Wednesday, May 3, 2017

French Cheeses: Bleu d'Auvergne

When The Calm One and I lived in Grenoble which at that time was part of the southeast French region of Rhone-Alpes, we often found ourselves visiting neighbouring Auvergne* which is known for cheese, lentils, forests, dormant volcanoes, mineral water, Charolais beef, aligot, and potée auvergnate. I remember walking down an aisle of a regional products shop while gawking at huge jars of this earthy pork and vegetable stew.  Apprehensive if I lugged one off the shelf that it would crash down on me and any unfortunate folks nearby, hence permeating us with essence of pork for all eternity, I refrained and bought a packet of Cantal cheese biscuits instead. They were rich, small, thick rounds which melted in my mouth. I ate the entire contents as if they were candy. Boasting these five beloved fromagesCantal, Saint NectaireForme d'ambert, Salers, and Bleu d'Auvergneit beats any other administrative area in France for the number of gorgeous A.O.C. cheeses it produces.  Bleu d'Auvergne is a bit sauvage like the eponymous countryside. One can never eat enough blue cheese, unless of course if you detest it.  I would like to say to such folks go back to the planet from which you came. Yet even better, remain on earth and give me your portion. Crumbling blue cheese over scrambled eggs, pasta, soup, and salad (much quicker than making a dressing of it), really over most things, you can't go wrong. Its pungent, salty creaminess enhances, well, life.

Though certain herbs** can be successfully paired with blue cheese,  I used the ones available from our potager as a visual accompaniment. However, I was delighted that their vibrant fragrance whetted my appetite even more for the cheese.

On the left, Fennel, the herb (not the bulb!), sage, rosemary

Bleu d'Auvergne is essentially a cow-milk version of Roquefort so though similar, it is buttery and creamier.

Parsley and thyme joined the green crowd

Its soft croûte (rind) is lovely in taste and texture so make sure that everybody gets some.

Best served at room temperature

Le Livre du Fromage published by Deux Cogs D'or suggests a Châteauneuf-du-Pape because it is nerveux like Bleu d'Auvergne. The French often use that word to describe wine. Since I doubt it needs to be sedated, it is my interpretation that such wine gives a delicious jolt to YOUR nervous system. Our cellier obliged with a bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. High-quality whiskey is another choice as are sweet wines like port, sauternes, monbazillac, and ice which balance out the saltiness.

There were no figs, walnuts, honey, apples, or pears chez nous, all which often are served with blue cheese. We did have some cherries and strawberries on hand, and they went well enough taste-wise. However the creaminess of the cheese was even more pronounced because of the juiciness of the berries. So texture-wise, it was a hit. Lesser known possibilities are blackberries (oh, I can't wait when our bush starts producing!), mushrooms, pineapple, and dark chocolate.

Our strawberry patch is getting close to harvesting. Well, a few have already been picked, by birds, hence the netting.

I sneak a hand under a loosened edge of the netting to get at the berries

David Austin Falstaff climbing rose is putting out many a fragrant bloom.

The grey-green foliage below is that of perennial yellow snapdragons which will bloom soon

A garden wall covered with ivy is ready for another trim.

Calla lilies and bougainvillea charm with their white and pink blooms.

The true flowers on a bougainvillea are not the conspicuous, deep-pink sepals but a hard-to-see, tiny, white blossom

À la prochaine!


French Cheeses: Maroilles

Baked Pasta with Puy Lentils, Basil & Gruyère


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