Say Cheese: Splurging on Saint-Marcellin
I guess it is a good thing I am a sucker for packaging. Otherwise I might have walked right by the little round of Saint-Marcellin. But it was tucked so perfectly inside its tiny blue terra cotta pot that I couldn’t stop my hand from grabbing it and putting it in my shopping cart.
At $7.99 for 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of cheese, my impulsive purchase did not come cheap. But it was a worthwhile splurge. Saint-Marcellin is considered one of the best cheeses produced in the Rhône-Alpes region of southeastern France.
Its “intensely nutty (imagine black walnuts) and rustic flavor combined with an unctuous texture represent to me the very essence of France,” writes Steven Jenkins in his "Cheese Primer" (Workman Publishing, 1996).
Indeed, Saint-Marcellin is a soft-ripened, pasteurized cow’s-milk cheese with a rind so delicate that, once you puncture it with a knife or a spoon, it practically melts into the runny interior paste. That crock, you see, serves a purpose.
The cheese is at its runniest when it is fairly young, and in fact it should be enjoyed within a month or two of production, as it loses its extravagantly silky texture and gooeyness as it ages. Its flavor is reminiscent of good brie, but with lots more character. It tastes, as Jenkins describes, of black walnuts, as well as mushrooms and earth. It is buttery, but with a slightly bitter finish.
All of these characteristics make it — to me, at least — a perfect cheese to enjoy on a crisp early-fall afternoon. The first time I bought Saint-Marcellin, I served it with ripe Black Mission figs, which I sliced in half and arranged on a plate, with the crock of cheese in the center. The second time I decided I wanted nothing more than a fresh baguette, slightly warm, to accompany the cheese. I let the cheese sit out for a couple of hours and by the time I served it, it was so runny a spoon was required to scoop it onto the bread.
(Yes, I splurged twice. But now I have two baby crocks in my pantry!)
What is your most recent cheese discovery?
The Food Section
September 29, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: Say Cheese | Tags: Domenica Marchetti, cheese
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