User’s Guide to Moldy Cheese

We’ve all been there:  you reach into the cheese drawer for a piece of cheese you’ve been saving (or at least, trying not to eat uncontrollably), open it up, and find that it is moldy.  You then feel ashamed that you’ve let such a wonderful little piece of heaven go to waste, knowing that had you just given into temptation in the past and allowed yourself to eat the whole thing, this wouldn’t have happened.  

Well dearest cheese lover, it doesn’t always have to be this way.  There is life after mold (sometimes).  And so, I present to you this User’s Guide to Moldy Cheese, as adapted from the Mayo Clinic and Chow.com.

DO NOT EAT THE CHEESE IF:

  • It is a soft cheese, such as cream cheese, cottage cheese, feta, or ricotta.
  • The cheese is shredded, crumbled, or sliced.*
  • The mold is black, neon orange or bubblegum pink colored.  If you see any of these colors, trash dat cheese instantly.  These colors could indicate the presence of the bacterium Serratia marcescens, which is super toxic and you shouldn’t mess with it.  (Unless the cheese is a washed-rind cheese, like Taleggio.  Its mold is supposed to be orange-ish.)

Why?  With these kinds of cheeses, it is really easy for the mold to spread throughout the entire cheese, even if you can’t see it.  And along with this mold might come harmful bacteria such as listera, brucella, E. coli and salmonella.

* Disclaimer: I’d like the Mayo Clinic to better define “sliced”… aren’t most cheeses sliced at some point in their cheese life?  Doesn’t the cheese shop have to slice their giant block of mother cheese into smaller pieces to package for individual sale?  I usually use this “grey” area to err on the side of eat the cheese… but that probably isn’t the safest thing, so cheese at your own risk / don’t try this at home / legal disclaimer etc.

But remember, don’t be like this guy, because Feta is crumbled:

YOU CAN PROBABLY EAT THE CHEESE IF:

  • If the cheese is a semisoft or hard cheese (such as cheddar, swiss, colby, parmesan, asiago, etc.) and isn’t crumbled or shredded or “sliced”.  In this case, just cut off the moldy part and eat the cheese.
  • If the cheese is supposed to be moldy (especially on the rind, see Taleggio), such as Brie, Camembert, and Bleu cheese.  With cheeses like Brie and Camembert, the “mold” growing is actually a new rind and is probably okay to eat.
  • The mold is white or green on a harder cheese.  These molds are generally safe if you just cut them off and eat the non-moldy part of the cheese.
  • The mold is orange or reddish and the cheese is a washed-rind cheese.

In sum:  soft, pink, neon orange, shredded, grated, crumbled, or black = no.

Questions? Comments? Moldy cheese adventures? Leave a comment below!

NEXT TIME:  Burrata.  ‘Nuff said.

Taleggio Risotto

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Okay so I’m already posting things later than promised.  Sorry. It happens.  You know what else happened?  Taleggio Risotto… and it was absolutely delicious.  Super decadent and rich, but exactly that comfort food needed with it being to cold and dreary outside.  My mouth is watering now just reminiscing on how good this shiz was.  Risotto is good enough as it is, but adding the taleggio gives it a major flavor and texture upgrade.  It becomes even smoother and creamier, and the taste gets smoky and a little mushroomy, but remains mild enough such that even those who don’t really like “stinky” cheeses will love it.

Some thoughts from the roommies and friends:

“Its like fancy, mushroomy mac’n’cheese” – Clayton, CheeseWhiz

“Its like the IPA of rice” – Cory, CheeseWhiz/fiance (such a hipster comment, C0ry)

“I can’t stop eating it” -Nick, CheeseWhiz

loosely followed this recipe (which is Taleggio Risotto with Bacon, which is probably even better according to 99% of humanity. Not me though b/c I don’t like bacon.  Yes, I’m in the 1% … of non bacon lovers.  Probably more like .00001%.).

Risotto generally is really easy to cook but takes forever and has to be constantly stirred and monitored.  High maintenance compared to most rice, which you literally just set and forget if you have a rice cooker.  Risotto is worth it, though.

