Thursday, March 15, 2018

French Cheese: Coulommiers

Coulommiers is regarded as the petit frère (little brother) of Brie which is an odd relation because though it may be smaller it is actually the ancestor of Brie. When first arriving in France all those years ago, we noted that every supermarket was graced with its presence. Wherever we have lived or visited in France, there was a small round to be had. It being less runny, having a thicker rind, and tasting of almonds make it my preference over Brie. Being able to bring home a whole cheese or two instead of just a slice is in its favour also.


A fantastic way of serving is first cutting the round longitudinally to get two halves. Layer thinly sliced truffles on the bottom piece and top with the second. Wrap in plastic and store in a cool place (preferably not the fridge) for two days. For a dessert version, fill instead with chopped dried fruit (such as apricots, raisins, prunes, cranberries) and nuts (such as pistachios, hazel nuts, walnuts, almonds) mixed with a couple teaspoons of mascarpone. Store for at least a day in the fridge. Garnish with some whole fruits and nuts on top. Serve with a white wine. A bread chock-a-block with dried fruit and nuts could take the place of the filling. Another savoury approach is to simmer some cream or crème fraîche in a saucepan, remove the croûte (send it to me, please, as I am of the mind that one can never get enough of a bloomy rind), chop the Coulommiers, add the pieces to the warm cream, toss in a herb sprig like thyme or oregano, stir till smooth, salt to taste, and pour over pasta (penne would be an excellent choice). A less rich variation is subbing pasta cooking water for the cream.


I love when it is young enough to have a more solid centre as the contrast in textures adds to enjoyment. Regardless of the age (affinage) of the cheese, it is essential to bring it to room temperature before serving. The difference? Extreme lusciousness. If you go the sweet route, and serve it as a dessert in the cosy company of fresh fruit like mixed berries or figs, you won't mind not eating a pastry. Especially if you dribble some herb-infused honey on it.


However my favourite way of scoffing this cheese is exactly that: unadorned, unaccompanied, delectable sliver after delectable sliver vanishing through ecstatic lips.


À la prochaine! 

Other French Cheese Posts:

Pont-l'Évêque

Maroilles

Reblochon
Bleu d'Auvergne
Cantal
Bresse Bleu