Who You Callin’ A Hooligan?

by Anuradha Jayakrishnan, Head Cheesemonger at Murray’s Cheese in Grand Central Terminal

Have you ever wanted to get your hands on a Hooligan? No, I don’t mean one of us cheesemongers behind the counter, I mean a REAL Hooligan, like the ones we made at Cato Corner Farm on a recent Thursday.  If you love cheese as much as we do at Murray’s, you’ve got to know a cheese’s ins and outs, its story, it’s SOURCE. So, sinking our hands right into the cheesemaking process was, in fact, wonderfully appropriate.

The Murray’s crew and I departed Bleecker Street and headed across state lines to farm country, also known as Connecticut. We arrived at Cato Corner Farm just after noon that Bloomsday and a small gang of friendly but boisterous dogs heralded our arrival. As we poured out of the mini-van, the smell of hay, barn and warm sunshine welcomed us without words; it was going to be a good day.

The cows at Cato Corner gave a warm welcome.

Liz, owner of the farm, greeted us with a grin, and a laugh, “You must be from Murray’s.” I was sure my Ray Bans, beat-up Beatles t-shirt, and red cut-offs would make me look farm chic, but alas, I fear my oversized flower tote containing bronzer and sunscreen gave me away. We freshened up and then met Mark, Liz’s son who oversees the farm’s cheesemaking. He took us underground to see affinage at work in their aging facility, which was not unlike the cheese caves beneath our Bleecker Street store. I was amazed by the sheer number of cheeses being aged at one time in the small farm’s complex. Shelves of old and young wheels formed passageways that towered over us like halls of an antique library (and the smell wasn’t that dissimilar either). Incredibly enough, the thick, dull brown rinds on the large wheels and the (almost cute) furry blue and grey rinds on the smaller wheels were derived from ambient molds that occur naturally in the caves themselves (local mold makes local gold! Ha!).

Yours truly, in good company!

Next up on the docket was cheesemaking. Now, if you’re as big of a cheese nerd as I am, you’d understand why I was giggling through the whole sanitizing process. There I was, every appendage covered in plastic yet I couldn’t help but clap with joy in a ruffled frenzy at the thought of molding curd with my own fingers. We surrounded the enormous bath tub (at least it look like one) filled half way with what looked like an untouched layer of plain yogurt. Having added the rennet an hour before, Mark said, the milk  should be firm enough to cut by now – and with that, he pierced the creamy film, and to my amazement, it didn’t blob into a soft creamy mess, but yielded to the knife like a limber slice of tofu. The curd was ready. He began slicing the curd into half inch pieces using a large wire cutter. Then we took turns dipping our hands into the vat and milling the curds into finer, more even bits. The curd itself tasted like sweet, warm milk Jell-o, but in the best way. After draining the whey, we scooped the curds into baskets, piling the milled bits into heaping snow cone-esque forms for further drainage and shaping. Minutes later, we popped the curds out of the molds and voila – curds in their perfect form, ready to join their comrades in the aging room, but with the added touch of Murray’s handiwork; hooligans indeed.

Stirring the curd that will later be molded into Hooligan.

We concluded our cheese-making escapade with a picnic lunch outside where we all enjoyed sandwiches, charcuterie, pickles, farm fresh fruits and veggies, and of course, cheese. We tried a very special cheese only available at the farm, the 1 year aged Anniversary Bloomsday, made a year ago to the day! It was nutty and sharp with crystalline pops of sweetness and a pale, custard yellow paste that sang of summer sun and happy cows.  Naturally, we also sampled Hooligan, a large muffin shaped cheese with a dense, flaky center and mildly pungent rind. We finished with Misty Morning, a creamy, earthy blue that was lovely with bites of freshly picked strawberries.

The finished product, after aging: Funky funky hooligan

After touring the farm and thanking the cows for their generous bounties, we climbed back into the mini-van, ripe Hooligans in tow (think ripe plus hot cramped car… serious funky town), and headed back to the West Village. Great cheese and great people; I could not have asked for a better Bloomsday.

James Is Not A Chef: Spicy BBQ Shrimp Quesadillas

James Stahl is a cheesemonger, a melt-master and an all-around crazy dude in the kitchen. This blog invites you to take a peek at his most recent creations and dares you to try this at home.

Important Disclaimer: While I assume that this will be readily apparent, I am not a professional chef. I am simply someone who loves to cook. My desire is to expand my ability to create amazing dishes and, with access to the best quality ingredients in New York City courtesy of Murray’s Cheese (not to mention a pretty sweet discount), I intend to share that experience with you.  Okay, that was far too serious. It won’t happen again, pinky swear. On to the food!

Spicy Barbecue Shrimp Quesadillas

Note: The recipe shown is how I executed the dish that is pictured, not necessarily how I conceived of the dish or how I would make it again.

Ingredients:

1 pound uncooked large shrimp, cleaned
3/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/2 cup spicy ketchup
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup dark beer
1/2 cup shredded jalapeno jack
1/2 red onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
5 tablespoons butter
1/2 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large flour tortillas

In a large skillet under medium-low heat melt 3 tablespoons of the butter. Add garlic, cook until browned. Add onions, sauté until soft and translucent, about 5-6 minutes.

