Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz and expert Enric Canut propose juicy pairings for 100 Spanish cheeses
Selection of different types of Spanish cheeses. ©Enric Canut-CCI, Eix Comunicació and FotoCombert.
Author: Rodrigo García Fernández/©ICEX
Publication Date: 29 May 2012
New trends for food pairing. Not only false barriers between dishes and wines have been broken today, but we have added other products such as liqueurs, coffee and cakes to the debate on the harmony of flavors. This time we are focusing on a project developed by Andoni Luis Aduriz’s Mugaritz restaurant, and by Enric Canut, one of the greatest Spanish cheese experts. The star of this film is Spanish cheese, together with very seductive supporting actors such as bread, marmalade, vegetable preserve and dried fruit and nuts. Welcome to the new cheese pairings.
The world premiere of this Spanish production took place at the last edition of the Alimentaria trade fair, held in March in Barcelona. It was filmed from December 2011 to January 2012, when Enric Canut, great connoisseur of the Spanish cheese sector and defender of its many protected designations of origin, met up with Basque chef Andoni Luis Aduriz and his team in Mugaritz restaurant, just a few kilometers from San Sebastián (Basque Country).
The work plan was on the table. They were facing an unprecedented challenge: to find valid, pleasant and surprising pairings for 100 Spanish cheeses. Time was not on their side because they only had two months before they presented the results of this research in Barcelona. They managed it, and very successfully indeed. Let’s take a look at the process.
Mugaritz, headquarters for two brainstorming sessions
Andoni Luis Aduriz’s passion for cheese is very well known. He was one of the first chefs from the so-called avant-garde Spanish cuisine to take a risk with cheese pairing, with his famous creation “Basque cheeseboard and its harmonies”, around 2006. When Canut explained his proposal, he could not resist and set the work schedule: two brainstorming sessions – one at the end of December to get down to business, and another in February to polish it.
Two marathon sessions in which Canut, Aduriz and several members from the team at Mugaritz (Dani, Joserra, Nico, Javi, Oswaldo, Llorenç and Leire) tasted many types of cheese and then grouped them up into 13 families: Fresh Cheeses, Soft Cow’s Milk Cheeses, Soft Goat’s and / or Sheep’s Milk Cheeses, Semi-Aged Cheeses, Aged Cow’s and / or Goat’s Milk Cheeses, Aged Sheep’s Milk Cheeses, Aged Over One Year Cheeses, Torta-Style Cheeses, Smoked and Toasted Cheeses, Blue Cheeses, Flavored Cheeses, Specially Treated Cheeses and a Selection of all of them.
The next step was to select possible food with which to create plates of cheese pairings. This food mainly includes different types of bread, fruit, vegetable preserves, fresh vegetables, jams and marmalades, dried fruit and nuts, and even small sweet bites.
This way, 13 trays full of ideas were created, for both catering professionals and consumers to enjoy the wide variety of Spanish cheeses even more, if possible. New dishes, new tapas, new surprises. We offer three examples of these 13 trays that were available to taste at the “Spain and its 100 Cheeses” space at the last edition of Alimentaria in Barcelona. They are a clear example of the quality of Spanish food. Enric Canut gives us the key to his research: “Are they the best pairs? Probably not. Are they the only ones? Not at all. But it’s clear that they work and seduce people”.
We will find 12 Spanish cheeses in this group (including Cebreiro by Castelo cheese factory, Burgos by Flor de Burgos cheese factory, and El Ventero fresh goats’ cheese), full of lactic aromas and a slight acidity. These notes are able to contrast satisfactorily with the soft spicy flavor of the tomato and pepper sauce and chili honey, the salinity of dried tomatoes and the toasted aroma of seeded bread. Other proposals such as amaranth salad, baby radishes or dry dates are also added.
Aged Sheep’s Milk Cheeses
This cheese family is made up of 9 cheeses (for example, Ronkari by DOP Roncal, Casa del Bosque by DOP Queso Manchego and Flor de Esgueva Viejo) whose strength and rusticity combine harmoniously with the freshness of black figs, roast pumpkin, the clear taste of pine nuts, a good loaf of hogaza bread (country loaf), regañás (sort of crackers) with black olives and Amontillado sherry.
This selection includes 12 Spanish cheeses made from different types of milk and with different levels of maturing. It is an interesting proposal to experiment with a wide range of Spanish cheeses – a sure bet for an evening of tapas with friends, where different people like different types of cheese. According to Canut, “in this case, the best thing is to use wild cards – food to create perfect harmonies without risks”. This cheeseboard incluyes cheeses such as DOP Torta del Casar, a fresh cheese by DOP Queso Majorero and semi-aged cheese by DOP Murcia al Vino. They are paired with tasty quince, surprising celery, juicy grapes and pear preserve, and crusty bread with yeast aromas.
Video: All About Manchego Cheese.
Rodrigo García Fernández is specialist food journalist and editorial coordinator of www.foodsfromspain.com.