Chèvre Chaud: A tale of hot, toasted cheese & French salads
The first time I went to Paris was with my ex-husband. We weren't married yet, that happened about a year after he slipped a ring on my finger in a park that June in Paris. Then, we were still just dating and it was our first trip to Europe. Perhaps fueled by us stopping at cafes every hour or so for espresso breaks or the long twilight walks we'd spend swirling the arrondissements, we were very happy. There were also carafes of wine involved. It was a good trip. Even though we were equipped with manuals to help us order at restaurants and my three semesters of college French to guide us, we stumbled around a bit. A bit. We learned what chicken gizzards were, for example, by accidentally ordering them over handfuls of lettuce with a side of grated carrots. But our stumbles were actually blessings. Chicken gizzards cooked in duck fat, it turns out, are delicious. Ordering this also led us to understand that bistro salads in France were more about the meat or cheese served with the vegetables than the vegetables themselves. We began to order more salads.
One of our favorites was chèvre chaud. "Hot goat," we determined was pretty much perfect. Served in about 3,001 different ways by waiters who all mastered the art of flirtatious mocking, chevre chaud was essentially this: a thick (it's gotta be thick, thick, thick) slice of goat cheese warmed over a toasted crostini, served with some sort of vegetables and other goodness. The vegetables almost always included lettuce and grated carrots, and often included green beans, tomatoes, potatoes. Tossed in the salad were also commonly olives, hard boiled eggs, or bacon lardons. My favorite was with the bacon lardons. Sometimes a bistro even spread the crostini with olive tapenade before plopping the thick slices of goat cheese on it. The goat cheese was normally a Loire Valley style - Lingot de Quercy, Bucheron, or crottin.
My chèvre chaud recipe below incorporates my favorite parts of the hot goat Parisian salad. Except the bacon. I'm sorry about that, I don't know what happened, I must have had bacon for breakfast, lunch and dinner the day before and felt overwhelmed. Add bacon if you'd like. My version features a thick hunk of goat cheese over crostini, grated carrots and herbs, and asparagus, bien sur, because it's the season! It was also the recipe I created for my cheese club members to feature Redwood Hill Farm Terra, but you can use any goat cheese you'd like. The only goat involved is the cheese.
"Hot Goat Salad"
12 asparagus, trimmed
1 teaspoon dijion mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
4 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oi
l 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
2 carrots, grated
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 baguette slices, sliced lengthwise
4 ounces Terra
Prepare an ice bath. In a large sauté pan, bring 1 1/2 inches of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, gently lower in the asparagus, return to a boil, and blanche for three minutes. After three minutes, remove the asparagus from the pan and drop immediately into an ice bath- this will keep the asparagus tender and help keep their bright green color. Once chilled, remove from the ice bath and let dry on a clean towel.
Preheat your broiler or turn your oven to 450 degrees.
Add the dijion and lemon juice to a small bowl. Stir vigorously with a whisk or a fork to emulsify. Add three tablespoons of olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, tarragon, and mix again. Place the carrots in a small mixing bowl. Stir in the dijion dressing, 1/8 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil. Set aside.
Place your baguette slices on a cooking sheet and brush both sides with olive oil. Broil for 2-5 minutes, until the bread's edges start to turn golden. Remove. Slice the four ounces of Terra into equal sized peices and divide equally amoung the crostini. Return the crostini to the broiler for two more minutes until the cheese has melted.
While cheese is melting, place half of the carrot salad in a mound on a plate. Sidle the asparagus next to the carrots. Rest the Terra crostini against the carrots, repeat with the other plate, and serve.