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Dec 5, 2012

Artisanal Cheese Crostinis

Artisanal Cheese Crostinis

I really love cheese. I know that is like saying, I really love going to the beach but, it’s true. There aren’t any cheese shops in the Hudson valley. Forget “good” cheese shops, there aren’t any** (**gross exaggeration, what I mean is, there are, like, two.) Which makes me wonder…there are cheese shops, right? Where you all live? I think there have to be, and I’m not sure what’s going on here, but there is, thankfully, a cheese shop in New Paltz, The Cheese Plate. It’s a really cute little store, run by a husband and wife duo for almost a year, and they have a pretty decent spread of cheese. I was randomly in the mood for Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve, but they had never heard of it… Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve is a very popular cheese, so you would think they would have at least been aware of it, but, nope. Things like this make me nervous, but, they were still really nice and very knowledgeable.

I was asking for some new and different cheeses to make up a cheese board for girl’s night…and while they did offer some fine suggestions, there was nothing new about any of it….same old, same old, have you ever heard of Morbier? Well, how about some Taleggio… there are actually some really great local cheeses that I had never found when I was in nyc, especially the ones from Sprout Creek Farm, that are really special, but for some reason this shop didn’t carry any of that. Not that any of that matters, because I still walked away with four awesome cheeses, two old favorites, one old enemy (Stilton, which is embarrassing to admit), and one totally new cheese.

The new cheese was intriguing and tasted just like caccio pepe: Harpersfield semi-hard cheese infused with Lapsang Souchong Black Tea. It was hard and dry and begged to be paired with pasta or tomatoes. Loved it, and can’t wait to play around with it a little later. But for today….

I decided to test a couple of different ideas for some easy artisanal cheese crostinis for girl’s night tomorrow (to soak up some of that wine!). I had some Fromage d’Affinios, Stilton and Humboldt Fog chevre.

Fromage d’Affinios with Concord Thyme Jam

I have included this cheese on almost every cheese board I have ever made from the time I was introduced to it at Murray’s years ago. This cheese is like a refined brie, silkier, smoother, more delicate in flavor, with a floral aftertaste, reminiscent of lavender, which is so elegant. When I first served this to a girlfriend years ago, her literal reactions was: ‘Omigod, DUDE, I wanna f*$@k this cheese!’ which tells you in, one beautiful sentence, more than an entire treatise on Fromage d'Affinois could ever impart. This is a cheese that will make you want to f#$%k dairy. And that's saying something (I either just sold you on this cheese or seriously grossed you out, but I can handle it. The real question is, can you?) The concord grape jam was great with the cheese, but the extra sprinkle of thyme on the top of the crostinis is what really stole my heart.

Summer Stilton with raw honey and fresh cracked black pepper

I haven’t bought Stilton in a long time. It’s something I always bought to make black and blue burgers, but nothing much beyond that. But, thank god for cheese shops, because that lovely couple insisted the Stilton had to be on my cheese board, and they were right. In fact, in the shop, they served it to me on baguette with honey, which I thought was extraordinarily generous of them, and it was killer. They explained that this Stilton is particularly sweeter in flavor and is actually some of the best Stilton you can get in the year because it is made with summer cow’s milk, which is flavored by all the lovely things they get to graze on in the summer months. I tweaked this recipe a bit by crushing a generous amount of fresh black pepper over the raw honey before crumbling the stilton over it to serve. Blue cheese with honey on a crusty baguette is a very traditional European way of consuming this treat, and that spice of the black pepper adds a fun twist on the classic. (By the way, this was the crowd favorite when I served it at girl’s night, and that’s rare, considering it was blue and the d’Affinios was on the board.)


Humboldt Fog with shaved Anjou pear and balsamic glaze

I love a good goat cheese, and Humboldt Fog was a no-brainer for me because it’s fresh, tangy, smooth and has that beautiful line of vegetable ash down the middle of it which makes it so pretty for presentation. I did this with a thinly shaved Anjou pear and some balsamic glaze, which are really typical flavors that I loved. I found that shaving the pear into thin slices on the mandolin made the crostini so much easier to eat and also much prettier to plate.

Humboldt Fog with grilled persimmon and balsamic glaze

I originally wanted to do this dish with a grilled peach and some fresh thyme, but, not a single local grocery store had a stone fruit in sight. Nada. We are talking apples or berries, honeys. The Hudson Valley never fails to disappoint with their grocery store game. But who needs a plum when you’ve got more persimmon’s than you know what to do with? These guys are EVERYWHERE right now, so I figured, why not? They are a beautiful color!

And that’s about it. These particular persimmons were very ripe and unfortunately tasted like Splenda-water. I drizzled a little lime juice on the slices after I grilled them which totally transformed the taste and with the balsamic glaze, the flavor was actually really nice. I still would rather use a peach or a plum, but, the persimmon was an excellent substitution and the color was really pretty.