Saturday, May 31, 2008

"C" is for Cabrales

I stopped at Whole Foods to pick up a few items and as usual, there were samples everywhere, ranging from barbecued brisket to olive oil to chocolate to (sigh...) cheese. And not just any cheese - there were creamy bits of brie, salty cubes of peccorino romano, tangy logs of chevre, freshly made mozzarella and (almost as if they had known I would show up) Cabrales blue - the holy grail of blue cheeses. Sadly, I noticed that unlike the other cheese samples, the Cabrales had barely been touched. Now, granted, it's not the prettiest cheese in the case, and maybe it is a bit pungent...But gosh darn it, you can't judge a book by its cover! It's worth a taste!

Why should I eat this moldy looking cheese, Java Junkie? I want to know why you want me, the unenlightened cheeseless wonder, to eat this particular cheese. It smells, it's expensive and as you pointed out, it is pretty darned short on looks. I'm scared. Convince me.

Well alrighty then - for those of you not familiar with this glorious cheese, Cabrales is Spain's famous blue. It's slowly aged in the caves near the Cantabrian Sea under cold, very humid conditions. Produced only in the village of Cabrales and two other hamlets of the Pe├▒amellera Alta Township on the northern spur of the rugged Picos de Europa in eastern Asturias, its texture is buttery and creamy rather than crumbly. The flavor of Cabrales is seriously assertive; it is salty and tangy and earthy and musty...it's a beautifully rustic blue...

Yes, yes, I get it - you like Cabrales...But with what should I eat it, Java dearest? How the heck will I get my family to try it?

Good question, Cheeseless! In my humble opinion, Cabrales is very versatile -it pairs well with both sweet and savory foods. It's wonderful drizzled with honey and spread on crisp slices of pear or apple; it's a great addition to sauces and compound butters. It's lovely on steak and lamb, and it's bloody brilliant by itself (with a little Amontiallado sherry for sipping). One of my favorite recipes uses Cabrales in a warm fig salad with crisped serrano ham and walnut vinaigrette. But please, don't just take my word on this - do your homework and try it for yourself. At the very least, find a store that sells it and ask for a taste. Just a little nibble. Then buy a smallish hunk to take home. Tell the kids that they are not, under any circumstances, to eat any - not even a taste. Tell them you're going to hide it from them (naturally, they will find it and eat it all). Never, ever let on that you tricked them into trying something new.

If you let your culinary wild thing run crazy and free, I think you just might find Blue Cheese stuffed Medjool dates or Grilled Tomatoes with Cabrales and Pine Nuts rolling out of your kitchen faster than you can say "Velveeta". And really, is that such a bad thing?

2 comments:

eggplant said...

Ah, cabrales! Your post warmed the cockles of my fromage-loving heart. I agree that it pairs well with both sweet and savory. One of my favorite preparations: endive stuffed with cabrales, then wrapped with Serrano ham and grilled. A sweeter pairing: strawberries, mint, cabrales, and peppered cashews.

The Big Shamu said...

Get on with your bad cheese-lovin' self.