Cheese and cheese boards 

All about cheese. As a kid I get up not far from the Tillamook cheese factory here in Oregon. It was amazing. Seeing how some of the best cheese in the country is made, start to finish. I grew up eating a lot of cheddar and swiss. Pretty standard decent cheeses. I wouldn’t touch American cheese them, because I couldn’t do the taste and now, because I’ve learned it’s very close in composition to plastic. 
However as I got older I realized that cheese isn’t a simple thing. There are thousands of different cheeses with different flavors and purposes. In this post I’m going to focus on a good cheese board and some differences in classifications of cheese. 
First of all let’s look at the main way cheese is classified, by it’s hardness. Cheese is separated into 4 groups this way. Soft, semi soft, semi hard and hard. This makes it far easier to find the cheese you want. For a good cheese board you want all 4. A full, well rounded experiance of cheese. Below I will post a helpful chart on how some cheeses are categorized, so you better understand the idea. 

The harder the cheese the more difficult it is for it to melt. American cheese melts extremely easy, because it’s a soft cheese. You can put a decent sized slab on top of it and it would melt just fine. That’s why pizzas are generally made with mozzarella, because it melts so easily. When I make my Alfredos when I add my Asiago or parmesan cheese it has to be shredded pretty fine to melt properly. Also the aging process makes cheese not melt as well. Most cheeses are hard because they’ve been aged a long time like parmesan. It changes the composition and makes it saltier and harder. 

When I put together a cheese board I put one of several of each cheese on. I will also look to put a nice rustic bread on my board. Cheese and bread are so nice together. I love spreading a soft cheese over crusty bread. The texture and flavor are incredible. This is one of those simplicity is bliss things. I always warm my bread and slice it relatively thick. Try something with a gentler flavor like a light sourdough or a baguette. 

Crackers are a classic on cheese boards. I prefer crackers for harder cheeses. Remember to slice your hard cheeses very thin. The cracker holds up much better than bread against these cheeses. Again likewise with bread pick a flavor neutral cracker. With it being eaten with a hard cheese that’s already salty, pick a cracker that is light on the salt. 

The best fruit for a nice cheese board is something mildly sweet and tart. This lets the cheese bloom and is a good underdone to the rich and salty cheeses. I really like fresh figs and grapes of several varieties on my board. It gives you options and flavor and allows you to eat a lot of cheese. Apple’s can also be nice, especially a green apple. 

Wine and cheese to me is almost as good as it gets. Due to the rich and salty nature of cheese a light red wine is my preference. It changes by what cheese I’m eating, but pinot noir is usually my go too. A generally smooth, gentle and fruity red wine it helps cut the fattiness of the cheese, without overpowering it. Never over power your cheese it defeats the purpose. Chianti can also be nice. It’s mildly spicy and aromatic it’s better for more flavorsome cheeses like a hard Asiago or blue cheeses. White wines can go well with a lighter, summery cheese board. If you choose a white wine make sure it’s fruity and tart. 

Blue cheese is an interesting thing. It’s the least popular of all the cheeses. It’s packed in flavor and it has a pungent odor that is off putting for a lot of people. Blue cheese is moldy, it’s injected with penacillium to encourage the bacteria growth. This mold is what gives blue cheese it’s salty and sharp flavor. This is also why it has the pungent flavor and blue veins. Blue cheese comes in many types too some more mild than others. 

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Easy Pasta Alla Vongole 

This is one of my favorite pasta recipes, it shows that simplicity can be best. It’s also very easy and fast for even the home cooks. 

What Youll need:

Olive Oil

Garlic

Red chili flake

White wine 

Angel Hair pasta 

Manilla clams 

Green onion 

Cherry tomatoes 

Parmesan or Asiago cheese 

The first thing you’ll want to do is start your pasta water. Always season with salt. Never add oil at this point, always just stir. By adding oil you coat the noodles and it won’t allow the sauce to marinade with the pasta when it’s done.

Next step, heat about a half a cup olive oil on a medium heat, add minced garlic and chili flake to infuse the olive oil. This step should be quick, as soon as the garlic is slightly toasted add your clams. Be careful with this step, the oil may crackle a bit.
Add your white wine. Just about a half a cup and cover. Once all the clams have opened add your cooked pasta. Also a tip never rinse your pasta it’ll wash all the starch off and it won’t thicken the sauce. 
Then it’s time to plate. Plate the pasta mix into your pasta bowl. Shave your hard cheese over top and garnish with sliced cherry tomatoes and green onion. 

Creativity is One of the Most Important Skills for a Chef

Creativity cannot necessarily be learned, but developed over time. For a chef thinking of solutions and things to do with food must be rapid fire. Troubleshooting is an everyday occurrence chefs must be quick to resolve. A lot of the time solutions are unconventional, but work.

Mystery box challenges that you see on chopped aren’t realistic. I’ve never been in a situation where I had to make a special with olives and marshmallows. The chef has a busy job, so creating new menu items and specials on the fly is common. The chef has to work with what they have and create something different and special. It takes years to develop the rapid fire creativity that successful chefs have.

I’m currently in culinary school and its pretty frequent that were given a list of product and have to make a three course meal out of it. It’s exciting and helps develop skills necessary to make quick decisions. It seems amazing how some of the more successful chefs can think of things so quickly and generally have more options that come to mind. This skill comes by practice, but also developing a wider skill set. The more things you know how to do with food the wider array of things you can think of.

An example from my experience would be a Christmas party I worked. Poor communication caused a prep issue where the prawns were butterflied rather than being peeled and devained. In a situation like that you have to make it work. The dish we were planning on making would’t work with the prawns butterflied so we had to make an entirely different dish to make it successful. The guests loved the new dish and didn’t know it was different than we had first intended to do.

Good Cheese

Living in Portland I am close to one of the best cheese producers in the united states. Tillamook cheese factory makes some of the best American cheese in the country. They have a 2 year aged extra sharp cheddar that’s perfect for cheese lovers.

Good cheese is produced all over the world, Italy makes amazing Parmesan cheese. Its a hard cheese and its used in a lot of dishes in Italy. Although its not sprinkled over everything like Olive Garden would have you believe. Cheeses are classified by the texture for the most part. Soft, semi firm, firm, hard and blue cheese.

I’ve tried many cheeses and my favorite is a long aged sharp cheddar. It makes for a really good food or drink pairing. Pairing cheese and fruits or cheeses and wines is fun and taste delicious. From what I’ve noticed cheeses are on the upswing, people are getting more and more adventurous with what cheeses they try. Even the commonly dreaded blue cheese. It’s a very intense flavor and has an odd aroma that tuns a lot of people off.

What are your favorite cheese company’s?09-480_ 228