Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Blue Cheeses I Have Known, by Nikki

Today's blue cheese post comes from brand new blogger, Nikki Palladino of La Mia Tavola. She writes in from Hoboken, NJ and describes a blue cheese burger that makes me want to fire up our sad little patio grill in spite of the snowy forecast. 

Nikki and I share a love of juicy fiction and moldy cheese -- at one time, she was a student in my creative writing workshop, back when she was a rugby-playing, sopressata-loving English Major. I knew we would become friends once she went off to seek fame and fortune. Now she works in publishing, and her new blog -- full of food reflections and new recipes -- makes me feel like a proud Auntie Mame. Give the grrrl a big fat washed-rind welcome!

You Break the Mold Blue Cheese

I get the blues like every other foodie, it comes in waves; sometimes I crave a just warmed mozzarella sprinkled with some roasted red peppers, oil and tomato. Sometimes I want to dig my fork into a beautifully prepared beet salad garnished with pecans and warm goat cheese – perhaps a garlic toast poking out. It is a mood and a consistency thing really. I never feel this way about blue cheese though. When it comes to blue cheese, I have yet to encounter Roquefort I did not want to devour.   

Admittedly, my first encounter with the potent stank of this blue-gray mold involves blue cheese as a kind of sidekick, served with an order of wings. Funny that Sundays still revolve around football and good eats in my house but when I was sixteen and my best friends were teenage boys, we weren’t scooping servings of my Nona’s meatballs and marina onto fine china, the cheese a centerpiece of Italian cuisine. Instead we were sinking our teeth into a heaping Styrofoam container of honey BBQ wings and blue cheese dressing to complement those delicious celery sticks. It is and was love at first crunch.

Even now after my aunt serves a beautiful dish of home style chicken noodle soup, whipped up with tri color tortellini and a side of broccoli rabbe and cannellini beans, my Uncle insists on putting the baby blue mold on a plate surrounding an array of oranges, pears, and plums – a dreamboat Italian dessert for a man who passes regularly on the tiramisu. Needless to say, I eat well when I visit my father’s family.

That’s what blue cheese embodies for me – a favorite pastime I remember of bodies hovering over freshly laid plates and too warm to touch dishes in dining rooms and kitchens on weekends when my family came together before adolescence and aging crept up on all of us. I remember blue cheese -- the topping, the stuffing, feeling stuffed because this “stinky cheese” had done it again – had taunted my eyes until they were bigger than my belly and I could only surrender to the Maytag’s saltier serendipity.

This is sounding more and more like an ode to blue cheese or it may resemble more of a celebration of Madame Fromage’s forget-me-not friend, Mr. Blue. In honor of March’s own cheese madness, I am preparing two ground (but lean) beef patties to be stuffed with none other than the man of the hour, Gorgonzola Blue – a nifty little combo I stumbled across in Hoboken’s own Garden of Eden produce haven. Smooth and inviting, the consistency calls for a cracker or a bed of spinach leaves, a perfect pairing to dress up or dress down a meal. Personally, I like to stuff my burgers with cheese as opposed to caustically dropping the cheese atop and hoping for the best (albeit sloppy) melted results. Cannot say enough about drizzling the finished product with some honey Dijon and mushrooms.

Grazie, Madame Fromage, for including Tavola in this worthwhile project.  

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