Pour in vinegar, beer and chicken broth, raise heat to a boil. Add ketchup, mustard, cumin and cayenne pepper. Stir until fully mixed. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until reduced by about a quarter.

In a separate pan, heat up olive oil until just before smoking and add shrimp. Sear each side a nice golden brown, just over a minute each side, so pay close attention.

Heat tortillas in a microwave for about 30 seconds, add half of the shrimp on each tortilla, cover with sauce and half of the cheese. Fold tortilla on top of itself.

On a grill pan, over medium high heat, melt a tablespoon of butter, place quesadilla on pan and brown each side, a couple minutes for each side. Cut in half and serve with sour cream.

What Went Well

The Sauce. Hot damn that sauce turned out great. I was aiming for a pulled pork vinegar-style and I think I nailed it. The chicken broth balanced everything out nicely despite the fact that I hadn’t originally planned on using any. The importance of good chicken broth cannot be understated.

Could it have been spicier? I think it was plenty hot for a mixed crowd, but I wouldn’t turn down the option of chopping up a serrano pepper and cooking it with the onions.

The Shrimp. I had tossed around the idea of using a pre-roasted chicken and shredding the breast into the sauce and letting it simmer for a good long time, but shrimp really turned out to be the better option. The chicken would’ve gotten lost in the sauce while the texture of the shrimp really stood out.

What Went Less Well

My Impending Senility. So the plan was to finely chop up some chorizo, fry it crisply and add to the sauce. I bought it. It was in the fridge and everything, but I just flat out forgot about it.

The Tortillas. The large tortillas were rather unwieldy and it was difficult to get an even browning on my fry pan. I would definitely use smaller tortillas next time.

The Definition of “Cleaned” Shrimp. Apparently mine is different than the seafood shop’s. De-veining the shrimp wasn’t nearly as difficult as I had imagined, but it wasn’t particularly fun either.

That’s What She Said

The Girlfriend: “Pretty awesome but perhaps a tad too saucy, the tortillas ended up a bit soggy as a result. But I’d definitely eat that again.”

The Verdict

I definitely give it a thumbs up, but hopefully I’ll remember the chorizo next time. The smokiness and crunch from the crisp chorizo will be a killer addition to the sauce.

Favorite Song Internet Radio Played While Cooking

Dominion/Mother Russia by The Sisters of Mercy. Thank God the internet didn’t really exist back during my high school goth phase. Nobody needs to relive that. Seriously.

Run, Cheese Boy, Run!

By Steve Millard

As the Store Director of our Greenwich Village shop, I get asked lots of questions every day.  Questions like “Do you have any raw milk cheeses?” or “I am having five people over and need to get 5 cheeses – can you help me?”  The other question I get, not as frequently, is “Why are you so thin?”  Fact: I do eat a lot of cheese.  But I also work a lot of hours on my feet and if you’re here on a busy Saturday, you’ll see that I’m burning a lot of calories along with my staff.

The truth is that I run.  I run a lot.  About two years ago, I decided I needed to lose weight and wanted to run a marathon before I turned 41.  So I started running, and watching what I ate.  The end result two-plus years later is that I lost 60 pounds, went from a 2XL to a large and saw my waist shrink from a tight 38 to a comfy 34.

I know what you’re thinking – another born-again thin dude who runs all the time.  But I promise to stick to what I know:  dairy!

While training for what was to be my first marathon (in Honolulu!) three years ago, I suffered a stress fracture when I ran my first 20-miler.  Any chance of running in Hawaii vanished, and I had plenty of time to figure out why that had happened.  A quick look at my diet revealed a key piece missing.  Any guesses?  It was dairy!  The only dairy I consumed was half-and-half in my coffee.  I had cut out cheese, ice cream and yogurt under the guise of my diet and cutting out fat.  (The lack of dairy was not the only culprit – I was also over-training and not following the key running mantra of no more than 10% further or faster than what I did in the previous week).

Fast forward two years – I’ve added lots and lots of dairy to my diet, maintained my weight, and have become a fairly good ultra marathon distance runner (with a half-marathon, marathon, 50-miler and a 50K under my belt).  Not a single day goes by where I don’t eat dairy of some sort.  By eliminating dairy I was eliminating calcium and short changing my body of protein and fat.

Here are a couple of things that get me through the day (not including bites of cheese).  I’ll be contributing more blog posts in the future, so check back for other tips, whether you’re interested in increasing your exercise regimen or you’re just curious about the diet of a cheesemonger/runner.

Strained Yogurt: My day begins with a strained yogurt every morning.  I vary it up: either Fage Total 2%, a Greek style low fat yogurt that packs a whopping 20 grams of protein and 6% GV of fat, topped with Bee Raw Star Thistle honey.  I also like Siggi’s Skyr, an Icelandic style yogurt  – it’s incredibly tasty and full of protein.   These strained yogurts have a lot of the whey removed — leaving a deliciously thick, protein- packed punch that gets me going in the morning.

