Wordless Wednesdays

Saturday, March 20, 2010

On responsibility and fine cheese

GASP. I'm blogging again! It's been too long, and I am realizing how much I love this. Ever since I have started this blog, I have been noticing a gnawing feeling of responsibility toward said blog, like the feeling of caring for a small child. Well, it's definitely not as intense as that, but there's definitely a feeling of "I AM NEGLECTING THIS POOR DEFENSELESS BLOG, AND I NEED TO STEP UP AND BE THE MOMMY *ahem* WRITER OF THIS HERE BLOG!" And that's kind of how I've been feeling lately. A sense of responsibility. And wouldn't you know it, this sense of responsibility has spilled over into my slight obsession with food. Cheese, namely. Fine cheese. Gruyere, to be very specific. One may ask, "What on earth does Gruyere have to do with responsibility?" Well, I AM SO GLAD YOU ASKED, because I shall now commence with my introduction to this fine fromage.

Once upon a time, Steve and I were in a book group. Well, I am still in a book group. A different one. Well...it's a long story, and even though I am a little too gifted at telling long stories, I shall resist this time around and get to the point in my usual round-about fashion. So, yes. The book group. Off we went to our friend's home, and of course, I was fascinated with what was being made for dinner. An open-faced chicken cordon bleu!! How progressive is that?!? I watched as Carissa (the wife of the lovely couple who was hosting that night's discussion) spread honey dijon mustard over the chicken breasts, then place two leaves of fresh spinach on top, followed by a thin slice of honey ham, and then crowned with a generous sprinkle of Swiss cheese. Oh yeah. You know I brought that recipe home that night! After Carissa so generously printed out an extra copy for me from Epicurious (my introduction, by the way, to that glorious website!!), I noticed the recipe said to use Gruyere. What. The. Heck. Is. Gruyere. "Well,"said Carissa,"Gruyere would definitely be the best. But I just couldn't bring myself to buy it this time." Which, of course, me being the cheap half-Russian Jew that I am, I completely understood. And then I knew that Gruyere and I would have a long way to go before we could reconcile our economic differences. It was just too bad! After the episode with the open-faced chicken cordon bleu, I began to see Gruyere pop up EVERYWHERE in the foodie world. I would peruse my stack of library-obtained issues of Bon Appetit, and there it was! In nearly every issue, Gruyere would pop its pricey little face into mine at least once or twice. I was starting to get seriously annoyed. So, I did what every responsible self-proclaimed foodie must do. I made open-faced chicken cordon bleu, and I took my cheap self to the grocery store and BOUGHT A SMALL WEDGE OF GRUYERE. It nearly killed me. I took it home. I opened it. And then...I smelled it. Hmm. I was highly suspicious. So suspicious, in fact, that I took the coward's way out and bought a pre-shredded bag of Swiss cheese. I consoled myself by reasoning that, hey; at least it was Sargento Swiss cheese. Who was I kidding? I was a coward!! And so I let that beautiful wedge rot in my fridge, and I did not think or speak of Gruyere for 3 years. Every time I saw a recipe that used that loathsome rot, I would automatically substitute Swiss cheese without giving it a second thought. It was a code. Gruyere=don't even bother, or Gruyere=Swiss. UNTIL...

One fateful day, I was perusing Bon Appetit, looking for some inspiration, when I stumbled across the most charming article on homemade mayonnaise that I had ever read in my entire life. The author? None other than Ms. Molly Wizenberg, the new darling of the foodie scene and recently published author of "A Homemade Life", a wonderfully touching memoir of her family, life, and her decision to leave academia to pursue her passion of great food and great cooking. Yes. I had found a most kindred spirit in Ms. Molly, and I knew I had to read more of her delightful writing. And so I did. I devoured issue after issue of Bon Appetit, scouring the pages for her column, and I read. And read. And cooked. And read some more. Then I visited her blog, "Orangette", and found it just as delightful and inspiring. And so it went for well over a year, and THEN...her book was published, and I packed my boys into the van, and off we went to Barnes and Noble in pursuit of said book. I went. I found it. I bought it. Me, the half-Russian Jew who will wait AGES for a book to come to the library so I can read it for FREE, bought a brand-new, RIDICULOUSLY expensive book at the most superbookstores of superbookstores. I must have lost my mind. I voraciously read as much I could while the boys played with the train table in the children's section (someone needs a gold star for that idea), and when I realized it was dinner time, I panicked, then called Steve to plead with him to pick up a pizza on his way home. So much for good cooking. Anyway, I read the book in 2 days (a small miracle for a mommy of two boys under 4), and proceeded to feel empty inside when I was done. So I read it again, this time putting sticky tabs on all of the recipes I wanted to try, and started out with lemon ginger scones. A smashing success. Banana Bread. Ditto. AND THEN...it was time to try Bouchons au Thon, literally, "Tuna Corks", an outstanding little meal to which my boys fondly refer to as,"Fish Cakes", because they are baked in a muffin tin. I studied the recipe; it looked extremely simple. But lo and behold, there staring up at me from the list of ingredients, was none other ONE ENTIRE CUP OF GRUYERE, SHREDDED!! So it had come to this!! At that moment, I knew. I knew it was time to do the responsible thing, shed my fears from the past, and emerge forth into a shining new era of foodie-ism. It was time to grow up. It was time to really, truly give Gruyere an honest try, stink and all. And so...I did. I bought a small wedge of Gruyere from Trader Joe's, and sallied forth into my beloved kitchen with a gallantry I had not yet known. It was time. I opened the wedge. I sliced off the most petite sliver imaginable, and proceeded to eat it. Such cheese. After about 10 more petite slivers, I finally got started on the actual recipe. As the Bouchons baked, they gave off the most heavenly of rich and nutty aromas, and browned beautifully on top- you just knew it HAD to be the Gruyere. We devoured each and every darling little "Fish Cake", and I knew, after all these years, that Gruyere and I had finally reconciled our differences, and I had taken full responsibility for my self-proclaimed foodie-ism and faced one of my worst culinary nightmares head-on.

So where does that leave us? Whether it's Gruyere, boning a duck, balancing your checkbook, being honest with yourself, poaching figs, or setting a pan of Bananas Foster on fire, my message is this: face your fears. They may not be as scary as you think.

Oh, and because I'm not a tease:

One thing about the recipe:
Feel free to substitute high-quality sour cream (such as Breakstone's or Daisy) for the creme fraiche. Unlike Gruyere, creme fraiche is NOT everything its cracked up to be (my apologies to creme fraiche enthusiasts out there). So there you go. BE FEARLESS!! And always, always be responsible for the things you consider to be important.

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