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Playing with Cheese--Etorki Prosciutto & Tart Cherry Risotto and a Grilled Etorki, Spicy Capocolla & Dark Cherry Jam Sandwich

Posted May 04 2010 3:01am
The usual "Things I Am Loving This Week" post will be back again next week. This week, I bring you...Cheese!

So about that non-dairy thing I have been doing for my allergies...well I took a break. It was two words that did me in...two of the best words in the English language--Free Cheese! How could I possibly turn down the offer to sample some wonderful cheese, especially when it came from my friends at Ile De France and it gave me the chance to try an unfamiliar cheese. With many different kinds of cheese to choose from, I went for the Etorki , a rustic sheep's milk cheese with a long history. I was happy to open the box and pull out a huge chunk of this unique cheese, plenty for eating with some good bread, and more than enough to create a couple of recipes to enjoy it in.


The Ile De France website says, "Etorki, which means “origin” in Basque, is a pasteurized sheep's milk cheese that has been produced in the heart of the Basque region of southwestern France for over 4000 years. The cheese is made from local sheep's milk in Mauléon, in the Atlantic Pyrenees. More specifically, Etorki is made from the milk of black- or red-faced Manech ewes. This breed has lived in the region for thousands of years and produces superb milk. The ewes' milk is exceptional, but there is only a scant supply: It takes 22 ewes to provide the same amount of milk obtained by the milking of a single cow. A total of 6 gallons of milk is needed to produce one wheel of Etorki. The scarcity of ewes' milk and the limited milking season – December to July – offer a partial explanation for the higher price of cheese made from sheep's milk in comparison to that made from cow's milk. And Etorki is composed of over 98% ewes' milk."


Etorki is described as "smooth, velvety texture and rich, hazelnut (almost burnt caramel-like) flavor. Its aroma is sweet and buttery, and the cheese is voluptuous on the tongue. Because of its supple texture, Etorki is perfect in recipes calling for grated or melted cheese. According to tradition of the Basque shepherds - Etorki should be served with black cherry jam on top. Etorki is a popular choice for cheese platters (Serve with pickles, spicy olives or cured meats), but it is equally good in a salad made with yellow apples and sweet pepper preserves, with Bayonne ham and Espelette pepper, or in a terrine with eggplant. All Pyrenees cheese go well with apples and pears and make a great picnic or lunch cheese."

The delicious and creamy etorki seemed perfect for a risotto and I liked the idea of pairing it with cherry, so I decided to make a rich cheesy risotto with dried tart cherries and salty little chunks of prosciutto.


Etorki, Prosciutto and Tart Cherry Risotto
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 4)

5 cups low-sodium chicken stock
2 tablespoons butter
2 shallots, diced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 dried tart cherries
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 oz thick cut prosciutto, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
3/4 cup grated Etorki cheese (or other sheep's milk cheese)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan, bring the stock to a boil over medium-high heat, then hold at a simmer.

In a large, heavy saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook until they are tender but not brown, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter, then add the dried cherries and wine. and simmer until the wine has almost evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of warm stock and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue with remaining stock, adding 1/2 cup at a time, and allowing each addition to be absorbed, until the rice is tender to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the prosciutto, (reserving about 2 tablespoons for garnish), thyme and cheese, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer the risotto to a serving bowl, sprinkle with reserved prosciutto and serve immediately.


Notes/Results: Wow! I was happy with the way this turned out. The combination of the sweet, buttery cheese with the slightly tart cherries and the smoky, saltiness of the prosciutto was excellent. Etorki has a high butterfat content--it makes about 33% of the total weight of the cheese, making this an indulgent dish and very satisfying. I would make this again.

I had enough etorki to create another recipe and loved the Basque-Style Grilled Cheese with Etorki, Piquillo Peppers and Chorizo that Natasha at 5 Star Culinary Adventures made with her cheese. This cheese melts so well that a grilled cheese is perfect for it so I had to make my own version. Still on my cherry pairing kick, I found some dark cherry jam (just like the Basque shepherds recommend!), and used some leftover capocolla (a slightly spicy cured meat) for a little kick.


Grilled Etorki, Spicy Capocolla & Dark Cherry Jam Sandwich
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 1 Sandwich)

2 tsp butter
2 slices good crusty bread
slices of Etorki, enough to cover bread
3-4 slices capocolla (or prosciutto or other cured meat)
1 Tbsp dark cherry jam

Heat grill pan over medium-high heat. Lightly butter one side of each of the bread slices. Place cheese on the unbuttered side of one slice of the bread and top with capocolla. Spread jam on unbuttered side of other slice of bread and place on top of cheese and meat forming sandwich. Place in pan and grill until nicely browned on the bottom, flip sandwich over, and cook until the other side is browned and the cheese is melted.

Notes/Results: YUM! The sandwich was delicious. The dark cherry jam added a nice sweetness and it blended well with the smooth, slightly nutty cheese and lightly spicy meat. I used a fresh boule, which toasted up perfectly and the sandwich had that perfect crisp outside, oozy inside combination. This one is a winner too.


I enjoyed both the goats milk cheese and the Camembert I tried from Ile De France but the etorki is my favorite so far. It is "swoon-worthy" and well worth breaking my non-dairy goals for! ;-) Thanks to Ile De France for sending it to me to sample.

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