Exploring Blue Cheese: Myths, Truths, and Fabulous Recipes
A cheese may disappoint. It may be dull, it may be naive, it may be over sophisticated. Yet it remains; cheese, milk’s leap toward immortality.— Clifton Fadiman an American writer, editor and New Yorker book reviewer
In just a few weeks we will be enjoying Super Bowl Sunday; many of us will be immersed in the game, some will watch for the half-time show or the advertisements, but all of us will enjoy the food! One of the most popular treats of the past few years has become Buffalo wings with blue cheese dressing. In my opinion you can keep the wings; I’ll just dive into the bowl of blue cheese.
I don’t know if the advent of this brew pub treat had an impact on the popularity of blue cheese, but it was certainly my introduction to the funky fromage. Until then I had assumed that blue (or bleu) cheese was only favored by those who dined on fancy French cuisine.
Are the French Responsible?
The true origin of blue cheese has generated much folklore, speculation, and controversy.
The Italian claims that Gorgonzola is one of the world's oldest blue-veined cheeses, originating around 847 A.D. from a town of the same name just east of Milan in the northern region of Lombardy. Lombardy, on the alpine border with Switzerland, is in the northern-most part of Italy. It is Italy's leading agricultural area and the Alps provide excellent grazing for cows.
It is said that centuries ago, a young man in Italy, a cheese apprentice, was distracted by love, and left his cheese curds unattended overnight. To hide his oversight, the next morning he mixed them with fresh curds, but a few weeks later noticed that the batch was turning blue. The mistake could no longer be hidden, but it proved to be a happy accident, and Gorgonzola was born….or something like that.
Oddly enough, the French have a similar story for the creation of Roquefort.
Blue Cheese 101 -- How is It Made?
- Milk is acidified, a process which separate the milk into solids (curds) and liquid (whey).
- As with most cheese manufacture, the curds are then drained, salted, shaped and ripened (allowed to age).
- The blue veining comes from the introduction of a specific bacterium (Penicillium Roqueforti or Penicillium Glaucum.) When the bacteria is introduces dictates the type of cheese which results.
- There is another process which is also unique to blue cheeses – the wheels of cheese are poked or “needled” to create multiple tiny openings. These openings will allow air to penetrate; it is the air that feeds the bacteria and allows it to thrive.
- The type of milk used (cow, sheep, goat, or a combination) and what the animals were eating prior to being milked also affect the type of cheese produced.
So Many Choices!
There are so many blue cheeses available – it gets confusing! Here is a simple table that might help you decide which one to purchase.
Best Used In
Mild and creamy
This is a double-cream blue, soft, spreadable, and incredibly rich. It is one of the milder blues, so is a good choice for those new to blue cheese.
Dense, crumbly, and quite strong in flavor. Not for the faint of heart.
salad dressing; melting or serving with beef
Creamy and rich like camembert but with the spicy kick of Gorgonzola
Not creamy, but not dry-crumbly – it sits somewhere in-between
salad (crumble on top)
Rich and creamy
Moist and mild
There are two types of Gorgonzola-- Gorgonzola Piccante (also called Gorgonzola Naturale) is aged, sharp and pungent. Gorgonzola Dulce is milder in flavor. Gorgonzola is crumbly but spreadable.
Salad dressing, snacking, melting or serving with beef, pasta, dessert
Sharp and crumbly
Of all blue cheeses, this one is perhaps the most salty in flavor. It is crumbly and melts on the tongue. To be named “Roquefort” the cheese must be aged in specific caves in the south of France
salad dressing, pasta, dessert
Crumbly, medium-sharp; very similar to Stilton cheese. Dyed yellow
salad dressing, snacking, dessert
One of the best British cheeses, true Stilton can only be manufactured in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire counties. Firm and mild in flavor
salad dressing, snacking, dessert
Recipes and Inspiration
I promised recipes and honestly, there are so many different ways that blue cheeses can be used, this article would be voluminous were I to attempt to cover then all. I will give you a few recipes, but then I will also provide some suggestions and allow you to use your imagination.
Creamy Blue Cheese Dip
This is the stuff you dip, spoon (or desire to bathe in) when you eat Buffalo wings:
- 1/2 cup buttermilk (see note below)
- ½ cup sour cream
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 glove garlic, minced
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- ¾ cup crumbled Danish blue or Stilton
If you like a chunky dressing, combine all ingredients except the cheese in a bowl and stir to blend. Fold in the crumbled blue cheese.
