It appears that I’m in “product review” mode lately. It wasn’t planned. It’s just that lately I’ve received some excellent products to try and I thought you might be interested in hearing about them. Last week, I told you about Chocomize, a very cool company that makes personalized gourmet chocolate bars. Today, I’m swinging to the other side of the spectrum and telling you about some excellent cheese that I’ve been sampling from Ile de France.
Ile de France Cheese has been importing gourmet French brie, goat cheese and camembert since 1936, when it was the first importer of French brie to the United States. The company uses the Ile de France name to promote Ile de France brand cheeses as well as other types of gourmet-quality French cheese that are sold under different labels and owned by the same parent company.
I have long been familiar with Ile de France’s brie, goat cheese and camembert, as they are readily available in my area supermarkets. What I hadn’t realized before was that several of the other “fancy French cheeses” in the cheese case, like Comté, St. Andre and Raclette, were also from the company. So, when the folks at Ile de France invited me to sample some of their cheese, I happily accepted, and chose one that I had never seen at my local market – St. Agur.
St. Agur is a soft, velvety blue cheese made from pasteurized cow’s milk in the French village of Monts du Velay. It has a mild, buttery flavor with just a hint of delicate sharpness. With a 60% butter cream content, it is considered a double-cream cheese. As you might expect, every bite is sinfully delicious. It’s a divine cheese that reminds me a little of a fine Italian gorgonzola dolce. Because it is so rich and creamy, St. Agur melts and spreads easily, making it a great choice for cooking.
With the hefty chunk of St. Agur cheese I had in my hot, little hands, I was able to make three different but equally fabulous dishes. The first was a decadent homemade blue cheese dressing that I served over salads and with buffalo wings. The second was a light and lovely spinach salad with pears, blueberries, toasted walnuts and a pear vinaigrette. And, the third dish was a “black and bleu” burger, topped with lots of gooey, melty St. Agur crumbles. Don’t ask me which one I liked best. That would be like asking a mother to choose her favorite child! All three dishes were wonderful, due in no small part to that heavenly St. Agur cheese.
Homemade St. Agur Dressing
1 cup mayonnaise
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup crème fraiche or sour cream
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Dash Tabasco sauce
6 ounces St. Agur cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)
Salt and pepper to taste
1. In a bowl, whisk together all ingredients except cheese until smooth. Crumble in 1/2 of the St. Agur and whiz in a blender or with a hand blender until fairly thick and smooth. Stir in remaining cheese and add salt and pepper to taste.
2. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Makes approximately 2 cups
Spinach Salad with St. Agur, Pears, Blueberries, Walnuts and Pear Vinaigrette
1/2 cup pear nectar
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
8 cups baby spinach
1 cup walnut halves, toasted
1 cup fresh or canned pears, diced
1 cup fresh blueberries
3/4 cup crumbled St. Agur cheese
1. To make pear vinaigrette, combine pear nectar and honey in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until reduced by half. Remove from heat and let cool.
2. Whisk in Dijon mustard and cider vinegar. Still whisking, drizzle in olive oil until emulsified. Add salt and pepper to taste.
3. Combine spinach, walnuts, pears and blueberries together in a large salad bowl. Top with cheese. Just before serving, add the dressing and gently toss.
Black & Bleu Burgers
1 pound ground chuck
1 pound ground sirloin
1/2 medium onion, coarsely grated
2 teaspoons blackened seasoning
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
6 ounces St. Agur cheese, crumbled
6 hamburger buns, split, toasted and brushed with a little melted butter
1. Combine the chuck, sirloin, onion, blackened seasoning, Worcestershire, salt and pepper together in a large bowl. Mix well and shape into 6 thick burger patties.
2. Cook burgers on an indoor or outdoor grill or griddle to desired doneness.
3. Place each burger in a bun and top with some of the St. Agur cheese and any other toppings you desire.
While I did receive the product to try for free, I received no monetary compensation or other inducement to write this review. I wrote it because I really, really liked the cheese. If I ever saw it available in a shop around here, I would buy it. In fact, I’ve already spoken to the deli manager at my local market to see about stocking it. If you have access to St. Agur where you live, you really should give it a try. You won’t be disappointed.
I hope you enjoy these recipes using St. Agur cheese. Stay tuned, because I’ve also got an amazing ice cream to share with you that I made with Ile de France’s goat cheese. You won’t believe it!