Tête de Moine (Monk’s Head) is a very fun (and stinky!) cheese. You buy it in whole wheels and shave off thin curls with a device called a Girolle. In French, girolles are a type of chanterelle mushroom, and the device was named for the beautiful curls of cheese it produces which are supposed to resemble the mushroom cap.
It used to be damn near impossible to locate a Girolle in America, but then internet shopping was invented, so now they’re easy to find on Amazon. You can actually get the cheese on Amazon as well, although I was able to find it at Whole Foods (well, I had to call around and go a couple Whole Foods down the road, but still—I found it locally).
So the trick with the Girolle is that you don’t press down too hard. Light pressure, move it in a circle. Too much downward pressure and you risk cracking the wheel. The purpose of the frilly cheese flowers (besides looking pretty) is that they expose a bunch of surface area to the air which helps maximize the smell (I did mention it was a smelly cheese) and develop the flavor.
I am amused by the official Tête de Moine website. It has a specific section for recipes, but since how the cheese is served is as important as the cheese itself, all the recipes are basically “Make a thing and then put a cheese curl on top.”
This is a really fun addition to any hors d’oeuvres spread. The presentation is beautiful, and it’s fun to shave and serve. To my friends: I’ll put out an APB on Twitter the next time we buy a wheel, and you can come over and try it. Highly recommended!
Altered very slightly from a recipe by Tyler Florence
7 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup sweet marsala, plus 2 tablespoons
8 ounces mascarpone, softened to room temperature
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup brewed espresso coffee
1 ounce dark chocolate
1/4 cup brandy
1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Cream together egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Add 1/3 cup of the marsala and continue to whisk until mixture is thick and doubled in volume. (This is basically a zabaglione.) Remove from heat. Stir in the mascarpone until completely blended.
In a chilled bowl, whip the heavy cream to soft peaks. Fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture, to lighten.
In a small saucepan, combine espresso, chocolate, brandy, vanilla, and remaining 2 tablespoons marsala. Heat gently, and stir to dissolve the chocolate. Then, chill the mixture to cool it down, about 15 minutes. Quickly dip each ladyfinger in the chilled coffee mixture and arrange in a single layer on a 9 by 13-inch glass baking pan. Do not soak the cookies or they will become too moist. Spread 1/2 the mascarpone cream evenly with a spatula on top of the dipped ladyfingers. Repeat with a second layer of dipped ladyfingers and remaining mascarpone cream. Sprinkle top with cocoa powder. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to two or three days before serving.
1/2 gallon milk
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup water
If using for Channa Matar:
Salt, to taste
1/4 cup ghee or vegetable oil (for frying)
Combine the vinegar and water, and line a colander with a few layers of cheesecloth or paper towels. Bring the milk to a boil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. When a boil is reached, remove from the heat and slowly stir in the vinegar-water combination until the curd and whey just separate. If you use too much vinegar, the resulting cheese will be tough. Pour the curd and whey into the colander and let drain.
If using for Channa Matar, add salt to taste. Take the drained channa and pat it out into about a 1/2 to 1-inch thick rectangle. Put it on a plate or cutting board covered with a paper towel, and place another plate on top with a weight on it. Leave in the refrigerator until hardened enough to cut into 1/2-inch cubes (approximately). In a large skillet, fry the channa cubes in the ghee or oil until browned. Set aside to drain while preparing the rest of the dish.
1.5 pounds small red potatoes (9-12)
3 slices bacon, diced
3/4 cup shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp sour cream
1 tbsp buttermilk
3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
Cook potatoes in boiling water 15-20 minutes or until tender; drain.
Brown bacon in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots and bacon; turn heat down to medium and saute for five minutes or until softened.
Preheat oven to 350.
Cut potatoes in half; carefully scoop out pulp, leaving a quarter-inch shell. Add the butter, sour cream, and buttermilk to the potato pulp and mash with a fork; stir in cheese. Add to onion mixture, stirring well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Put about one tablespoon potato mixture into each shell. Arrange stuffed potatoes on a baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes. At the end of baking, turn on the broiler and let the tops brown and puff up a bit, 3 to 4 minutes.