Welcoming Spring with a British Cheese Tasting

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March 20, 2013 by caitlinvaclark

Today is the first day of spring and while it may be cloudy and cold with no end in sight, I’m adopting the “fake it till you make it” attitude. That means getting an early start on spring cleaning, filling the house with fresh flowers, changing to my spring bedding (even if we’ll have to throw on an extra blanket at night), and getting out and about in London.

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On Monday night, we attended a wonderful event at The Pantechnicon, the offspring of the famed Belgravia pub, The Thomas Cubitt. Now this was not just your average event but in fact probably the food event of my dreams… British Cheese Tasting. I love love love cheese. And the intimate loft setting lent itself to a feeling of being invited into someone’s home, making the whole evening so approachable. I was able to chat with both The Pantechnicon chef and the cheesemonger from their supplier, La Cave a Fromage, which allowed me to actually learn a lot while grazing on an abundance of great cheeses.

It was also wonderful to get these professional perspectives on different cheeses and uses, things you might not learn while just in a shop asking about flavors or for recommendations. For example, had you ever thought about how does blue cheese get its blue veins? Well as it turns out, stainless steel rods are inserted into the wheels of cheese which allows the oxygen in and the cheese to change (yes to mold, but we all know it’s yum yum yummy). We also had a really interesting conversation about likening cheeses to wines, making regional distinctions. Cheddar, for example, is actually a varietal from a specific south-western region of England, and recently there has been a movement to reclaim the title.

One of the more interesting cheeses I learned about was the Grosmont Cider-Rum which apparently begins as a very plain soft white cheese purchased in France. Then the cheesemonger at La Cave treats the wheel of cheese with his own wash of cider that has been aged in Rum barrels, making it a British cheese that originates in France. Plus this gives the cheese a slight apple-y aroma, transforming a very mild cheese into one with far more depth. I guess I’d never really thought about the process and just assumed once a cheese was cheese, it was done. Who knew?

While talking “shop” with the chef at The Pantechnicon, he told me that his favorite cheese to cook with is Comté. Note that this is a French cheese, not British, which you can often find in a variety of age distinctions (commonly 12, 18, 24 months). I learned that the flavor of Comté can vary based on not just the aging time but simply where the cows graze on the hills of their pasture. Anyways, so it got me thinking about a dish from .delicious magazine that I loved but hadn’t made for a while: Grilled Pork Chops, Rarebit Style. Rarebit is essentially a cheese topping that is often served on bread. It has been said that the name stems from it’s peasant food origins, attempting to make a simple dish sound more luxurious (i.e. sounds like “rabbit”).

While you simply grilling pork chops, mix up a cheesy creamy topping with the tang of mustard and the kick of wine. The original recipe calls for Gruyere, but Comté would make an excellent, even nuttier substitute.

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Then spread the cheese evenly over the pork and broil for just a minute or two…

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…until bubbly and .delicious!!

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The pork itself is very rich, so I recommend skipping a starch and just serve it with simply roasted vegetables.

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Grilled Pork Chops, Rarebit Style

*adapted from .delicious magazine

Serves 4

4 boneless pork chops (1/2 – 3/4 inch thick)

2 oz. Comté (or Gruyere) cheese, grated

1 Tbs. Dijion mustard

2 Tbs. heavy cream

1/2 tsp. paprika

1 Tbs. white wine

Preheat the broiler and heat a grill pan over medium high heat.

Mix the cheese, mustard, cream, paprika, and wine in a small bowl. Set aside.

Salt and pepper the pork chops and grill for 3 minutes on the first side, turn and grill an additional 2 minutes. Spread the cheese mixture over the chops and place in an oven safe pan under the broiler, for about 2 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly.

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