for long-term snacking, I shop for meals. Which is why, the other night, walking past Murray’s, I had a provocative thought: what if I served cheese for dinner?

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Let’s Make Raclette

[The Amateur Gourmet is on vacation and, while he’s gone, he’s asked his friends to cover for him. You remember Adam’s friend John Kaslauskas as the friend he went to Paris with three years ago. John had such a fantastic time that now he’s living in Europe for three months, where he’s eating, marathon training and writing screenplays. Right now he’s in Geneva, staying with his brother, sister-in-law and nephew. In this post, John’s Nephew, Nico, teaches him all about raclette–a traditional Swiss dish.]

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When Adam asked me to do a guest blog about some of my food adventures in Europe, I immediately jumped at the chance. As if I needed a reason to go to an amazing Swiss restaurant or spend a weekend at a vineyard sampling local wines. I didn’t. Hearing me talk about possible food adventures, my 7-year old nephew Nicolas perked up and said, “If you want to eat some really good food, I can make you something!” I asked him what he’d make and he shrugged: “I could make Blue Cheese mashed potatoes. They’re really good.” I told him that I needed to eat something a little more…well, Swiss. Unfazed, he said, “I’ve lived in Geneva for almost my whole life. I can make you something Swiss, if you want. Maybe Raclette?” I asked what raclette was and he said, “Basically, it’s just cheese on potatoes. “ “So it’s sort of like fondue?” I asked. “It’s a bit better than fondue,” Nico explained, “I think fondue tastes like wine. I’ll make you a really good raclette, Uncle John. You’ll like it,” he promises. Raclette it is.

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Burrata

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Bar Pitti in the West Village is a reasonably-priced restaurant; you can get pastas there for close to $10 that rival some of the better pastas in the city (I especially admire their eponymous pasta, one that involves sausage, tomatoes and cream.) However, two weeks ago, I found an item on their menu to be a bit overpriced: burrata for $19.

Craig really wanted it. “Ooooh,” he said. “Should we splurge?”

“No!” I yelped, or exclaimed, I don’t tend to yelp. “I can get burrata at Union Market in Park Slope for $9.”

Emotional Intelligence is a measure of how long you can delay gratification. Craig showed great emotional intelligence that night and, sure enough, as his reward I bought him burrata from Union Market last week. I also bought a container of cherry tomatoes, basil and a shallot and concocted the dish you see above; (slice the tomatoes in half, thinly slice the shallot, julienne the basil and toss it all together with olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.)

What is burrata? Burrata, according to Wikipedia, is: “a fresh Italian cheese, made from mozzarella and cream. The outer shell is solid mozzarella while the inside contains both mozzarella and cream, giving it a unique soft texture.”

Yes: indeed, when you cut into burrata it’s like whipped cream inside a marshmallow. Add those acidic tomatoes, splashes from that vinegar to cut the creaminess, and you have a superior summer dish.

“Mmmmmmm,” sang Craig, something he really does (I know I have Craig “mmmmmm” too much on my blog.)

“See, aren’t you glad you waited?”

But he didn’t answer. He was in burrata heaven.

Abbaye de Citeaux, The Soon-To-Be-Forbidden Cheese

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I was wary of getting an iPhone because I didn’t want to be so reachable. With just a plain, ordinary cellphone I get enough calls; with an iPhone I’d also get buzzed every time I got an e-mail. And with all the PR e-mails I get to my Amateur Gourmet e-mail address that’s a lot of buzzing.

But get an iPhone I did and though the frequent PR buzzing in my pocket is distracting, every now and then an e-mail comes through that I’m glad I got right away. Case in point: last Friday, I got an e-mail from Murray’s Cheese that said the following…

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The Winning Casserole: Cheese Love

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As I hoped, your prodding inspired the Casserole Contest winners, Zack and Graham (pictured above with Emily) to share their recipe. Zack implores: “I can’t over-emphasize the importance of the Bobolink cheddar in this recipe. It is generally only available directly from the farmer/cheesemaker and I know that it is expensive when compared to industrial cheeses, but I have tried making this without the Bobolink and it doesn’t come close in flavor, aroma or texture. Bobolink sells their cheeses at the Union Square Greenmarket on Fridays (check cowsoutside.com for other market locations).”

Just to restate my enthusiasm for this casserole, I tasted almost 20 casseroles that night and this one was not only far and away the best, it made a casserole convert out of me. I plan to try this recipe immediately. Click ahead to unlock the mystery of “Cheese Love”….

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AGTV: All About Cheese

This third installment of AGTV is a day late: I wanted to have it up last night, but there was so much footage (about an hour of cheesetalk) that it took me an extra day to whittle it down to what you see here. A huge thanks to Nathan, all the people at Murray’s cheese, and Craig for operating the camera. Hope this makes you hungry!

Previous Episodes of AGTV:

Shop Like A Parisian

Latte Art

Lobster Roll Your Own

Eggs Benedict Arnold