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Marinated Manchego: A Different Kind of Party Trick

MarinatedManchego2 (1 of 1) This is how it goes: There's a party or social occasion to which I am invited. Food is involved. Because the party is thrown by my friends or family, beer or wine is also involved. People at party ask people to bring a dish to share. Kirstin goes to the party. Kirstin brings ______.

When invited to any occasion involving food (or even just alcohol, because what pairs swimingly with booze..?), I always bring cheese. And maybe something to slather on it, but mainly just a fermented milk star or three. I make sure that the selections I bring are glorious specimens of the dairy world (not hard in this well-rounded cheese age), but sometimes, I feel I should do more. Like me going to a party and unwrapping beautiful wedges of cheese and putting them on a platter for people to revel in their perfect simplicity isn't enough.

Most times I'm able to ignore that feeling. Therapy has helped. After all, I remind myself, we live in an age where we always feel like we should do more, but in reality the simple pleasures are often the most enlightening and enjoyable.

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Despite the truths I've come to own via heavy cheese soul-searching, occasionally when I'm invited to someone's house for the third time in a row, I like to mix it up. I wouldn't want them to think that I don't know how to weld a knife or that I'm a one-trick cheese pony.

So sometimes I'll slice up and marinate cheese!


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Marinated Manchego

This is my recipe for marinated manchego. It's inspired by a recipe of Spanish chef José Andres's in Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America in which he coats Idiazabal cheese with olive oil and herbs. Idiazabal is a Basque Spanish cheese. Though most Idiazabal that arrives in the U.S. is smoked, the majority in Spain hasn't been touched with wood. Because I like the idea of marinating an unsmoked cheese, I picked one of my favorite raw-milk small production manchegos. You can substitute any lovely sheep's milk cheese you'd like- just focus on finding a semi-firm, 4-8 month-old cheese. I like using one that hasn't been heavily pressed and whose paste might have a hole or two. Then the olive oil can sink into its grooves like melted butter does into a crumpet's. Also, this could be the easiest cheese recipe ever. Seriously. Six ingredients (substitute at will), five minutes to make, and an hour to marinate. Almost as easy as unwrapping cheese on a party platter if you've done that the last five times you've gone to a party. 

Serves 2-4

5.5 ounces Manchego
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary 
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground pepper

Remove the rind from the Manchego and slice the cheese into cubes. Don't worry about cutting perfect cubes- rusticity adds character. Place the cheese in a small bowl. Add the rosemary, garlic, olive oil, and a couple grinds of black pepper to the bowl and stir until the Manchego is well-coated with the oil and herbs. Let marinate for at least an hour or overnight. Serve at room temperature.