The pairings:
  1. Monte Enebro with pistachio brittle
  2. Manchego with membrillo (quince paste)
  3. Valdeón with lavender honey

A few things about Spanish cheeses: there are a lot of goat and sheep’s milk cheeses, due in part to the Spanish terrain. Those animals are a bit more nimble and can deal with Spain’s rocky countryside. All of the cheeses we selected are sheep and/or goat cheeses. Most people think of France as the country of cheeses, but Spain has some good ones too, including two famous ones – Valdeón and Manchego. You may have noticed that we paired all the cheeses with sweet accompaniments. This is, in part, because I am addicted to sugar. Legitimately. And secondly, we felt like it was a great way to balance our savory olives, pan con tomate and gambas. And it works with the cheeses. Next time we’ll do more savory accompaniments, we promise.

Monte Enebro with pistachio brittle

 

Monte Enebro is a goat cheese made in the north of Spain, in Castilla y León. The rind is composed of ash and mold (the mold used to create Roquefort!), so it has a lemony and acidic flavor, with an intense finish because of the blue cheese molds. The paste is dense, with a runny cream line. The acid in the cheese is calmed by the sweetness in the brittle. What I love about this pairing is the crunch of the brittle with the smoothness of the goat cheese.

Pistachio Brittle:

You will need:

  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp water
  • ¼ cup pistachios
  • Pinch of salt
  1. Shell the pistachios and toast them in a 425 degree oven. Yes, I know they’re already roasted, but you’ll need to make them a little toasty as well.
  2. Heat the sugar over medium heat, until the sugar melts and turns slightly amber. When it does, remove from heat, add a pinch of salt, the pistachios and combine.
  3. Pour onto aluminum foil, arranging in a single layer, and allow to cool.
  4. Coarsely chop or break the brittle into pieces.

If you’re making this ahead, store in the freezer to ensure it doesn’t melt or start to get sticky.

Manchego with membrillo (quince paste)

 

Manchego is one of Spain’s most well-known cheeses, if not the most well-known. The cheese is made in  La Mancha (like Don Quixote, the “Man of La Mancha”) from the milk of Manchega sheep. There are three different ages of Manchego (Fresco, Curado and Viejo) which can be aged between 60 days and two years. The cheese we picked is a curado aged cheese. Manchego is protected under Spain’s Denominación de Origen (DO) system, and is also protected by the EU’s Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). But more on that later.

Notice that rind? Well, traditionally, Manchego cheese was made by pressing the curd in plaited grass baskets, which left a zig-zag pattern (known as pleita) on the rind. Today, molds are made to achieve the same pattern.

We paired Manchego with  membrillo (quince paste). What is quince paste? It’s a fruit somewhere in-between a pear and an apple. (Side Note: ‘wichcraft in New York has an amazing peanut butter and quince jam sandwich.) This classic pairing combines the nutty flavor of the cheese with the fruit flavors of the paste. The two are of similar firmness, so the textures mesh well in the mouth.

Valdeón with lavender honey

 

This sheep and goat’s milk cheese is made in Posada de Valdeón, in the northeast of the province of León, where the first cheese we talk about is from. It is wrapped in sycamore maple or chestnut leaves before sale. The cheese has a very intense blue flavor, and reminds us that these cheeses are heavily salted to ensure the blue molds grown without competition from other mold friends. The perfect way to tame the salt is with something sweet. So we decided to pair this with lavender honey. The lavender doesn’t really impart a taste, but it adds an aroma.

Lavender Infused Honey

  • 1 cup of honey
  • 4 tablespoons dried lavender flowers
  • 1 vanilla bean (sliced and scraped)

Directions:

  1. Heat honey in a double boiler until warm.
  2. Stir in lavender and vanilla bean.
  3. Continue heating, stirring or whisking occasionally over gentle heat for 30 minutes or until lavender flavor is obvious. You can smell it!
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  5. Strain out lavender and serve.

~Dana and Christina


Advertisements