January 23, 2013 // Righteous Cheese Blog //
We find ourselves in front of our second-story storage fridge every Friday, where large wheels of cheese are stacked one atop another in Tetris formation. We play a bit of cheese Jenga as we pull out several large wheels, all in preparation for busy weekends at the shop.
Downstairs, our wire cheese cutters are put to a bit of work opening up these large wheels – much to our delight as much as yours. You see, no matter how many times I have seen a wheel of cheese cut open, I’m still always happily surprised to see what’s inside. We never positively know what the cheese will be like inside – will it be firmer, and more crumbly? If it’s a blue, how will the blue mold look? Will this wheel have a crack inside? Will it be completely, effortlessly smooth and perfect? There’s nothing like seeing the broad face of half a wheel of freshly cut-into cheese – that’s utterly righteous.
This weekend we found ourselves with a lovely, perfectly-aged wheel of Castelrosso. Head cheesemonger and Righteous Cheese owner Carolyn Stromberg set to the task of cutting the greyish-brown wheel open. Okay – first, can we just point out how medievally awesome that huge “TR” logo is, the one that’s stamped like a big wax seal on top of the wheel?!?
And, with one fluid motion of the thick wire, the tough outer rind revealed a simultaneously creamy and crumbly, snow-white interior, fragrant with a lactic milkiness. It was enough to transport me to a wide-open Italian pasture for just a minute.
Castelrosso is one of those cheeses in our shop that often gets overlooked in favor of its bigger, more flavorful neighbors such as Gruyere and Challerhocker and Beemster Gouda. So let’s give Castelrosso the light it deserves, just for a minute. Castelrosso comes to our shop by way of the north-western Italian region of Piedmont. The flavors of Castelrosso are mild, milky, and mellow up front (with a hit of earthiness closer to the rind). However a residual tang – like a hit of lemongrass – and light dose of salt gradually develops and lingers in the mouth. To some, it is reminiscent of the tang so beloved of some English Cheddars. Meanwhile, the texture is delightfully crumbly, yet buttery at the same time.
Aged between 4-6 months, the cheese is more moist and mellow when closer to 4 months, and develops to be even more flaky, chalky, herbal, and flavorful when it reaches 6 months. Murray’s recalls an essence “with the flavor of browned, buttery lemon bar, fresh from the oven”. We couldn’t agree more!
While we love this cheese as a fresh, bright complement on a cheese board, it actually serves its best purpose to complement rich, earthy foods. The owners of the Frankie’s and Prime Meats in Brooklyn, NY (one of my favorite restaurants in the world) share their recipe for a shaved brussels sprouts salad with Castelrossoover at Epicurious. We think this is just plain, simple, culinary genius.
Or, as we often find ourselves suggesting at the shop, use Castelrosso as a substitute for Queso Fresco. Over pulled pork tacos or a thick black bean stew, this bright, crumbly cheese might finally get the applause it deserves.
At Righteous Cheese, Castelrosso goes for $22/lb. Come on in and ask us about it!