Marinated Manchego: A Different Kind of Party Trick
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.
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!
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.
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.