What's a person to do when they are asked to attend a potluck and they don't know how to cook or simply don't have time? Most of us when we fall short on time or inclination tend to go to the nearest liquor store and bring a bottle of wine. In my world there is absolutely nothing wrong with that! But you know what would go great with that wine? Some cheese. Awww... yeah... cheese, baby! You know you love it.
At our Spanish dinner party recently our friend Scott (who happens to be an excellent cook) brought the most amazing cheese platter. He really went above and beyond the call of duty to transform this humble hostess gift into a platter of incredible textures and flavors influenced by Spain and Spanish delicacies. He even brought a cheese tray, two serving knives, and a tasting sheet telling us about the cheeses! The next time you want to make an indelible impression on your host take a page from Scott and put together an incredible cheese platter.
I wish I could show you a truly complete photo but the hungry masses charged the cheese platter like the bulls at Pamplona before I had a chance to snap away. Even here, when Scott announced he was taking a photo of the table, there's an errant hand sneaking away with a bit more cheese.
We sampled the following cheeses:
Manchego: a D.O. (Denominacion de Origen) protected cheese made from 100% Manchega sheep's milk in a traditional recipe. This breed of sheep is study enough to withstand the rocky, arid central plateau region known as la Mancha. The criss-cross pattern on the rind is formed by the use of grass molds to shape the fresh curds.
Valdeon: a rich and creamy cow and goat's milk blue cheese. Valdeon is stronger than Stilton but less intense than Cabrales. The cheese wheels are wrapped in Sycamore leaves which contributes to their complex flavor.
Queso de Murcia al Vino: literally "cheese of drunken goat" this semi-firm goat's milk cheese is cured in red wine. The result is a sweet and smooth cheese with a mildly fruity flavor and a purplish rind.
MitiCana de Oveja: this semi-soft sheep's milk cheese resembles French Bucheron. The rind is gooey soft and covered in soft bloomy mold (like brie) but the interior is more crumbly in texture.
To round out the platter Scott also tempted our palates with Serrano ham, thinly sliced chorizo, marinated olives and caramelized walnuts.
If a cheese platter such as this still seems like it might be beyond your reach there is always Scott's great recipe for "Emergency Sangria" which believe me, goes down quite easily with some cheese, chorizo and crackers.
Scott's Emergency Sangria
1 magnum Spanish red wine (or 2 standard size bottles)
1 nip blackberry liquour
1 nip orange liquour
1 pint mandarin oranges
1 pint jarred pears and peaches
Drain liquid off from jars of fruit. Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher over ice. Drink.
Our Spanish menu included:
Spanish meat and cheese tray with marinated olives and caramelized walnuts
Lamb stuffed dates with a picante roasted red pepper sauce
Brussel sprout and fennel salad with brown butter-parmesan dressing
Chorizo stuffed mushrooms
Brie en croute stuffed with bacon and walnuts
Bleu cheese crusted pork loin stuffed with prunes and onions
Orange and red onion salad with olives
Fresh baby spinach dressed with a sherry and orange olive oil vinaigrette
Sweet potato muffins with dried cranberries
Guava and cream cheese bombs
Sangria. Lots and lots of sangria