Valentine’s day was made for Cheesiness, so why not embrace it and go all the way?
The perfect cheeseboard is a vision of beauty and pure deliciousness. You can get away with decadence — because it’s meant for nibbling … as you sip and canoodle with your schnookums. It’s all about the balance, Romeos.
Hipcooks, in collaboration with the Cheese Bar in Portland, show you How to create the Wow:
Pick cheeses that complement each other in texture and flavor. Let your cheesemonger (we had the fantastic owner Steve of the Cheese Bar) guide you with expert knowledge. The cheeses here range from ooey-gooey to complex, to sharp and tangy:
Start with the Briar Rose Phoebe, a spruce-bark wrapped wash-rind cows milk cheese from right here in Oregon (from Dundee)…sublime gets redefined with this superlative cheese.
Springbrook Farm’s Ashbrook, a raw cow’s milk cheese, has a layer of vegetable ash in the middle. This Vermont farm brings big city schoolkids to the farm to learn about farming.
Neal’s Yard Spaekennoe Red Leicester. London-based Neils’s Yard sources the best-of-the-best from the UK. This cheese is mature (aged over 1 year) & made with raw cow’s milk.
Parmigiano Reggiano D.O.P. “The King of Cheeses! This should be on every cheese board,” says Steve.
Neal’s Yard Colston Bassette Stilton. “The best stilton in the world in my mind,” says our favorite cheesemonger.
Notice for some of the cheeses we give an “entry” point. Give a little guidance, like fracturing the red Leicester, crumbling some of the parmesan, slicing a little of the Springbrook Farm Ashbrook.
Play with color and texture. Romance is all about awakening the senses, so take full advantage of the opportunity, Casanovas! Here, we add crunchy nuts, douse the stilton in a sweet port-wine reduction, add pears & berries for a little pop and change of scenery. And just because we love you so much, we’re including recipes for homemade pate and roasted garlic so your board can have that little extra touch that says how much you care.
Sublime roasted garlic
Let no garlic go to waste! When you’re in need of comfort food, this one really does the trick! Smear on toast and enjoy with creamy roasted tomato soup (we’ve got the best recipe for one in our Soup Class)
makes 1 luscious head of roasted garlic
1 head garlic
2 tablespoons(ish) of olive oil
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
You’ll also need little toasts, crostini or the perfect baguette
Using a large kitchen knife, trim the top off the garlic, so that all the cloves are exposed. Press down on the garlic (using your hand or the flat side of your knife), to loosen the cloves a bit. Pour in a bit of olive oil, and let it absorb into the space between the cloves. Repeat a couple of times, until about a tablespoon or two of olive oil has been used.
Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and thyme, and roast the garlic. We use our trusty little toaster oven for this, set to 375°F for about 30 minutes until the garlic is soft and golden. Serve right away, sprinkled with more salt and pepper.
Chicken Liver Pâté
serves 6 -8
8 tablespoons butter
3-5 shallots (or a large red onion), sliced
1 garlic clove, sliced
1 pound chicken livers, drained
1 cup port wine, cognac or brandy
4-6 tablespoons cream
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
zest of 1 lemon
you’ll also need crostini, bread or crackers for serving
Melt one tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic and allow them to soften as you stir, about 3 -5 minutes. Add the chicken livers and continue cooking until the livers are just cooked through, about 4-5 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Next, deglaze the pan with the port and allow it to reduce almost completely.
Transfer the ingredients to a high-speed blender or food processor, and whiz away. A plop of cream, while not necessary, brings an extra level of decadence and richness, so go for it! Give the pâté a taste, you’ll most likely find that more salt and pepper are needed.
Transfer the pâté to its serving vessel.
In a small pot or pan, melt the remaining butter. You can clarify it if you like, by skimming off the solids that appear at the top. (We usually don’t bother.) Add the thyme and lemon zest, allowing them to infuse the melted butter, then pour it on top of the pâté. Not only does this create a delicious butter (to be smeared with the pâté on your crostini), but it protects the pâté from drying out and discoloring in the fridge.
Transfer the pâté to the fridge to set, it will need at least several hours (or overnight). Bring to room temperature before serving (about 20 minutes out of the fridge).