If you prefer a smooth dressing, process everything in a blender or food processor. If the mixture seems too thick add a few more teaspoons of milk.
NOTE: If you don't have buttermilk, don't worry. Place 1/2 teaspoon of white vinegar in a 1 cup measuring cup. Fill to the 1/2 cup mark with regular milk, stir and let sit for 5 minutes.
Buffalo Chicken Nachoes
This one is entirely too easy -- there is no real recipe and hardly any measuring. Use as little or as much as you want of each ingredient, pile onto a microwave-safe plate, zap, and enjoy or bake in a 400 degrees F. oven until cheese is melted (about 3 to 5 minutes)
- tortilla chips
- shredded Cheddar cheese
- shredded rotisserie chicken (about 2 cups. You can guess on this)
- Buffalo hot sauce (I like Frank's, about 1/2 cup)
- diced tomatoes
- blue cheese (use any type you want)
- garnish with sour cream drizzle
- Place the tortilla chips on the microwave-safe plate (or pizza pan if baking in the oven)
- Layer on some shredded cheese
- Toss the chicken with the hot sauce. Place the chicken on top of the cheese
- Add more shredded cheese, the diced tomatoes, and the blue cheese
Camille Styles is a beautiful blog focusing on fun ideas for home, fashion, health and fitness, and fresh recipes. Her crostini recipe is a contrast of tastes and textures -- creamy salty cambozola pops against the sweet crispness of the Asian pear and the buttery, crunchy rustic bread. Use this recipe when you want something which seems indulgent and luxurious, but is one of the easiest foods you'll ever put together. Trust me -- macaroni and cheese from a box takes longer than this.
Soups and Salads
Carb Diva's Creamy Triple Tomato Soup
- 2 14-oz. cans diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1/2 cup celery, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3/4 cup sundried tomatoes, (not oil packed)
- 1/2 of a 6-oz. can tomato paste (no salt added)
- 1 14-oz. can chick broth
- 1 tablespoon fresh sage, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
- 2 tsp. lemon juice
- Bavarian (or blue of your choice)
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
- Strain canned tomatoes, reserving juices. Spread canned tomatoes on large baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Roast in oven about until caramelized, about 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, sauté onion, celery, and garlic in large saucepan until softened, about 10 minutes.
- Add the roasted canned tomatoes, reserved tomato juices, sun-dried tomatoes, broth, sage, and bay leaf. Simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 20 minutes.
- Remove bay leaf. Puree soup in pot with immersion blender until smooth. Stir in chopped parsley and lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
- Garnish with crumbled cheese.
Apple, Pecan, Blue Cheese Salad
for the salad
- 6 cups baby spinach leaves, washed
- 1 small-sized tart-crisp apple, cored and sliced thinly (Granny Smith is an excellent choice for this)
- 1 cup sliced celery
- ½ cup glazed pecans
- ½ cup crumbled Roquefort
For the Raspberry vinaigrette
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons raspberry-flavored vinegar
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Toss all salad ingredients together in large bowl. Whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl. Do not add the dressing until you are ready to serve the salad.
- use baby kale, minced finely, in place of the spinach
- omit the apple and substitute Bosc pear
- add 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- add 6 slices of crisp, crumbled bacon
- replace the apple with 2 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
- add diced cooked chicken to make it a main dish salad
- toasted walnuts can be used in place of the candied pecans
- use any type of blue cheese--Cabrales, Maytag, and Roquefort are the sharpest
- combine fresh berries of your choice (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries) and diced melon
- other fruits can, of course be used, but I would suggest that you NOT use kiwi or any citrus. Cheese does not pair well with highly acidic-tasting foods
- stir in crumbled Cashel bleu or your choice
Meat (Beef and Chicken)
Filet Mignon with Melted Blue Cheese Sauce
Erica, Echo, Elise, and Emily are busy sisters with families, love, and a whole lot of talent when it comes to creating amazing meals. This filet mignon is as good (if not better) than anything you will get in a restaurant.
