Cooking Our Favorite Restaurant Dishes at Home
You’ve had an appetizer and a main course. You’re on the verge of becoming ‘un-button the pants’ full. You need to reign yourself in and share a dessert. Or skip it all together.
At this point, there are only a few special eaters that order cheese at the end of a meal. You know who you are. Don’t feel alone. Gothamist is one of you.
A favorite way to enjoy cheese is the composed cheese plate. While Gothamist is a cheese purist (slice off a hunk and hand it over, please), the idea of adding a simple garnish paired to enhance specific flavors of a cheese can take a simple cheese plate to another level.
The best composed cheese plate, in our opinion, is currently being served at L’Impero. L’Impero has the formula perfected. - a very simple condiment paired to accent a cheeses’ specific qualities – sometimes a fruity and sweet jam, sometimes a savory and pungent chutney. And even better, sometimes a combination that can be very surprising.
Gothamist loves to make these cheese courses at home, mainly because we can enjoy it before a meal and give our cheeses the proper attention (and stomach room) they deserve.
Composed Cheese Plate
Ricotta with Honey and Almonds; Taleggio with Pear Ginger Chutney;
Cabrales Blue with Blood Orange Gelee; Manchego with Chopped Olive
Gothamist will take you through how we chose the cheeses and thoughts for pairing them with condiments. Gothamist will then take you through how to make the condiments in this recipe.
Strategy for Choosing Your Cheeses
Unless Gothamist has a specific craving, we like to go to a cheese shop without specific cheeses in mind. Why? Quality cheese shops (favorites are Murray’s, Citarella, Fairway and Artisanal) are always getting in new imports, mostly of cheeses you’ve never heard of. In fact, many of the best are produced by artisanal cheese makers.
Gothamist likes to go into the cheese shop with a general strategy as to what would make an interesting variety to eat together. For this recipe, Gothamist chose four cheeses for a range of variety:
Soft and Fresh Category– We chose a fresh ricotta, but also considered a fresh, young chevre or soft goat.
Meltingly Creamy Category– Gothamist just had a brie the other night, and the description one of our favorites, Taleggio, reveal that it’s raw milk. Also considered Camembert.
Hard and Aged Category– Always have Parmigiano Reggiano, as well as cave aged Gruyere. An aged Manchego description reveals that it’s another raw milk. Have to get it.
Pungent Category – Looked for a blue – Maytag, Gorgonzola, Stilton....but went for the Cabrales blue from Spain.
Tips for the Cheese Store
Look for raw milk cheeses. A pasteurized cheese can be as good as a raw milk, but for Gothamist, the taste of raw milk cheese has much more character than pasteurized. While they are technically illegal, the cheese shops above all have them and flaunt it on their cheese descriptions. Gothamist opts for a raw milk when given a choice 100% of the time. Sometimes we just ask the cheese person for their best raw milks in the above categories, especially at Murray’s.
Also, taste a sample. This isn’t always necessary if choosing a variety that you’ve had before, but it allows you to choose something that you haven’t heard of. Plus, it’s fun.
Pairing Condiments with Cheeses
The soft, fresh ricotta is frequently paired with honey in Italy. Since Gothamist likes a crunchy nut for added texture, we added toasted almonds.
The creamy Taleggio has a lot of character that can stand up to a chunky texture. A pear chutney sautéed and cooled with fresh ginger was a memory from L’Impero.
The aged Manchego needs something more earthy and pungent. Like an herb oil, truffle oil, or salty olives and fruity olive oil. We finely chopped some olives and served them in their olive oil for the cheese.
The Spanish blue can benefit from a fruity citric flavor to cut through its richness. L’Impero serves a gelee with their cheeses, so Gothamist made a version with blood orange gelee.
Ingredient Shopping List
Recipe serves 2-4 people. Serve the cheese with a toasted baguette.
.5 lb Aged Manchego (Raw Milk)
.5 lb Fresh Ricotta
.5 lb Taleggio
.5 lb Cabrales Blue
extra virgin olive oil
.4 lb pitted kalamata olives
Blood Orange Gelee
1.5 cups fresh squeezed, or 1 pint blood orange juice
1 box of gelatin
Pear Ginger Chutney
1 small knob fresh ginger
1 hot chili pepper
Honey & Almonds
1 bag sliced almonds
1 jar of honey
Estimated cost of ingredients: $30 at Citarella
Put 1 cup of blood orange juice (regular orange juice, pomagranite juice OK) into a medium saucepan and heat until just warm. Do not simmer. Fill a cup with ½ cup of cold juice and place 1 and ½ packets of gelatin into cup and mix it in. Take the pot off the heat and add the gelatin mixture to it and stir.
Pour it in a thin layer onto a cookie sheet. Place in fridge for two hours until it firms up. Take it out of the fridge and cut into little squares. Plate it in a mound next to your blue.
Make the Pear Ginger Chutney
Chop the entire pear into small, rough cubes. Chop one tablespoon of fresh ginger. Chop one teaspoon of fresh chili pepper. Add one glug of olive oil to a warm pan. After warm, add ginger and chili. After a minute, add the entire pear. Let simmer for two minutes, but do not brown them. After two minutes, add ¼ cup orange juice. Let reduce. When it evaporates, add another ¼ juice. Gently simmer until juice begins to evaporate, two minutes. Pear should be soft. Turn off heat and add to food processor and puree. Let cool, serving at room temperature.
Make the Almonds and Honey
Get a pan to medium heat. Add one handful of almond slivers, along with a pinch of salt. Let toast for about 2 minutes and shake the pan – they should be lightly browned. Drizzle the honey around the ricotta cheese and garnish with the almonds when cool.
Rough chop the olives into fine pieces. Add to a small bowl and drizzle in olive oil to flavor. Place in a mound next to your cheese.