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Say Cheese: Big Eds from Wisconsin

Big Eds cheese from Wisconsin. (Domenica Marchetti)

More and more, I find myself liking the cheese selection at MOM’s. There always seems to be a small but thoughtful assortment in the case, and there is usually at least one among them that I haven’t tried before.

That’s how I found Big Eds, a semi-aged unpasteurized cow’s milk cheese from Saxon Homestead Creamery, in Wisconsin. I did a quick search on it while still at the store and found an enthusiastic review by the Wisconsin blog Cheese Underground, so I brought home a wedge.

The creamery’s web site describes Big Eds this way: “Young, mild, but full of flavor, with a buttery body. Enthusiastic, like Ed Klessig, whom it was named after, it hugs you back and never offends.”

Ed and Margaret Klessig had run a conventional dairy operation for decades. In 1989, at the urging of their two sons and son-in-law, they made the switch to rotational grazing and let their cows out of the barn. In 2005 the family began working on a plan to build a creamery, and its first cheeses, under the direction of cheese maker Neville McNaughton, were officially released in 2008: sadly, two years after patriarch Ed Klessig’s death.

Today, the creamery produces five cheeses, including Green Fields, a semi-soft, washed-rind cow’s milk cheese that is ripened for 70 days; Pastures, a bandaged-wrapped cheese aged for 120 days; and LaClare Farm Evalon, a semi-aged goat’s milk cheese made in partnership with a nearby goat dairy farm.

So far, however, I have only come across Big Eds. The cheese, which is produced in 15-pound wheels, has a pretty leaf motif embossed around the rim. The creamery’s own description is spot-on. It is indeed mild and buttery and pleasant, mild but at the same time full-flavored. It bears some similarity to a young gouda and to French alpine cheeses. Its texture is very smooth, with a small eye here and there.

Recipe Included

Although Big Eds is delicious for eating out of hand, I had a notion it might also be good as an ingredient in souffle. I used a basic recipe from John Ash’s wonderful book, "Cooking One on One: Private Lessons in Simple, Contemporary Food from a Master Teacher" (Clarkson Potter), substituting Big Eds for the Gruyere called for in the original recipe. My 13-year-old son, who before dinner claimed he was “not in the mood for cheese souffle,” had two helpings.

-- Domenica Marchetti
(Follow me on Twitter.)

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(Domenica Marchetti)

Big Eds Cheese Souffle
4 to 6 servings
It’s easiest to separate egg whites and yolks when they are cold, so do so as soon as you take the eggs out of the refrigerator. But let them come to room temperature before using them in this recipe.
Big Eds, a semi-aged unpasteurized cow’s-milk cheese, is available at MOM’s markets.
Adapted from “Cooking One on One: Private Lessons in Simple, Contemporary Food from a Master Teacher,” by John Ash (Clarkson Potter, 2004).
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch cream of tartar
4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons finely, freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup whole milk, warmed
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, preferably white
10 to 12 chive stems, finely chopped (2 tablespoons)
1 cup finely grated Big Eds cheese (may substitute Gruyere or another melting cheese; see headnote)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Have a 6-cup soufflé dish at hand.
Combine the egg whites and cream of tartar in a large mixer bowl that is clean and grease-free. Place the egg yolks in a smaller bowl.
Use about a tablespoon to grease the inside of the soufflé dish, then sprinkle the Parmigiano-Reggiano inside, tilting the dish so all sides are evenly coated. Refrigerate while you make the béchamel sauce (a chilled dish seems to keep the butter in suspension better during baking).
Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring, without letting it brown. Slowly whisk in the warm milk; the mixture will thicken immediately. Keep stirring; once it starts to bubble at the edges, cook for 3 to 4 minutes to form a thick béchamel sauce. Add the nutmeg, salt and pepper; mix well, then remove from the heat.
Beat a little of the bechamel into the egg yolks to temper them so they will be less likely to scramble. Then whisk the yolk mixture back into the rest of the béchamel. Transfer to a large bowl.
Use a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer to beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until just stiff but still shiny and moist-looking. 
Sprinkle the chives over the bechamel. Use a flexible spatula to quickly stir a quarter of the beaten egg whites into the béchamel; this will lighten the sauce and make it easier to fold in the remaining egg whites.
Scoop the remaining beaten egg whites onto the top of the sauce base. Use the edge of the spatula to fold them in as follows: Cut down into the whites, drag the spatula along the bottom of the bowl toward you and bring the sauce mixture over the top of the whites. Give the bowl a quarter-turn and sprinkle some of the grated Big Eds cheese on top. Continue to fold the whites and the cheese into the sauce base until all of the whites, cheese and sauce are just combined, without deflating the egg whites.
Transfer the mixture to the chilled souffle dish, gently smoothing the top. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until the souffle is puffed and golden brown. Do not open the oven door for at least the first 20 minutes of baking so the souffle can set.
Serve immediately. To maintain as much of the puff as possible when serving, plunge an upright serving spoon and fork straight down into the center of the soufflé to pull the crust apart and scoop out a portion.

Per serving (based on 6): 250 calories, 13 g protein, 6 g carbohydrates, 19 g fat, 11 g saturated fat, 185 mg cholesterol, 550 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar

By The Food Section  |  April 20, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Recipes , Say Cheese  | Tags: Cheese, Domenica Marchetti  
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