I think one of the most beautiful phrases in the English language must be "free cheese" so I was very happy when my friends at Ile de France emailed me and asked if I would like to try another of their delicious cheeses. Last time I chose their goat cheese which was excellent--smooth and tangy, (you can see what I did with it here). This time I went for another favorite, Camembert.
When my cheese arrived I had to immediately open the box and try some and I was happy to find it very creamy with that light earthiness and slightly nutty flavor that a good Camembert has. Looking for a way to showcase it, I checked my copy of "Real Fast Food" to see what ideas Nigel Slater had and found his recipe for Deep-Fried Camembert. OK, yes I know--even on top of salad, not the healthiest dish in the world, but how could I resist it?
Deep Fried Camembert
Adapted from Real Fast Food, Nigel Slater
1 box of Camembert cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
peanut oil for deep frying
Cut the cheese into slices or wedges 1/2-3/4 inch thick. Dip each slice in the beaten egg, then into the bread crumbs. Heat the oil in a large deep pan or in a deep fryer, slide in the breaded cheese slices , and fry till lightly browned, crisp and golden (about 2-3 minutes), with the molten cheese bulging at the seams. Remove from the oil and eat immediately, with salad leaves and a handful of green olives. Reckon on about 3 triangles per person, that is 2 portions to the box.
Notes/Results: Nigel Slater is the devil, nothing so bad should be that good! I think I may be fighting urges to deep fry cheese from now on. I love to bread and saute goat cheese rounds for salad and think they are delicious, but they pale in comparison to deep-fried chunks of creamy Camembert, crisp on the outside and perfectly "oozy" within. I put them on a bed of baby arugula with some local baby tomatoes and the creamy cheese, combined with the peppery arugula and the sweet tomatoes was amazing. For future, (and yes, I will make this again), and prettier wedges, I will grind my bread crumbs a bit finer so they cover and stick to the cheese better. Delicious!
Since I still had some cheese left, I wanted to find another recipe and had soup on the brain so I googled "Camembert soup" and found several different recipes. Most were fairly heavy, like one with cream and chucks of cheese melted into it and another with bacon and grated cheese. I decided to do a simple, lighter soup, relying on the puree of cauliflower to make it creamy and adding just a touch of milk, then putting chunks of the Camembert in it to melt.
Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Camembert "Croutons"
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 4 servings)
1 Tbsp oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
leaves from 4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 medium head of cauliflower, chopped into small florets
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup milk (I used the low-fat milk I had on hand)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Camembert chunks and sprigs of fresh thyme to garnish
In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil and cook onion over medium heat until it softens, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and thyme and cook another 3 minutes. Add cauliflower florets and stock and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer about 20 minutes or until cauliflower is very tender. Let cool and puree in a blender or use an immersion blender to puree soup until it is very smooth. Add milk, taste and season with salt and pepper. If soup is cooled, reheat until hot. Ladle soup into shallow bowls and add several Camembert chunks and sprigs of fresh thyme. Serve immediately with thick, crusty bread to dip in the soup and melting cheese.
Notes/Results: Really good. The mild, creamy soup is the perfect compliment to the melting, nutty and earthy Camembert. I felt that the soup was creamy enough with a touch of non-fat milk but if you want a richer soup, you could use heavy cream instead. I used some homemade chicken stock which added a lot of flavor, so if using a store bought stock you may want to add additional herbs and spices. I served the soup with thick pieces of Tyler Florence's "Torn Baguette" baked with butter, garlic and parsley, (that recipe will be posted Friday as part of my TFF post). Scooping up the melting chunks of cheese on the bread was heavenly and it made for a nice dinner on a gray, drizzly night.
Mahalo to Ile de France for sending me another great cheese. BTW--Feeling creative? Check out the Ile de France website where they are having a contest for the best original French cheese plate. First prize is $500.00. (Enough to buy plenty cheese!) ;-)