Some people get mentioned on MSNBC, others get free cheese. While the former is pretty cool, I'm pleased to be the latter--it suits me.
I blame my joy in cheese on genetics. As far as I can tell, I come from a long line of cheese eaters. I started to question my obsession with the milk product in high school, when I'd find myself consuming slices of Land O' Lakes white American cheese by the half pound (and shame on that company for what they've done to alpacas, even if the economics of alpaca breeding seems eerily Madoff like and odd in itself). As the cheese eating was getting out of hand I decided to confront my father on the issue. "Dad" I said, "I think I have problem." He sat me down and we talked. The following is the result of the conversation.
My dad had many jobs in his youth. His adult life too. But to me his job at a deli in his Bensonhurst, Brooklyn neighborhood always had a certain mystic. Yet he mentioned it only occasionally. The casual "I don't eat mushrooms because I once found a rotten jar of the things in the basement of the deli and it ruined me for life." And bits of wisdom he picked up there: Don't pay suppliers until a bill is due because if you die who would you rather have the money, your supplier or your wife? But I never knew why he left the idyllic deli for the chaos of Gimbels. Not until I asked about the cheese.
Apparently back in the day Brooklyn delis would get their cottage cheese in large drums from little independent Italian operations. Today they'd probably be called artisanal and the workers would have beards, black glasses, scarves, or all of the above. Back then it was just little Italian ladies. So the cottage cheese would come in regularly, my dad said. It'd still be warm when he brought it down to the basement. So far things sounded great. I couldn't think of a better job than dealing in fresh cottage cheese at a nice neighborhood establishment. Well, my dad couldn't leave well enough alone.
Each time the cottage cheese arrived my dad would bring it to the basement and then disappear. Time would go by and no one would know where he was. Until one day. On that day, a day that would lead my dad out of the neighborhood and into the start of his adult life at a department store in Manhattan, the deli owner decided to go looking for my father. The owner headed down to the basement, where he found my dad, with a spoon, eating fresh, warm, delicious cottage cheese straight out of a forty gallon tub. And so ended his youth. The mystery of the deli was resolved.
Now that that's out of the way on to the free cheese. I've blogged complementary Ile De France cheese before. Recently they offered to send me one cheese a month for 12 months if I'd blog my experiences with the cheeses. Every man has his price. They named mine (each post will be marked "Cheese post X of 12," so if you don't want to read the sponsored posts please skip them, but they've made it clear that I don't owe them anything, and I don't plan on being anything other than completely honest--it'll be once a month).
First up, their triple cream Saint Andre, weighing in at a ridiculous 70% butterfat. On its own it may be a bit too rich for me, but in a dish like the one pictured it worked well. While some orecchiette was cooking I sauteed some Italian sausage in grapeseed oil. After the sausage was browned I added some tomato paste. Once the tomato paste was colored I added a bit of flour and stirred well (making a little roux). Then in went some milk to make a sauce. Once that was seasoned and the pasta was ready I added a huge chunk of the cheese, rind removed, to the sauce and stirred it in over low heat. In went the pasta and all was well. Garnished with some fennel and parsley thinnings just because they were around. Everything came together quickly, but it still had the feel of hardy, comforting meal.
So hopefully my dad is pleased that I found a way to enjoy one of our favorite things. While not putting my job in jeopardy.