Cheese: a solid food prepared from the pressed curd of milk. I know…not very enticing, is it? How something as simple and, frankly, dull sounding as that can be one of our most beloved and versatile foods is a miracle of the gastronomic Gods. But at a time of year when chocolate is usually front and center, the winery staff got together at the end of January to profess our love for this more dairy-based divinity…
“Cooking with” nights are a new staff tradition here at Oliver Winery. It’s a chance for our employees, who are already family in more ways than one, to get together and share the dual passions of food and wine. To pass recipes we love to each other, and ultimately to our customers. Late last summer we celebrated by cooking with our wines. The next natural step was to explore the amazing options in our cheese case. With over twenty cheese-laden dishes on display, it was quite a sight. A pot luck dinner on steroids! From buttery and mild to salty and sharp. From ooey and gooey to crumbly and dense. Warm, cold, melted, shredded, baked, fried, sliced, marinated and even “fondued”, cheese really is the perfect ingredient.
The dishes varied widely. Triple Mushroom Brie Soup with our Champignon brie rounds was earthy and rich, while Spicy Tortilla Espanola layered with aged Manchego warmed the soul. A delicious Marinated Cheese Appetizer highlighted the bold flavors of one of Vermont’s finest cheddars from Grafton Village, while southern Indiana’s own Capriole goat cheese received the royal treatment in delicate Dessert Custards with Strawberries and Red Wine Syrup. At the end of the night we took a vote on our favorite: the winner, a Breakfast Strata w/Potatoes, Rosemary, Fontina and Cheddar. (Recipe below) Light and airy, it’s a classic recipe that can be adapted with any number of wonderful melting cheeses, meats or vegetables. Our 2008 Sauvignon Blanc paired beautifully with it, balancing the rich flavors. And I know you’re thinking it, but this was breakfast strata for dinner, so wine is most definitely allowed!
In the end, everyone left extremely full, and inspired to keep exploring. So next time you’re in the tasting room, ask us what cheese we might recommend for your picnic on the grounds. If you don’t quite finish it, and have a little leftover to take home, come back inside on your way out. Ask us for a good recipe. We’ve got a few options, and we love to share.
This is the Breakfast Strata Recipe. If you would like electronic versions of any of these recipes, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.