Cheese at Christmas can be a minefield of choice. Stand in front of the cheese counter in a posh deli or supermarket, and you’re going to be umming and aahing for hours. And if I’m standing behind you clutching my ticket to be served next, you’re going to feel the icy rays of my’get a move on’ vision boring into the back of your head.
Make it easier by having some firm ideas in mind before setting off. I always go with the intention of a basic starting base of a Cheddar, a Camembert, a French hard cheese, a, lump of well-aged Parmesan and something blue. For the French hard cheese it has to be a Comte and for the blue well a Stilton is rather obligatory, but with that I always go for a gorgeous stinky Gorgonzola.
It’s a blue cheese with poke. Discovered, if you believe legend, when a young cheese maker forgot to finish his work on the day and next morning found his cheese had absorbed spores from the air overnight and gone’mouldy’. One taste of the result convinced him that this happy accident had possibilities.
Made from unskimmed cow’s milk from Piedmont and Lombardy possibly as far back as 879AD, it’s said to come originally from the town of Gorgonzola near Milan. Since 1990 it’s had PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) status and 3000 farms deliver milk to 30 dairies where it’s prepared in 10kg wheels. These can be’dolce’ or soft from a 50 days cure, to’picante’ or strong, from an 80 days cure.
It’s a cheese rich in vitamins and minerals, contains antioxidants and is easily digested. When not on the cheese board, it works well in savoury dishes, particularly pasta, and even desserts. For serving on a cheeseboard it needs a good 30 minutes to get ready at room temperature. Celery goes quite well, but chicory or other bitter leaves are preferable. Chicory has a natural boat shape to fill with gorgonzola and the crunchy bitterness goes well with either a soft or strong cheese. Personally I’d use also use bread for preference to eat with gorgonzola off the cheese board, but a water biscuit fills in well too as does a slice of apple
Because it’s such a versatile cheese, it’s worth buying a big lump to use for different things. Why not try a new dish on Boxing Day using one of the gorgonzola recipes here?
The big blue veined boy could be your piquant friend all Christmas week.