Anyway, here is what you need:

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (or any white wine… all I had was Rex Goliath Pinot Grigio, which is actually a staple in my house.  It worked just fine, I promise. And then drink the rest of the bottle with dinner for added effect.)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth (I used “Better than Buillon“)
  • About 8 ounces of taleggio cheese, chopped, rind included (I used only about 5 ounces b/c I ate too much ahead of time. 5 ounces was plenty to get the flavor and effect, though)
  • Chives (which I didn’t have but I wish I did)
  • An unknown quantity of warm or hot water

Step 1: Warm oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion cook, stirring often, until starting to brown. Add rice to pan and stir to coat in oil. Pour in wine and cook until evaporated, about 3 minutes.

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Step 2:  Mix 2 cups hot water into broth and stir into rice in 1/2-cup increments (let each absorb before adding next). Stir, adding more hot water if needed, until rice is tender, 15 to 20 minutes.  (That is what the recipe said. BS, though.  I probably used closer to 6 or 7 cups of liquid total, and it took like 45 minutes.  I just kept adding water and stirring until I liked the consistency and texture.).

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Step 3 Remove from heat and stir in chunks of Taleggio.  Watch it melt and become one with the rice.

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We had ours with grilled chicken and sauteed spinach.  It would go really well with asparagus or brussels sprouts, too.  Mushroom would be good in the risotto.

Up Next: A weekly series dedicated to random cheese issues/thoughts/questions:  “Cheese Miscellany.”   The first post in this series will be “What to do when your cheese gets moldy.”

Taleggio

Taleggio

I’m going to skip the whole “first post to this blog” background, sentimental, “why I decided to start with this cheese” intro and just start talking about cheese, because this background, sentimental crap is what has been holding me up for literally almost a year.  Also this blog will not be perfect because then I’ll never post anything.  I might really live life on the edge and post without proofreading.  Watch out, world.

SO LET’S TALK ABOUT TALEGGIO!

Taleggio is a soft, stinky and delicious Italian cow’s milk cheese. It might be one of my faves.  It is named after Val Taleggio, an Alpine Valley an Lombardy, where it was first produced.  Interesting Fact:  Taleggio has been around for over a thousand years.  Maybe even more.  According to Wikipedia, Cicero and Pliny the Elder both mention Taleggio in their writings, which would mean its been around since right around when Jesus died.  Even if that isn’t the case, the Food Network’s Food Encyclopedia says it has been around since at least the 10th century.

History and Production:  During its early (hundreds of) years, this cheese was called ‘Stracchino,’ meaning ‘tired cheese.’  This is because this cheese is produced in the fall or winter, at the end of the year when the cows are ‘tired.’  The cheese is set on wood shelves in chambers (in the past and traditionally, in caves) and takes about 6 to 10 weeks to mature.  It is washed once a week with salt water to prevent mold infestation and to aid in forming the orange-ish, edible rind.

Texture:  This cheese has a brie-like texture.  As it warms from being kept in the refrigerator, it becomes softer and more liquid.  When the cheese is younger, the interior is lighter in color and has more of a creamy, gummy texture.  As the cheese ages, the color gets darker and the texture runnier.  The rind is an orange-to-pink and brown color, and has a somewhat grainy texture and a slightly more pungent flavor.

Taste:  While this cheese is classified as a “stinky” cheese, its flavor is relatively mild.  It is described by cheese experts as “nutty,” “meaty,” and “mushroomy” … which in my opinion covers a huge range and doesn’t really help very much in pinpointing the flavor.  This is probably because taleggio itself isn’t very consistent in flavor.  I’ve had really funky mushroomy taleggio and I’ve had much more mild, “nutty,” almost “fruity,” taleggio.  While I prefer the funkier ones, they are all still really good in my book.

Eating:  Taleggio is really good by itself, and when I buy it I rarely have the patience (or self-control) to cook something with it.  I end up just eating it plain.  Some of the more popular (and/or more delicious-looking) recipes include:

Where to Buy:  Whole Foods, cheese specialty stores.  I haven’t seen it at a regular grocery store.

Comments? Ideas for this blog?  Post below!

Next Time:  Taleggio Risotto… including thoughts from the boys (my fiance and two roommates).