Mid-Day Snack: We all have that mid-day snack attack when you need to get some life back into your limbs and your brain.  In the past, I would turn to something sugary or a cup of coffee, but my new pick lately is a White Cow Dairy Tonic.  What the heck is a whey tonic and why is it so good?  Part yogurt whey, part yogurt solids, part delicious flavors like star anise or turmeric, these tonics contain lots of protein and are really refreshing.  We already love fourth generation dairy farmer Patrick Lango’s amazing yogurts and custards that come in flavors as diverse as Chocolate Malt and Apple Pie, when Patrick mentioned the tonics back in January, little did we know how hooked our staff would get.

The whole Murray’s crew swears that there is restorative goodness in every bottle of Dairy Tonic.  They keep us on our feet whether we’re running around the store or running 50 miles in the park.

Murray’s staff aren’t the only ones who think White Cow Tonics are incredible – check out write-ups from The New York Times, Tasting Table and Serious Eats on these amazingly refreshing drinks. Yogurts and dairy tonics are currently available at our 2 retail locations only.

I Fell In Love With Goat Cheese at Prairie Fruits Farm

… and now you can, too!

By Deena Siegelbaum

 

The goats that stole my hear (Prairie Fruits Farm)

 

I came to work at Murray’s Cheese because of my love for slow food – and my work at Slow Food.  For many years I worked for the sustainable food-loving organization, thrilled at every chance to meet food producers along the way — cheesemakers being no exception.  A few years ago, while on a US tour with the organization’s founder Carlo Petrini, I fell in love with goats (and goat cheese) during a visit to Prairie Fruits Farm, the first farmstead cheesemakers in Illinois — whose cheese you’ll now find on our NYC and online cheese counters.

The Petrini entourage drove down to Central Illinois from Chicago on a warm May day.  Having been on the road hosted in restaurants and lecture halls for days, a farm day was a welcome stop, and we were about to be hosted by farmers who had been making and selling cheese for less than 2 years.  We arrived to meet Leslie Cooperband and Wes Jarrell and their kids – I mean their goats – who were joyfully running and playing on the lawn safely inside of a little fence.  Named for the fruits on the property, Prairie Fruits grows apples, peaches, pears and berries in addition to cranking out farmstead cheeses using milk from their goats, and also sheep’s milk from a neighboring farm.

What I remember from that day four years ago: tasting the most exceptional, sweet and creamy chevre; cuddling with goats; touring their small, well-run cheesemaking house; and savoring a farm-fresh meal with the inspired cheesemakers.  Leslie and Wes left academia to make cheese and to help build a vibrant food community in Central IL — they were welcoming, knowledgeable, and had the cutest kids on the planet.

A gooey piece of Angel Food

Flash forward a few years, and Leslie and Wes have continued expanding their operation.  Their cheese is available in fairly limited quantities, so we’ll be selling a variety as we’re able to get ’em.  The two all-goat, gooey bloomy rinds are Angel Food and Little Bloom on the Prairie.  Angel Food is 3 weeks old with a thin, edible white rind – it’s a ladled curd cheese.  A bit stronger, Little Bloom is a cut curd that has ripened for four weeks.  Turning to sheep, we’ve got Ewe Bloom, a Camembert-style square cheese that’s pleasantly pungent.  Black Sheep is ash-covered and soft-ripened, reminded us of Selles-sur-Cher.  Not surprisingly, Prairie Fruits picks are really enjoyable with fresh or dried fruit.  Perfect for your summer picnic of a fun way to end your next BBQ!

Murray’s Cheese currently has select Prairie Fruits cheese in limited quantities in our New York City stores and online. Not all styles are available at all times, so check back soon or give us a call if you don’t find what you’re looking for.

What’s in a Name? Pawlet from Consider Bardwell

By Robert S

 

 

Photo from Consider Bardwell Farm

Rupert isn’t the only cheese from Consider Bardwell that’s creating buzz around Murray’s.  The recent arrival of Pawlet has our mongers going crazy!  Named for its hometown in Vermont, Pawlet is a raw Jersey cow’s milk treasure, one of a handful of cheeses made at the farm.  Originally founded in 1864 by Consider Stebbins Bardwell, it was the first cheesemaking co-op in the state.  Little more than ten years ago, new owners Russell Glover and Angela Miller began to revitalize the traditional farm, spanning 300 acres from Vermont’s Champlain Valley all the way to Washington County, New York.  With 100 Oberhasli goats, and using cow’s milk from a neighbor’s herd, their handmade cheeses are all named after local towns and mountains.

So what’s got us so jazzed about Pawlet? Quite simply, I think it’s a perfect cheese to eat right now because it works well for all of my summer eating:  sandwiches, snacking and BBQing.  This 4th of July I’m going to shred it over grilled local vegetables from my farmers market.  I’ve already paired it with a red ale while snacking, and I know it’ll be amazing with any crisp wine – try a robust Sauvignon Blanc.  Creamy, nutty and rich, you’re going to love how Pawlet melts – either over a burger or on a grilled cheese.  It’s as versatile as the town of Pawlet itself, which the cheesemakers tell us is home to syrup, timber and slate!