My Love Affair with Goat Cheeses of France
Purrrr. That was my first response when a box of French goat cheeses arrived on my rowhouse stoop in Philadelphia. A pair of them, like a bride and groom. Soft, delicate. The scent of the French countryside still detectable on their rinds.
Yes, this post is going to get romantic. If you’re eating lunch at your desk, you may want to close the door. You see, I have spent the last week with this pair in a little threesome – picnicking, drinking cocktails on the sofa, making eyes at one another other over breakfast, sneaking into the kitchen at night for love bites. It’s not often that such perfectly ripe goat cheeses appear in one’s life.
And so Sainte-Maure de Touraine and Chabichou du Poitou seduced me. Utterly.
Cocktails with Chabichou du Poitou
Chabichou (pronounced like shabby shoe) hit the wet bar right away. The bottle of Chartreuse was in her hands before we were properly introduced. No surprise. Chabichou is one of France’s oldest and most honorable cheeses – likely developed by the Saracens in the 8th century A.D. It seemed fitting, then, that she reached for Chartreuse, a historically French liqueur created by Carthusian monks. With its many wild herbs, it’s a perfect match for goat cheese, especially in an afternoon sipper.
A Chartreuse Cocktail for Chabichou
- 11/2 ounces genever (I used Boomsma)
- 1/4 ounce green Chartreuse
- 3 ounces tonic water
- Cucumber slices and fresh mint, for garnish
Instructions: To prepare the cocktail, fill a rocks glass with ice. Add genever and tonic. Float the Chartreuse on top, then garnish with abandon. Serve with crudité, almonds, olives, fruit.
Note: Genever, a precursor to gin, has malty notes – perfect for underscoring the nutty, yeasty flavors in Chabichou.
From my Tasting Notebook: Chabichou du Poitou
Appearance: imagine a mochi ball cheesecake
Aroma: yogurt, bread, wet hay
Taste/Texture: I love how the fudgy middle yields to a cream line just below the rind, which is veil thin. As the cheese relaxes, the cream line melts, weeps a little. Ah! I taste a rush of damp hay, butter, yeast, black pepper on the finish. It’s like taking a rainy fall walk in the country while eating a butter sandwich.
Pairing Ideas: Cucumber, mint, and marcona almonds. Honey and Dates. Crumbled atop sautéed cabbage or greens. Woven into scrambled eggs. Needs a crisp white wine (Sancerre).
A Salad with Sainte-Maure de Touraine
Sainte Maure was soft-spoken, more fragile. He reclined on the couch in his gray fur coat and murmured in his sleep about a salad. “Pistachios,” he whispered, his whiskers twitching. “Apples, grapes.”
I darted into the kitchen and rummaged for my mandoline. A cheese so delicate requires a salad of thin shavings, I think. I am in a phase of shaving everything (now, don’t take that the wrong way). Using a mandoline, I shredded cucumbers and apples, a few green onions, and then I tossed these with greens and some lemon. Nothing more.
Instead of adding pistachios on top, I climbed into the fridge to root out a jar of pistachio butter for smearing under the salad. The inspiration came from a salad I once ate that was served on a swirl of homemade pistachio butter — I love the memory of the fork tines catching on a little bit of that cream as I swept up each bite of salad.
Sainte-Maure de Touraine Salad with Apples and Pistachio Butter
- 1/2 green apple, cored, thinly sliced
- 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
- 1 green onion, thinly sliced
- 2 handfuls of mixed greens
- half a lemon
- sea salt
- dill and mint, for garnish
- handfuls of grapes
- 4 tablespoons pistachio butter (see note)
Instructions: Toss apple slices, celery, green onion, and greens in a bowl with lemon and sea salt. Mix with your hands. Serve on a plate you have prepared with a good shmear of pistachio butter. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and grapes.
Note: You can buy prepared pistachio butter, which I used initially. Then I tried making my own using a recipe from Coffee and Quinoa. All you have to do is combine a cup of pistachios with honey in a food processor – add some coconut oil along the way to smooth things out. The results are delicious, but I didn’t achieve quite the same ultra creamy consistency I yearned for. Just sayin’.
From my Tasting Notebook: Sainte-Maure de Touraine
Appearance: looks like a silver log under snowfall
Aroma: lemon, wet grass
Taste/Texture: Supple and creamy. The rind is like damp crepe paper. The flavors are delicate – like eating a cheese made of rain. Or baby tears.
Pairing ideas: Blackberry or blueberry jam, oaty crackers. A light jelly – like rose petal or Champagne.
Curious to check out Chabichou and Sainte-Maure? My samples were provided by The Original Chèvre, the first U.S. campaign to highlight the origins of goat cheese (that would be the French countryside!). Better yet, travel to France and look for them. Chabichou comes from the limestone plateau of the Haut Poitou; Sainte-Maure is made around Saint Maure in the Touraine and Poitou regions. Here’s a cheese map.
Want to receive a basket of French cheeses of your very own? Drop a comment describing a recipe or pairing you’d like to create with goat cheese. A winner will be selected on Tuesday, September 22 at noon EST. Note: This giveaway is now closed — the winner was randomly selected, Gwen W.