Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Here comes the s'more... with a twist!





Before proceeding to a new installment of the "Goat Cheese Summer Series", I'd like to wish you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday, hoping you celebrate America’s birthday with good food and good company.

This Fourth of July, I will have lived 16 years in the United States. And I think I have come to a good balance between my French and American cultures.  It’s not a linear balance (life just isn't linear, is it?). In some ways, I guess I am very French, and in others, very American. I never like being asked if I feel more French or more American, or being put in a position to chose between the two, because I really embrace both cultures. I owe a lot to both. They both make up who I am today. I have been in both places long enough to be aware of the limitations of each. So I embrace both cultures with open eyes, and somehow, it works.

What is culture, exactly, anyway? What does it consist of? It is such a complex concept, made up of so many impalpable things. That is what is so fascinating to explore and discover while traveling. Really, it is what is so fascinating about the human race. And no need to be an expat to experience multiculture. It's part of anyone who's lived in more than two places, or with family from different horizons. Such richness. And so much of it in America's "melting pot".

I think two major components of culture are language, and cuisine. I feel so blessed to be raising Pablo not only as bilingual, but as bicultural, and exploring what that means as he grows. Being so far away from France most of the year, cuisine is one of our strongest link to French culture.



Tonight at dinner in the backyard, when came time for the cheese course, sitting on his French grandmother’s lap, Pablo proceeded to go through our fromage box, checking each cheese one by one, asking which one is goat, and saying as he picks each one : “This is a good one” (this has just become his new ritual). Then his grandmother gave him a sample tasting of a few, some on bread, some pure. He couldn't be more delighted, savoring it on his tricycle (cringe... not eating at the table. Summer meals have definitely been laxer around here!). 

Then he put a ball in the basket, and high-fived and knuckle bumped his father.

I guess it doesn’t get more bicultural than that.



When Vermont Creamery contacted me for the Kids & Kids campaign to promote the nutritional and gastronomical benefits of goat cheese for children, I wanted to showcase not just their “kid-friendly” (there’s no such thing, in my opinion) creamy goat cheese or fresh chèvre, but also their wonderful aged cheeses, because there’s no reason not to introduce babies to them early on (8-9 months is when I started Pablo on all varieties of goat, sheep and cow cheeses, including blue).



Perhaps a perfect incarnation of our bicultural symbiosis is this s’more of sorts I'm sharing with you today. After all, what’s more American than this campfire favorite? 

Begrudgingly sharing with the family one of the Bonne Bouche ash-ripened goat cheese Vermont Creamery kindly sent me last week, we got to reading the label. Under “Pairing”, it listed the classic honey, figs, and... dark chocolate?



Now any French purist would call this sacrilegious. Because to be honest with you, even a piece of good bread doesn't do this incredible cheese justice. It is meant to be enjoyed pure, on finger tips, with perhaps a sip of Riesling. And Pablo has been doing just that (sans Riesling, that is), with great delight. So I admit, when I read that, I cringed a little.
  
But the idea of this goat cheese s’more was thrown in in a bout of family brainstorming, and I decided to give it a try, knowing it would be a perfectly symbiotic French-American Fourth of July treat. And a good excuse to try making these salty herb, walnut crackers adapted from Cannelle & Vanille’s cookbook, Small Plates & Sweet Treats (which I just love, by the way.)



The verdict: it’s pretty darn scrumptious. So much so that I started taking bites as I was taking the photos! Go easy on the chocolate so it doesn't overpower the cheese. Or if you’re a skeptic, substitute honey for the chocolate.

Either way, these s’mores make an original hors d’œuvre or a fun twist on the cheese course. And an awesome snack to get your kids hooked on real goat cheese!
















Goat cheese, dark chocolate s'mores

First, the herb, walnut crackers
(Adapted from Small Plates & Sweet Treats by Aran Goyoaga)

This made 12 crackers for me.

(Fyi, these are gluten-free)

1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup quinoa flour
3 tbsp oat flour
2 tbsp tapioca starch
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/2 stick of unsalted butter (room temp or 10 sec on microwave)
1 egg
1/4 cup walnuts
15-20 sprigs of Italian parsley
2 tbsp olive oil

In a medium bowl, whisk together all the flours, salt and pepper. 

Cut the softened butter into small pieces. Add the butter pieces to the flour mixture, and mix with your fingers until you obtain a crumbly, mealy texture.

Lightly beat the egg in a small bowl. Add it to the flour/butter mixture, and mix with your hands until you get a bowl of dough (it will be wet, but come together). Knead it a couple of times.

Place the ball on plastic wrap, flatten it a bit, wrap and place in the fridge for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven at 400°F. 

Finely chop the walnuts in a food processor. Place in a small circle at the center of a medium chopping board that can fit into your fridge. Then chop the parsley finely, and add to the walnuts.

Unwrap the dough and place it on top of the walnuts and parsley, and roll out with a dusted rolling pin to 1/4" thickness. (The dough will be firm, roll out delicately, and patch with fingers where it cracks).

Refrigerate the board with the dough on top of the walnut and parsley, for 15 minutes.

Use a cookie cutter or a small glass, as I did, to cut the crackers in the dough. Patch the leftover dough together as you go, to be able to cut more crackers.

Place the crackers (walnut/parsley side up) on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. 

Gently brush the top of the crackers with olive oil, and bake for 13-15 minutes, until just golden.

Let cool for 10 minutes, and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Keep in an airtight container in a cool place.

Now, the s'mores!

1 aged goat cheese, preferably Vermont's Bonne Bouche ash-ripened goat cheese
2-3 oz of dark chocolate (70% cocoa and up)
Honey to drizzle
12 savory crackers (the ones above, or any others of your choice)

Preheat your broiler.

Place the crackers on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cut portions of cheese and delicately place on top of each cracker.

Place under the broiler for approximately 4 minutes, until it just starts to melt and bubble.

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate over low heat or in the microwave, with 2-3 tbsp of water, for about 2 minutes. Check for consistency, and add more hot water to thin it and make it drizzlable! (I know it's not a word, but it really should be.)

As soon as the crackers are out of the oven, drizzle a bit of melted dark chocolate on top, and squeeze another cracker on top.  (Alternatively, you can drizzle honey on top, which you can also microwave for a minute to make it easier to drizzle).

Enjoy while it's hot and melty!


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4 comments:

  1. These look delicious! And the way you describe them has my mouth watering.

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  2. First, this looks absolutely delicious. Second, I just wanted to let you know I'm nominating you for the Sunshine Blogger award. :) Don't worry about actually responding to the post or doing the "nominate ten more people" shindig stuff, just wanted you to know how awesome you are & that I will be acknowledging it on my blog & hopefully sending some cool people your way.

    Thanks for being awesome! http://vanessalevpom.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/sunshine-blogger-award-yeah-i-got-an-award/

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    Replies
    1. Aww Vanessa you made my day! You are such a loyal and awesome reader, always so encouraging, taking the time to give feedback, and I really appreciate you and your kind support and enthusiasm, and am most grateful for this nomination!! I don't think I've ever been nominated for an award before :-) I will definitely look into this award, which I'm not familiar with, and be happy to participate as well.

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