I was recently send a package of French Comte cheese to try. It wasn't a cheese that I had knowingly tried before. Comté is a French cheese made from unpasteurized cow's milk in the Franche-Comté region of eastern France. Comté has the highest production of all French AOC cheeses, around 40,000 tonnes annually. Made in flat circular discs it has a dusty brown coloured rind and an interior of pale creamy yellow, with a relativly hard and flexible texture and a strong and slightly sweet flavour. This cheese which is sold at the Borough Market stall, was sent to me in four different aged bits, 12 months, 18 months, 24 months and 36 months.
As a person who grew up only ever eating Velveeta or processed cheese slices this was quite an adventure for me! (Happy to say my cheese palate has strongly developed in recently years and I do now appreciate a good piece of cheese!)
The Twelve months piece was very mild in flavour and had rubbery texture, which was quite acceptable. It grated nicely as well.
The 18 months aged piece was very similar in looks but had an almost waxy texture and I found it to be a bit stronger in flavour and could definitely detect the fruity flavour.
With the piece that had been aged for 24 months, there was a definite difference in the appearance and a stronger aroma. I found it to be gorgeously flavoured and almost crumbly in texture. It was a bit less fruity and a bit more cheesy. See those nice white flecks? Lovely.
You can see that there is a very different appearance to the piece which had been aged 36 months. I have to say that this was my favourite of the four. It had a lovely strong flavour with definite salty overtones and a rich flavour and almost crumbly texture. I have to say I adored this! I have been eking it out in small bits so that I can make it last as long as possible. It is just wonderful.
I thought this would be a beautiful cheese to put out on a cheese tray over the holidays, especially the longer aged variety . . . the younger cheeses would be put to really good use in a special sauce, or a Macaroni and Cheese, which is a real favourite in my house, well . . . by myself anyways. The Toddster, he just tolerates pasta of any kind, but he does seem to like Macaroni and Cheese more than any other pasta dish.
Because I had such a gorgeous cheese to use in the Comte cheese, I called this Gourmet Mac and Cheese. I combined it with two other cheeses, a nice strong cheddar and some taleggio cheese to make a rich and well flavoured sauce.
Topped with more cheese (including some Parmesan) and some buttered whole wheat cracker crumbs, this turned out lovely and we both really enjoyed it. I am sure it tasted all the better for having been made with Comte cheese!
Which only goes to prove that if you want to make something really special, you will use quality ingredients to begin with. This was absolutely lovely. Many thanks to the Comte people for sending me this gorgeous cheese. Do check them out at the Borough Market as they have a lot more than cheese on offer. Orders can also be placed online. Yayy!!
*Gourmet Mac & Cheese*Serves 4
pinch of ground nutmeg