Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cheese— It's what's for dinner.

So this afternoon I was looking forward to dinner. I had planned it all out, I was going to have grilled chicken breast and salad with a fresh vinaigrette dressing. I took some of the chicken and put it in a tea brine* to which I added a couple of bay leaves and a sprig of fresh rosemary. I then took the rest of the chicken and made a quick marinade with vinegar and an Indian spice mix I had put together. Then four o'clock rolled around and I was no longer in the mood for chicken (no worries I'll save it for Sunday), suddenly I wanted cheese and crackers. So, I did the only rational thing in this situation: I drove 15 miles to Central Market for crackers, and settled instead on quinoa tortilla chips, got a Texas Tea Peach to drink, and chocolate covered ginger for dessert. Then I did the unthinkable- I skipped over C.M.'s cheese section entirely and headed over to Antonelli's Cheese Shop. Why skip C.M. huge selection in favor of Antonelli's? For a couple of reasons: first, Antonelli's is a local Austin business and I like to keep it local. Second, because Antonelli's is a small privately run shop that works with small private producers in their respective regions they do tend to have some cheeses that C.M. doesn't carry.

Majorero and Wine
I get into the shop and I'm thinking, What do I want? What will go with the chocolate and tea? Not being an expert on cheeses I was totally lost. Fortunately for me, the staff at Antonelli's knows their stuff. It took the girl behind the counter all of about thirty seconds to make a recommendation based on what I had purchased at C.M. Her selection for me: Majorero (pronounced ma-ho-rero), a type of Spanish goat cheese.

Cheese Selection
So how was it? Delicious, that's how it was. It was nutty and creamy with that olfactory filling bite that you get out of good sheep or goat's milk cheese. It went perfectly with chips (no surprise considering they were flavor-neutral), complimented the tea, and added some nice overtones to the chocolate. The 'dip' in the middle there is a spicy tomato sauce I made. I sauteed a little onion and garlic, added the tomatoes and some rosemary, pepper, salt, bay leaf and a little chili powder for some kick. I thought it went nicely with everything. I also happened to have a little white wine sitting around, a Pinot Grigio by Bota Box. I'm not sure it was the right wine for this cheese, but as I said I'm no cheese expert. And yes, Bota Box wine comes in a box, but it is fantastic wine. I served some at a dinner party a while ago and my wine-snob friends (that's a compliment by the way) gave me an offended look and scoffed until they tried it. They were won over to the ways of boxed wine.To Antonelli's Cheese Shop, thanks for the suggestion, it was exactly what I wanted. I will certainly be visiting again.

*Brining helps lean meats like chicken breast to retain moisture, so I generally try to put my lean meats in a brine for at least a couple of hours before cooking. I usually use about 32oz of liquid to one table spoon of salt. In this case the tea was an English Breakfast, but I usually prefer a Lapsang Souchong which is a type of Chinese smoked tea. I'm not sure yet how this brine turned out. I'll let y'all know tomorrow if it turned out well!  

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