Wednesday, April 04, 2007
I haven't written about cheese for a few weeks and today we were at the farm produce market in Objat and they had fresh cabecou. Cabecou is the only cheese officially from the Dordogne. Other cheeses are made here, but this is the only AOC cheese of this region.
They are little disks made of goat milk.
Creamy and mild when they are young and they get harder and sharper as they age. There is a famous variety made further south in the Lot called the Cabecou de Rocamadour. Rocamadour is famous as a medieval pilgrimage site with its Black Virgin in a chapel on a cliff top that is reached by a tortuous stairway carved in the rock. For penances, even the kings of France would sometimes journey there and make tthe climb on their knees. There are many Black Virgins that are venerated in this part of France. They are carved wooden statues of the Virgin Mary and Child that are very old and have been the objects of veneration for centuries. They are called Black Virgins because the wood has turned black many centuries ago from age and exposure to the oily smoke of incense.
The little cheeses are pressed in forms and ready for market in 10 days in their moist fresh form. In the summer, they might be presented on a bed of chestnut leaves. The peasants would enhance the sharp flavor by brushing them with goat urine as they aged, but I assure you, this is not a commercial practice.
They have a sharp, nutty flavor with the characteristic metallic tang of goat cheeses. They are delicious fresh with red wine or a dry white but they have some great culinary uses that are pretty special. Often they are presented in markets with a thin slice of dried ham or dried smoked duck breast wrapped around them. The very best use for them is to quickly saute them in a hot pan and try not to make the cheese melt into a gooey mess and then served with a salad of simple dressed greens like a batavia or frisee...a lettuce that has a little bitterness to it. You can do this with a un ham wrapped cabecou if you fry it quickly in a little oil. Even better, bread the entire disk of cheese before you fry it for a little crispiness! I love that. When fresh figs are available, we take figs and open them with two cuts like a star and put the cheese in the center and then under the broiler fopr a few minutes. Serve the cheesey fig on a little lettuce!
I have seen cabecou available in New York. It is quite different than other goat cheeses, sharper and firmer. Fresh figsand cabecou! Bon apetit!