Getting Our Cheese Recipes On
If, unlike me, you've been keeping up to date with this blog, you have noticed that I've been away for a while. Sorry guys. This is because writing my cheese book kicked me in the booty. While I'm sure there's still a little gentle kicking action in my future, the big part is done. I think. I've heard? I'm afraid to ask my editor? At least, I interviewed or visited 40 or so cheesemakers, wrote their cheese up, created 16 recipes, tested them, and turned the first draft in just in the nick of time. I'm seeing a very, very fuzzy light at the end of the tunnel. I've even seen a low resolution draft of my cover (also fuzzy).
When I asked readers and my twitter followers a few months back what they wanted to hear more about on my blog, many of them said that they wanted to hear about the process of writing this book. Well, here I am. Waiting to get my first draft back. Almost hoping that I don't get it back for a month or more because seeing the edits is scary, but knowing that getting it back in two or three weeks means that someday indeed it will be published, and that this is a good thing.
Part of the process of writing the book was recipe testing. The main part of the book is writing- cultural, historical cheesy background about cheese types and specific cheeses, but there are also 16 original recipes, created for a particular cheese or cheese style.
So I thought I'd go into how I created these recipes as part of exploring the book writing process, and include pictures of a testing-tasting party that I threw to get recipe feedback. All photographs were taken by my good photographer friend Molly De Coudreaux, who I would highly recommend for any of your photo endeavors. She takes amazing photos, plus she's just a cool girl to have around. The photos are of recipes that will be included in my book when it's published in November 2012. We'll see if I can pre-publish any recipes here, but I'm not sure how that works in the biz with rights and all that.
First things first: People often ask how I come up with recipe ideas. Here goes:
1. I get inspired. I let inspiration strike anywhere. I eat a lot, at a lot of different places. I think seasonally. I go to farmer's markets. I read cookbooks, magazines, and look at menus. I think about how flavors and ingredients I taste might work with specific cheeses. Again, I let inspiration strike anywhere- if I had a delicious dessert custard that especially touched me, I won't rule it out as inspiration for a cheese recipe just because cheese doesn't often get put in sweet custard.
2. I think about what a specific cheese needs and let it speak for itself. I hold therapy sessions with the cheese. "What do you want?" I ask it. "What would make you happy?" "Do you feel like having a partner would make you more complete, or do you want to go out and experiment and discover things on your own?" I make no assumptions. After tasting and talking to the cheese, I determine whether the cheese would rather be paired to matching flavors or contrasting flavors. This can be apparent right off the bat- if a cheese tastes dead-on like chantrelle mushrooms, there's a fair chance that I'll make a recipe that includes chantrelles. Of course, it can be fun to go the opposite direction too.
3. I ask how I can highlight the ingredient- the cheese- or include the cheese in a fun recipe that introduces the cheese in a new way. One of my favorite people that introduces cheese to people in new ways is Chef Fromager Tia Keenan- girl made white chocolate bacon ganache to pair with Winnimere for pete's sake. That's awesome. So I'll keep some recipes classic, and then get a little fun and crazy with others.
The main point though, is always creating a recipe that lets the cheese shine. Once I think I've done that, I test the recipes. Sometimes they come off without a hitch. Sometimes I have to work on them, testing them anywhere from one to eleven more times. Very occasionally (thank god) they completely crash and burn.
One thing I like to do is make four or five recipes all at once and then invite friends to come over and eat the food. And critique it. If I'm asked to serve seconds, I know I'm doing okay.
How do you come up with your cheese recipes?