What do you do when 11 pounds of cheese shows up at your door? …My first instinct? Crack ’em open and stuff my face until I explode or pass out, whichever comes first.
Of course, once the extreme cheese excitement wore off and I was able to think clearly, a much better idea emerged: share it! Throw a party! Pair it with beers!
A fairly solid plan, but there was still the issue of how to utilize all 11 pounds.
I shared my dilemma with Callie, the awesome chef at BandPage, and she suggested hosting the pairing at the office, during their weekly employee dinner. Yes!
So we started planning a menu that would feed the masses. And maybe get them a little tipsy.
We created a full meal from appetizer to dessert, using each of the cheeses.
Of the three, the Hirten was my favorite. Rich and crumbly, it reminded me of Parmesan. It’s so good in fact, we used it twice!
For an appetizer, we made Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Crostini with Crispy Prosciutto.
A Kale Caesar Salad was also a great vessel for such a complex cheese.
The two Hirten offerings were paired with Stone Brewing’s Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale. This is a beast of a beer.
The general consensus seemed to be that this pairing was a little too intense with the complex flavors of the crostini, but spot-on with the salad.
Next up, we had the Bergkase. It’s a little dry, a little smoky, but very smooth. I knew it wanted to be melted!
This (and a bit of the Weissbier) went into a decadent Caramelized Onion Mac & Cheese. (recipe below)
Paired with Lost Abbey’s Lost & Found Ale, this was a definite win. The beer is malty and a bit sweet from the raisins it’s brewed with, which worked well with the caramelized onions and the smokiness of the cheese.
The Weissbier was put to use in dessert, which it’s perfect for. It’s nutty, buttery and faintly sweet.
We kept it simple: slices of sweet melon with finely shredded Weissbier, a drizzle of honey, some fresh nutmeg and a pinch of salt.
Dessert was paired with Green Flash Rayon Vert, which is dry and funky, but also a little fruity. Like the first beer, it was a bit polarizing.
It led to my favorite feedback of the whole night, however: a few people mentioned that they weren’t crazy about the beer on its own, but really liked it with the dessert. (I fell into this group myself.)
This is what pairings are all about! It’s interesting to see how different components play off each other and change your perception of flavor.
All in all, a successful and delicious night. There was barely any cheese left over!
I have to give a huge thank you to Callie (seen below pouring beers) for being amazing in general and for once again letting me play around in the BandPage kitchen, and to all of BandPage for being such wonderful hosts.
Another giant thank you to Callie’s friend Ayah (also seen below pouring beer… there was a lot of pouring) for helping out in the kitchen, cleaning up way too much, and for getting her friend Weston (who snuck off before any picture-taking started) to help out as well!
Win a Private Cheese Tasting in your own home – enter by clicking on the banner below. Castello Moments and this post is a collaboration between the blogger and Arla Foods USA.
Caramelized Onion Mac & Cheese
As I mentioned above, I used Castello's Bergkase and Weissbier cheeses for this recipe, but you could use any combination of good melting cheeses you'd like!
- olive oil
- 2 medium yellow onions, diced
- kosher salt
- granulated sugar
- 1 pound rigatoni (or pasta of your choice), cooked and drained
- 4 tablespoons butter, plus extra for the baking dish
- 4 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 4 cups milk, warmed
- pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- freshly ground black pepper
- 4 cups freshly shredded cheese, 1/2 cup reserved for topping
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- To caramelize the onions: heat a large pan over medium-low heat with enough olive oil to coat the pan. Add the onions and a pinch each of salt and sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are an even golden brown, about 45 minutes. Set aside. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and butter a casserole dish (~8x12).
- In a large pot, melt 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and keep whisking for 2 minutes to cook out the raw flour taste. Slowly whisk in the heated milk in a few batches, letting each addition get thoroughly combined before adding the next. Add the nutmeg, paprika, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and pepper to taste. Raise the heat, bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for several minutes until thickened slightly.
- Off the heat, add 3 1/2 cups of cheese to the sauce and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Stir in the caramelized onions and cooked pasta. Pour the pasta mixture into the prepared casserole dish.
- In a small bowl combine the melted butter, breadcrumbs and parsley. Sprinkle the pasta with the reserved cheese, then the breadcrumb mixture. Bake until the top is nicely browned, about 25 minutes.