I knew that the round of cheese was enough for me to enjoy more than one way. I decided to eat some with crackers and grapes, for a before dinner snack, and to make a recipe with some of the cheese, too. I've learned a few tips about cheese from my mom, so I tried to use my best practices to enjoy the Camembert properly. I know, I know, any French person would be appaled at my cheese snacking before dinner, since the cheese course comes after the main meal in France. As much as I love all things French, though, I'll still an American girl at heart, and for me cheese's rightful place is before the meal begins.
One part of French cheese culture that has rubbed off on me is eating it at room temperature. Cheese straight from the fridge is rubbery and bland, so you really miss a lot if you have been eating your cheese chilled. Once the cheese has warmed up, it becomes soft and full of flavor. The camembert was no exception to this rule.
As soon as I started to feel faint hunger pains, I knew it was time for my preparation to begin. I took the cheese out of the fridge, cut out a piece that I wanted to eat, and set it on the plate. I added some Port Salut cheese (a soft, mild French cheese that I love) and a bit of goat cheese I had left over, then I just walked away. Though it sounds simple, this may be the hardest part. But trust me, the cheese will be so much better tasting if you just wait 20 or 30 minutes, I promise.
The Camembert was fantastic! Creamy, and just sharp enough to catch your attention. I am no cheese expert, but I do know that I liked this! It had a rind that was not tough or moldy, so it was easy to eat the cheese without going around it. I think Camembert is a cheese that almost anyone would like, while still being interesting and gourmet. I ate it with simple crackers and some grapes on the side, and was very happy with the combination.
The recipe I found for the Camembert was the Leek and Camembert Tart from www.epicurious.com. I had some problems with the execution, but the taste of this tart was fantastic. I couldn't get the walls of the tart to be high enough to hold all the custard, and I think next time I'll make this in a tart pan with sides. The leeks and camembert were a perfect pairing, though, so I think with a little tweaking this will become an all star dish to serve to company.
Leek and Camembert Tart from epicurious.com
1 17.3-ounce package frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
4 leeks (white and pale green parts only), sliced (about 4 cups)
1/4 cup water
2/3 cup whipping cream
4 ounces Camembert cheese, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large egg
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400°F. Roll out each pastry sheet on lightly floured surface to 12-inch square. Stack squares and roll to 15-inch square. Using 14-inch pizza pan as guide, cut stacked dough into 14-inch round. Crimp edge of dough to form 1/4-inch rim. Transfer to pizza pan or baking sheet. Freeze 10 minutes.
Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and 1/4 cup water; cook until leeks are tender, about 15 minutes. Season leeks with salt; set aside to cool. Bring cream to simmer in medium saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to low; add Camembert and stir until melted. Remove from heat and cool 5 minutes. Whisk in egg, cayenne, and nutmeg. Set custard aside.
Sprinkle Parmesan over crust. Spread leeks over. Drizzle custard over. Bake until bottom is golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.