Special little gatherings pepper these winter months and, like freshly ground black pepper, liven our appetite for sharing life with our friends. Take a cue from my own Birthday dinner this week- a table with three delicious plates, doused with a glass of wine and shared with friends and family. My favorite was a most simple presentation of a favored cheese, studded with garlic, dampened with wine, baked, and served warm with toasted bread. We all fell under it's magical spell at our neighborhood gathering spot, Gueuleton in Nerac-Mont d’Or or Vacherin du Haut-Doubs. It's no coincidence that the owner, Benjamin Munoz's father is an expert affineur and cheese monger.
This is the simplest of winter dishes-not even a recipe really-when you are too lazy to cook but crave a warming, rich and satisfying supper. Mais fais gaffe! This is one of those deceptively easy recipes. ‘Easy’ because there is only one really ingredient- the cheese. ‘Deceptive’ because you must buy a VERY good cheese. Here that means a Mont d’Or or Vacherin du Haut-Doubs- a French raw milk cheese which is near impossible to find outside of France. The Swiss-version Vacherin is made from heat-treated milk on the other side of the border and is exported to speciality shops. Vacherins from both sides of the border are made from winter milk only, with cows fed on hay and before they are turned out to summer Alpine pastures. Sold only between September and May the heyday for a Baked Mont d’Or is these chilly winter evenings when a hot runny cheese, a crispy baguette and a glass of good wine is enough to satisfy even the most demanding gourmand. It made total sense why I love these cheeses when I realised that in summer they make Comte and Gruyere, respectively, from these same cow’s grass enriched milk. But since there are great local and regional cheeses being made all over the world now, why not find the best local version you can and give this simple winter treat a try. Then when you are in France on some cold winter vacation, you can try the original version.
Baked Mont d’Or
Time 30 minutes total; hot oven at 200’C or 425’F
- One 350gr Mont d’Or or Vacherin cheese
- One or two cloves of garlic, peeled and split in half
- One half glass of white wine
- Freshly ground black pepper
- One baguette, sliced and toasted
- Place the Mont d’Or in it’s wooden box on a piece of parchment on a baking tin or in a clay gratin dish.
- Remove the lid and pierce the top several times with a knife. Push the garlic pieces into some of the holes.
- Pour the wine over the cheese and let it absorb into the holes.
- Place the pan in the hot oven at 200’C or 425’F for 20-25 minutes.
- Remove and place the cheese in its box onto a serving dish.
- Serve while very hot with the toasted bread.