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david cooks dinner,  colorado springs, gather food studio, personal chef, denver

Roq Roq Roq your boat...

Today is National Moldy Cheese Day!  Yes, that's really a thing.  So - this week we are going to talk about those cheeses with the blue/green (or grey, or black) mold veins that run through them.  Hopefully you don't think this stinks!

What exactly is blue cheese? Is it blue or bleu?  Depends on where you are.  The English types of produced cheeses are "blue" and in France, "bleu".  By definition, blue cheese is a classification of cheeses that are produced from cow, sheep, or goats milk, that have penicillium cultures in them.  Penicillium?  Like Penicillin? Yep - and I'll get back to that in a minute. The veins of mold are created by spiking the cheese with stainless steel rods during the production phase to allow oxygen to circulate through the cheese and promote the growth of the mold. 

Now, I can't tell you the first time blue cheese was eaten.  I can however tell you that it can be found mentioned in history registers dating back to the first century AD, and at one point it was referred to as the cheese of Kings and Popes.  I can also tell you that with any good story, there is probably some sort of legend laying claim to its foundation.  Roquefort (one of the most famous French bleu cheeses) is no exception.

And the story goes...  oh, and BTW, its a lost connection love story... that one day a young sheepherder was sitting in a cave eating a lunch of ewe's milk cheese curds and bread when he spotted a very beautiful woman.  The young sheepherder left behind his lunch in pursuit of love and happiness, but to his dismay, after several days of searching for this beautiful maiden, he ceased his pursuit and returned home lonely hearted - to come back and find the lunch he left in the cave moldy and green.  As he was starving, he tasted the cheese anyway, and to his surprise, it was fantastic!  The penicillium Roqueforti that was alive in the cave transformed his cheese curds into Roquefort!

Roquefort is so special to the south of France, in 1925 it was the first recipient of France's Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée - which regulates the manufacturing of the French cheeses, wines, butters, and other agricultural products .  Also, Roquefort is specifically made from the milk of the Lacaune sheep - which only produces 16 gallons of milk each, per season.  1 Kilo (2.2 lbs) of Roquefort cheese is made from 1.2 gallons of milk - making Roquefort one of the rarest bleu cheeses on the market.  So - next time you see that Roka stuff, know that it's nothing but a designer imposter!!! Don't fall for the marketing - and since it's fake, they can't even spell it the same! For all of you blue cheese dressing lovers, I have a great one below for you - please stop buying it!

Oh and one last fun fact - before Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928, for hundreds of years shepherds would put blue cheese in open wounds to avoid getting gangrene.

Blue Cheese Dressing

• ¾ c. sour cream

• 1 1/3 c. mayo

• 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

• 1 tsp parsley, chopped

1 tsp. tarragon, chopped

• 1 tsp minced garlic

• salt, to taste

• 1 tsp black pepper

• Zest ¼ lemon

• Juice ½ lemon

• 5 oz blue cheese, crumbled – any kind you’d like

Mix all together and chill before serving.

Lobster Mac and Cheese with Roasted Green Chiles and Blue Cheese

• 3 – 4 chiles, fire roasted

• 2.5 C. whole milk

• ¼ C. flour

• 6 oz. white sharp cheddar, shredded

• 8 oz. lobster meat

• Pinch cumin

• Pinch nutmeg

• 6 C. cooked campanelle (or any other desired walled or rolled pasta)

• ½ C. panko

• 1 T. olive oil

• ½ T. smoked paprika

• Salt, Pepper

• Cilantro, for garnish

• Lime Wedges, for garnish

• 2-3 oz. blue cheese, crumbled, for topping

1. Combine the milk and flour in a saucepan over medium high heat; whisk constantly. When the mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until thick, 5-8 minutes, continuing to whisk constantly so not to scorch to the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat and add the white cheddar in batches. Make sure all the cheese is incorporated before adding more. Add the cooked campanelle, cumin, nutmeg, chopped roasted poblano, and lobster meat to the cheese sauce. Toss everything together to combine well. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Transfer to a casserole dish or 6 large ramekins.

3. In a bowl combine the panko, olive oil, paprika and salt and pepper. Fluff with a fork.

4. Top the casserole or ramekins with the blue cheese, then top with the panko mixture. Bake in a preheated 425 degrees oven for 12-15 minutes or until the panko is golden brown. Garnish with cilantro and lime wedges.

Salmon en Croute with Blue Cheese & Spinach (aka Dave's Salmon Thingy)

• 2 lb. salmon side, skin removed, head side if possible

• 1 sheet puff pastry – 2 sheets if it is a very large side of salmon

• 6 oz. frozen spinach, thawed, all water strained out

• 3 cloves garlic, microplaned

• 3 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temperature

• 4 oz. gorgonzola

• 1 sprig basil, stripped

• 1/3 C. panko

• ½ lemon, zested

• Salt and pepper

• 1 egg, beaten

• Dill, for garnish

• Lemon, for garnish

• Balsamic glaze

1. Preheat oven to 425.

2. In a large bowl, combine the spinach, garlic, cream cheese, gorgonzola, oregano leaves, panko, and lemon zest. Toss very well to make sure everything is combined evenly. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Smooth out the puff pastry with a rolling pin, but do not roll out. Season the salmon filet with salt and pepper. Using a round scoop, scoop out the spinach mixture over the salmon and spread out evenly across the salmon. Flip the salmon over so that the top side with the spinach mixture on it is facing down in the middle of the puff pastry. Wrap the salmon up in the puff pastry and seal both edges together. Flip the whole thing back over (so that the seam side is down) and place on a silpat lined baking sheet.

4. Using a very sharp knife, score the top of the puff pastry in a diamond pattern. Brush with beaten egg. Bake for 20-25 minutes.