An entrée or appetiser for four for under $20 which is quick, talks with a French accent and never fails to make your guests think you’ve leapt into a world of culinary appreciation sounds like the ideal opener for a meal.
I bought a round of Clarines cheese. And no, it’s got nothing to do with cosmetics. You can’t slap it on your face for a youthful complexion (well good luck if you do because all you’ll attract will be mice). This particular cheese is pronounced ‘clar–reen”. It’s French and would have any native from the south of France oui-oui-ouiing all the way home. In a true French style, the cheese is made from mountain milk and has a creamy, almost silky texture. It’s similar to a Brie but not quite as lacking in personality or flashy showmanship.
For a white, creamy cheese, it punches well above its weight in the flavour ring which is one of the reasons it makes for a great appetiser. The truffle butter hint impresses jaded taste buds. It’s not cheap though – and you’ll be on a quest to hunt it down. Most decent supermarkets with robust range of cheeses should have it and digging around in their deli section usually ends up with the grand prix. But head to the real market and elbow your way through the deli sections for the sake of culinary sport – take out a gold medal in foraging.
Here’s why Clarines Cheese (or any similar cheese that you can probably find cheaper) is perfect for an appetiser at any lunch.
Here’s what to do: (but if you invite a Frenchman to lunch and serve this they will probably order you to the guillotine for desecration).
Open the wooden box the cheese comes in, cut two crossing slits in the centre on the top. Stick in a couple of semi-crushed cloves of garlic, a sprig of rosemary and a slurp of whatever wine you have open (a sparkling works well, a zingy white does the job and a beefy red will take it to a totally different dimension – remember, there are no real rules when you’re out of France). Place it in the oven on about 120 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes ‘till it goes gooey– no more (don’t let it cook or boil, so keep an eye on it). The cheese will now be super silky and creamy – the texture of a luscious thick Greek yoghurt. It’s just perfect for excavating with chunks of crusty pana de casa bread.
Don’t worry about the cheese going cold and reverting to its natural harder state – it never lasts that long on the table.
Now sit back, munch away and wait for the response from your guests. Belle.