Saturday, October 22, 2011

Rivers Edge Chèvre: Beltane and Valsetz

Since 2005, Pat Morford at Rivers Edge Chèvre has been producing award-winning artisanal farmstead goat cheese, building on the traditions of French cheesemaking techniques and adding her own innovative touches. The clean-tasting sweet milk produced by her carefully-bred herd of Alpine goats lends itself to a variety of cheese styles, from raw-milk aged tommes to fresh creamy chèvre, plain or layered with basil pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, or truffled honey, in one of her signature tortes. Some of her most popular cheeses are the bloomy rinds (croûte fleurie), which range from small peppercorn-studded crottins to large wheels slashed through with smoky paprika. One of her newest bloomy rind cheeses is Beltane, an ash-coated log of soft curd that has been colored with annatto, a natural vegetable dye that lends a smooth nutty flavor to the ripe cheese along with its distinctive orange-gold color. I've been pairing this cheese with sourdough walnut bread and slices of roasted Delicata squash brushed with a little honey.

One of Pat's first cheeses was the traditional log-shaped Valsetz, named for a former timber town in the Coast Range near Pat's farm in Logsden. It's a versatile cheese with a firm texture and mildly sharp flavor when young, excellent for slicing to top crostini or salads.

As the cheese ages, the paste turns from firm to creamy and the flavor becomes more deeply savory and rounded. While the rind is edible at any stage, some people may not like the intensity and slight bitterness, though I think the combination of the rind with the underlying milky sweetness of the paste is ideal. Again, it's good just smeared across warm toasted bread, but I wanted to pair it with beef for some reason - it's a hearty cheese and can hold its own with any flavors. I headed over to New Seasons to talk with Dave the butcher, who suggested adding it to butter to melt over a steak. That triggered the thought of beurre maître d'hôtel, the compound butter used to top grilled meats, and I decided to turn the meat and topping inside out, stuffing a slice of the cheese into a seasoned beef patty and grilling that. The recipe below makes six small "sliders" that, if I weren't gluten-free, I would put inside buttered toasted mini-brioche, with some sliced summer-ripe tomatoes and cornichons on the side. But they're pretty tasty just by themselves.

Valsetz Sliders

1 1/2 lb 10% ground beef
3/4 c minced fresh parsley leaves
1/2 tsp coarse-ground black pepper
1/8 tsp salt
2 tsp fresh lemon zest and 2 Tbs fresh lemon juice (one medium lemon)

4 oz Valsetz (or other firm log-shaped goat cheese), cut into six 1/2-inch slices

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Mix the beef, minced parsley, pepper, salt, lemon juice, and lemon zest together and divide the mixture into six portions. Flatten one portion into a thin patty, put one slice of cheese in the middle of the patty, and fold the meat over the cheese to enclose it. Repeat with remaining meat mixture and cheese slices.

Heat an unoiled oven-safe skillet large enough to hold the six patties without crowding over high heat until hot, and add the patties. Sear for one minute on each side, then put the skillet in the oven for three minutes to finish cooking.

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