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This is one of those golden recipes that sees you purchase the best quality ingredients, do next to nothing to them, yet achieve astounding results. It comes from the ‘no fuss’ tradition of French home cooking, which features other utterly simple dishes such as a fresh fillet of fish gently pan-fried, spring’s first asparagus spears lightly steamed, or ruby ripe berries and crème fraîche.
The joy of baked Mont d’Or is that all of the hard work, developing the dishes incomparable final flavour, has been done for you by skilled artisanal cheesemakers who have spent years honing their craft to make this beautiful, seasonal cheese. Basically, all you need to do is warm it up. And seasonal is key, Mont d’Or is so delicious, that it’s a good job it’s only available a few months of the year, lest you indulge year-round.
1 Vacherin Mont d’Or
1 clove of garlic
2 sprigs of thyme or rosemary
50 ml white wine
1 baguette - thickly sliced
½ a jar of cornichons
500g new potatoes
Charcuterie of your choice
We’re going to poke the garlic, rosemary and thyme into the surface of the cheese so that their flavour infuses during the cook time. So cut the garlic into little slivers and pick the leaves of the herbs.
Unwrap your Mont d’Or, remove any stickers or plastic wrap, but keep it in its wooden box. Take off the lid and push the little slivers of garlic and herbs into the top of the cheese. Add a splash of white wine. You should use some of the wine you intend to serve with the cheese. And here, you want something quite heavy, an alpine white wine such as German Reisling or Gewürztraminer is ideal. Leave the wine out of the fridge from now on. It doesn’t need to be icy cold, in fact, slightly below room temperature is ideal as it works better with the melted cheese.
Put the lid back on the box. Wrap the whole box in tin foil and put it into a 180°C oven for 20 minutes. Inside the box, encircling the cheese is a piece of spruce bark. This bark imparts flavour and aroma to the cheese as it bakes, for some, the most delicious part is the last bits, scraped directly off the bark.
Plunge the potatoes into well-salted boiling water for 10 minutes. Take one out, cut it in half, if it’s uniformly cooked to the centre, drain the rest, if not, give them another few minutes and re-test. Alternatively, you can microwave them according to the instructions on the bag. Simple!
Slice the baguette, if you do it on the diagonal, the slices are the perfect shape for scooping up the molten cheese.
Drain the cornichons. The cheese is rich, really rich, so some crunchy, cold, acidic pickles are the perfect counterpoint.
Unwrap and arrange the charcuterie. Try and roll or ruffle them up a bit, it lets the air get in and around the slices which helps them release their flavour, it makes them easier to pick up, and it just looks nicer.
Bring your condiments, wine, wine glasses and guests to the table and wait for the timer on the cheese to ring. When it does, go grab the cheese and unwrap it at the table. A waft of scented steam will rise from the cheese as you lift the lid, your guests will coo in anticipation, then the feast will, most naturally, begin!