Fancy Schmancy Hamburgers
If you have any blue cheese sauce left over from the above recipe, put it on top of your favorite hamburger. You won't be disappointed. I promise! All those umami flavors will put a big smile on your face. Here's how I load up my burger:
- seasoned ground beef patty
- toasted burger bun
- thinly-sliced tomato
- sliced mushrooms, briefly saute in butter
- smokey bacon slices, cooked crisp
- smear of mayonnaise on bottom bun
- melted blue cheese sauce from Filet Mignon recipe (above)
Macaroni and Cheese With More
Make your favorite macaroni and cheese, or try this one that I serve to my family. What is the "with more" part, you ask? Why, top your casserole with blue cheese, of course!
- Carb Diva's Macaroni and Cheese with Cauliflower and Tomatoes
A sophisticated blend of cheeses creates a savory and creamy macaroni and cheese; the addition of cauliflower and tomato provides nutrition and flavor. I won't complain if you omit the cauliflower, but the tomato adds great flavor and color!
Carb Diva's Easy Potato Gnocchi with Gorgonzola
Ingredients for Potato Gnocchi
- 1 1/3 cups instant mashed potato flakes
- 1 1/3 cups boiling water
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 large eggs
- 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
- Place the mashed potato flakes in a large mixing bowl and cover with the boiling water. Stir just to moisten and let sit for about 10 minutes.
- Add the salt and 2 eggs and beat on low speed with mixer until smooth. Add the flour and beat just until the flour is incorporated and the dough is smooth. Don't overmix--this makes the gnocchi tough.
- Allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes.
- Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll each one, one at a time, on a clean work surface* into a rope about the thickness of your thumb. Using a sharp knife cut 1/2-inch thick slices from the rope of dough. ( *I roll my gnocchi out on a large piece of parchment paper)
- Next, roll each piece against the tines of a fork--this creates the characteristic grooves and help the sauce cling to gnocchi. To cook them, drop your gnocchi into simmering (not boiling) water--no more than about 20 at a time. They are done when they bob to the surface.
- Remove the gnocchi with a skimmer and place on a clean towel.
A New Approach
Since writing this hub I have discovered a new method of forming gnocchi. It's much faster than the pat, roll, and cut method described above.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil over medium-high heat.
- Lightly spray the inside of a pastry bag with non-stick cooking spray (such as Pam). Do NOT place a decorating tip in the pastry bag--use just the bag and coupler.
- Spoon your potato gnocchi "dough" into the pastry bag.
- With one hand gently squeeze the bag to gradually force the potato dough to the tip of the bag. With your other hand cut off the dough with a sharp knife. Continue to squeeze and cut, allowing the dough to drop into your pot of water.
- Using this method you can form and cook your gnocchi very quickly and without added flour.
ingredients for gorgonzola sauce
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola
- bread crumbs (for garnish)
- good-quality olive oil
- fresh basil, minced (optional)
Bring cream to a simmer over medium-low heat in large saute pan. Add cheese and cook, stirring constantly, until Gorgonzola is melted. Add cooked gnocchi to the pan and toss to coat.
Place gnocchi in oven-safe dish. Sprinkle bread crumbs on top; drizzle with olive oil and top with basil. Broil 5 inches from heat until bubbly and crumbs are browned. Watch carefully so that the crumbs don't burn!
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Blue Cheese and Walnuts
- 1 lb. brussels sprouts, rinsed, bottom end trimmed off and cut in half from top to bottom
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
- ¼ cup walnuts
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Combine sprouts and oil in large mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat.
- Spread out in single layer on rimmed baking sheet.
- Bake in preheated oven 25-30 minutes, stirring twice until sprouts are tender and edges are turning golden brown.
- Remove from oven and turn into serving dish. Garnish with blue cheese and walnuts.
Green Beans with Bacon and Blue Cheese
- One 12-ounce package frozen green beans
- 4 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
- 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese of your choice
Prepare green beans according to package directions. Drain, place in serving dish, and garnish with bacon and blue cheese.
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Do You Want More?
So there you have it -- recipes and ideas for soups, salads, appetizers, pasta, meats, and vegetables.
What about dessert? Well, I had planned on writing about dessert as well, but this article is already at 2,400 words. If you would like some dessert ideas let me know in the comments section. I'd be happy to do that in a separate article.
© 2017 Linda Lum