For a while, I was obsessed with pepper jack cheese. If a restaurant didn't have pepper jack as an option, I had to rethink my order. From there, I moved on to feta (which is an entirely different beast, so I'm not sure how I made that transition), then I turned to mozzarella, and I'm still loving it.
I suppose I can proclaim a favorite at any given time, but one type that has always lingered high on my list of enjoyable cheeses is Gouda. It's creamy and smoky and mild, wonderfully melt-able, and appropriate for so many applications, from grits to quiche to a plain ol' ham and cheese sandwich.
I was recently given the opportunity to sample a few different varieties of Gouda from Beemster Premium Dutch Cheese, a company that began in Holland in 1901 and has a small co-op of family farmers and cheesemakers that produce 16 kinds of Gouda. Take note--those Beemster bovines are naturally healthy cows, as they are subjected no artificial growth hormones and happily antibiotic-free.
First, I tried the Mustard Cheese, which is beautifully studded with mustard seeds, aged just over a month, and very mild. I could taste the mustard, and since I love that flavor, I thought this variety was extra tasty. The second kind I sampled was the Red Pepper Cheese, which is essentially soft Beemster cheese paired with sweet bell peppers and crushed red chiles. The rich mouth-feel balances the subtle heat and has a sweet finish. I thought I had better try a more traditional option as well, so I sampled the Vlaskaas, which is buttery and semi-soft and boasts almond notes and a uniquely sweet-sharp finish.
Is it too late for me to become a cheese-monger?
The day I got this cheese in the mail, I planned my dinner around using it. I made a barbecue chicken and corn filling and topped it with cornbread dosed with a hefty amount of shredded mustard cheese. While I liked the smoky-sweet kick of the innards, my favorite part turned out to be the cheesy cornbread on top--I could actually taste the mustard! Oh, I'll be using this cheese all over the place, and I can't wait to incorporate the other varieties into my dishes!
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, poached and shredded
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 cup barbecue sauce
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 2 cups frozen or canned corn, thawed or drained
- 1 package cornbread mix
- 2/3 cup milk
- 1/3 cup butter, melted
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 cup shredded cheese (Beemster Mustard Cheese is awesome for this purpose!)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 13x9-inch pan with nonstick spray.
In a 10-inch skillet, add the oil and heat over medium heat. Add the diced onions and cook until soft and transparent, 5-10 minutes.
Stir in the flour and seasonings, then add the shredded chicken.
Add the barbecue sauce and chicken broth to the skillet and mix well. Fold in the corn and heat everything through. about 5 minutes more.
Meanwhile, combine the cornbread mix, milk, melted butter, egg, sugar, and shredded cheese in a large mixing bowl with a spoon until well blended.
Pour the barbecue chicken mixture into the prepared pan. Spoon the cornbread batter on top of that and spread it out as evenly as possible.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until slightly golden and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.