Maybe we’re just missing the warmth of the bright yellow sun, but lately we’re obsessed with Mimolette and its cousin, Pavé du Nord, two ridiculously orange cheeses from the north of France. We admit, it took some tasting to fully appreciate the Mimolette: first of all, it looks like a cantaloupe from Mars, and all we knew was that it was Charles de Gaulle’s favorite (generals not generally being our preferred source for food advice). The texture is, as the French would say, un peu bizarre: when cold, it takes an effort to slice through, and it is so dense that you often end up with only shavings. The flavor seems muted at first, but as it melts on the tongue, deeply savory and nutty notes come through. It’s as though a glamorous, Vespa-riding Parmesan picked up a proper English Cheddar on the road from Lille to Rennes, and they rode off into the sunset together. Yes, it may have taken some time (and arm muscles) for us to fall under Mimolette’s spell, but now we can’t stop thinking of ways to use it in recipes both retro and innovative.
Clotilde Dusoulier, of Chocolate and Zucchini fame, has a fantastic use for the inedible rind of Mimolette, in her Broccoli Mimolette Soup. The rind adds a nutty edge to the soup while it simmers that lasts after you discard it.
While the Pavé du Nord has the same rich taste, its more tender texture makes it an excellent melting cheese. We love it broiled over tomato slices on rustic brown bread. And a Mac & Cheese made with either results in an unpretentious, incredibly savory gratin.
Mac et Mimolette
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs
1/4 tsp piment d’espelette
1/2 cup lb coarsely grated Mimolette or Pavé du Nord (1 1/2 cups)
1/8 cup coarsely grated Cantal
Pasta and sauce
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/6 lb coarsely grated Mimolette or Pavé du Nord (1 cup)
1/6 lb coarsely grated Cantal (1 cup)
1/4 pound elbow macaroni or farafalle
Melt butter, then stir together with bread crumbs, piment and topping cheeses in a bowl until combined well.
Melt butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat and stir in flour. Cook roux, stirring, 3 minutes, then whisk in milk. Bring sauce to a boil, whisking constantly, then simmer, whisking occasionally, 3 minutes. Stir in cheeses, salt and pepper to taste.
Cook macaroni in boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 1 cup cooking water and drain macaroni in a colander. Stir together macaroni, reserved cooking water, and sauce in a large bowl. Transfer to a buttered shallow baking dish. Bake at 400F for 20-25 minutes. Serves 4.
Also new at Paris Grocery: Vignette Wine Country Sodas and Lillet Blanc and Rouge!