Thursday, December 18, 2008

Begin With a Pile of Cheese ...

Seems to me some of the most magical things can happen whenever you find yourself in possession of a big pile of shredded cheese. Take the above splendiferous mound of cheddar, freshly grated on the smallest of the three shred choices on my grater. That was my beginning salvo in the quest for one or more tasty cheese spreads fit for Christmas giving. What I was looking for was something that could be slathered on toast or French bread and broiled until hot and bubbly -- and then devoured with moans of delight. I'm big on moans of delight.

After an awful lot of time spent in the company of trusty Google, I narrowed the search down to two candidates -- a zesty beer cheddar and a more subtle rum cheddar. Both recipes meet my F.E.D. requirements (fast, easy, delicious) and both are so good I can't pick a clear winner. So be it. You know what they say -- two cheese spreads are better than one. Or something like that.

Before I lay out the actual recipes, a couple of tips may be helpful. You can run these through the blender if you wish but it really isn't necessary. Vigorous beating with a spoon does the job quite nicely and a bowl is easier to clean than a blender. It also helps if everything is room temperature and it's even better if you fine-grate the cheese. Also -- very important -- these recipes are highly flexible. Amounts are subject to personal taste and substitutions or additions are limited only by your creativity or current supplies. For example, instead of beer, I used ale -- because that's what I had on hand. I'm sure that garnered me a more robust flavor than beer would have done. For that matter, you can even use a different kind of cheese -- or a mixture of cheeses. It's your call. Isn't that fun?

3 cups finely shredded cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon hot sauce of choice
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
2 ounces beer or ale

Beat vigorously with spoon until well mixed. Cover and refrigerate for several hours for flavors to blend. Keeps several weeks in refrigerator.

1 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup (2 ounces) softened butter
1 green onion, chopped
1 teaspoon dry mustard
freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon rum

Beat vigorously with spoon until well mixed. Cover and refrigerate for several hours for flavors to blend. Keeps several weeks in refrigerator.

Okey-dokey, that's the basic stuff. You can fiddle with amounts to suit yourself or you can fling all kinds of other stuff into the pot. I didn't have any green onions on hand for the rum cheddar but a tablespoon of dried onion flakes worked just fine. I also seasoned the batch with some Mrs. Dash chipotle seasoning. Loves me that hot stuff. Oh ... and the rum was Captain Morgan Spiced Rum. Worked just fine.

So I whupped up a batch of each, put them in small covered containers, popped 'em in the fridge -- and tried to make myself forget about them long enough for the magic of flavor fusion to occur. When I finally allowed myself to haul out the two spreads for their debut on a couple of slices of bread, one thing became clear immediately -- the rum cheddar, with it's butter content, needs to come to room temperature to be easily spreadable. The beer cheddar is a looser mix and spreads without a problem even when cold. The second thing that became clear was that the flavors of both definitely improved with "ripening" time -- especially the one with the ale. If that trend continues, they'll be so good tomorrow, I'll probably pass out with ecstasy.

And there you have it, fresh out from under the broiler. The sample on the left is the rum cheddar and on the right, the ale version. Besides using the spreads this way, I can imagine plopping a heaping spoonful in the middle of a baked potato or into a bowl of steamed veggies. Or you could mix in some sour cream and salad shrimp for a totally cool chip dip.

See what comes of a simple pile of cheese?


John Bailey said...

Mmm! Cheese on toast! And that, coming from the land of the Rarebit, is a true compliment.

My latest discovery is to place a good-sized dobble of the raw components of a rarebit (grated cheese, Worcester Sauce, a small rough-chopped tomato) in between two pieces of dry toast, press hard, and nuke until the goo comes out--about a minute. Works for me.

kate et jim said...

Oh my - this looks really delicious, Dee! (haven't had my breakfast yet, but now I believe it's going to involve cheese of some kind).

I do love your cutting board. I like the dark and light variations of the wood. (I'm a sucker for cutting boards and always enjoy getting a sneak peek at what others are using).

bonnie said...

I wonder if one could substitue red wine one isn't drinking? :-)

Maggie said...

I was going to ask for a recipe without the alcohol......yes bare bones, since I don't drink any more. But look, John gave us one. I'll try that one for lunch with the grand kids. Perhaps with a drop of hot sauce too.

Thanks for the note. Hugs.....

Dee said...

I can see we all loves us our cheese. I like your version, John. Kate, the cutting board is something I treasure since it was a gift to me from my grandson-the-chef, back when he was in wood working class in school.

As for the non-alcoholic version of the recipes, you know what? I don't see any problem with substituting something like chicken broth or even fruit juices. I'll bet apple or pineapple would be great in these.