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Say Cheese: Smoked goat cheese

Smoked Goat Cheese Galette With Peppers and Onions. (Domenica Marchetti)

One of the nicest features about cheese is that eating it is like taking a trip without leaving home.

Last week, for instance, we were down in Thomasville, Ga., sampling the unctuously delicious cheese Green Hill from Sweet Grass Dairy. Though I’ve never actually traveled to southern Georgia, I could see (and taste) the green pasture that the Sweet Grass cows feast on year-round when I tasted the cheese.

Recipe Included

This week we head in the other direction, to New England -- specifically to Hubbardston, Mass., where Bob and Debbie Stetson, proprietors of Westfield Farm, produce a selection of fresh and surface-ripened goat cheeses (and a couple of cow’s-milk cheeses) from the milk of local dairies.

Usually by this time of year I am done with fresh goat cheese, having spent much of the summer OD’ing on chevre logs, buttons, pyramids and other adorable forms of this increasingly popular cheese.

But when I came across the small tan log of Westfield Farm's Hickory Smoked Capri (which is what the Stetsons call their goat cheese), I was more than a little excited. (I found it at La Fromagerie in Old Town Alexandria; the cheese can be ordered online from Westfield Farm and at as well.) From pork butt to oysters, if it is smoked it is for me.

I called Bob Stetson to find out more about the process of smoking fresh goat cheese. After being molded into fat little four-ounce logs, the cheese is placed in an insulated cabin outfitted with a smoker that is stoked with hickory sawdust. It is then cold-smoked, meaning the temperature stays below 100 degrees for 14 hours. The result is a crumbly textured cheese that is creamy white inside and buff-to-tan outside. The cheese retains the tangy flavor of classic chevre, but is layered with an assertive smokiness that reminds me of a good smoked mozzarella.

The first thought that popped into my head when I tried it was “peppers.” I knew the sharp, bitter sweetness of peppers could handle this assertive cheese. Soon, the smoked chevre and peppers were joined in my mind by caramelized onions and a buttery crust. And that, essentially, is how I came up with my recipe for Smoked Goat Cheese Galette With Peppers and Onions.

A galette is a free-form tart, made by rolling out a disk of dough and topping it with the filling of your choice. The border of the dough is then folded partially over the filling to form a lovely rustic pie of sorts. Wedges of the galette, with its robust flavors of smoked cheese, and the caramelized onions and peppers, make a fine fall appetizer for a small dinner party. The dough, rich and flaky, is adapted from a recipe in "The New American Cheese," by Laura Werlin. You can make both the dough and the filling a day in advance, and then assemble and bake the tart right before serving.

-- Domenica Marchetti is on Twitter and Facebook.

Smoked Goat Cheese Galette With Peppers and Onions
6 to 8 appetizer servings

MAKE AHEAD: The dough for the crust needs to rest in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. The dough and the filling can be assembled and refrigerated (separately) for up to a day in advance. The galette is best served the same day it is made.

For the crust
1 cup flour, plus more for the work surface
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon sugar
6 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/4 cup ice water
1 tablespoon milk or half-and-half, for brushing

For the filling
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 red onion, cut into very thin slices
1 small red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut lengthwise into thin strips
1 small yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut lengthwise into thin strips
Leaves from 2 or 3 sprigs thyme, minced (2 teaspoons)
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces smoked fresh goat cheese (see headnote)

For the crust: Combine the flour, salt and sugar into the bowl of a food
processor; pulse to combine.

Distribute the butter around the bowl and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. With the
motor running, gradually add the water and process until the dough just comes together.

Lightly flour the work surface. Turn out the dough onto the floured work surface, pressing and shaping the dough into a disk. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours, or until thoroughly chilled.

Meanwhile, make the filling: Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Have a rimmed baking sheet or pizza pan at hand.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and pepper, stirring to coat evenly. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the thyme, salt and the pepper to taste; mix well to incorporate the seasonings. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden and caramelized and the peppers are tender. Remove from the heat and let cool. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

To assemble: Use a rolling pin to roll the chilled dough into a circle that is about 11 inches wide and 1/8-inch thick. Carefully wrap the dough around the rolling pin to transfer it to the rimmed baking sheet or pizza pan, unrolling it so that dough lies flat.

Spoon the filling on top of the dough, leaving a 1 1/2-inch margin at the edges. Crumble the goat cheese over the vegetables. Fold the dough edges in toward the center so the filling is partially covered, leaving the center of the filling uncovered. Use the milk or half-and-half to brush the surface of the folded dough. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the exposed filling has browned. Let the galette rest (on the baking sheet or pan) for 5 minutes before cutting and serving on a platter.

Per serving (based on 8): 213 calories, 5 g protein, 15 g carbohydrates, 15 g fat, 9 g saturated fat, 29 mg cholesterol, 272 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber, 1 g sugar

By The Food Section  |  November 10, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Recipes , Say Cheese  | Tags: Domenica Marchetti, galette, recipes, smoked goat cheese  
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