Few cookbooks have revolutionized the dairy realm like Chester Hastings’s The Cheesemonger’s Kitchen (Chronicle Books, 2012). When my copy arrived in the mail this summer, I spent an afternoon leafing through it on my stoop, agog.
Hastings, who works as a cheesemonger and chef at Joan’s on Third, a beloved gourmet shop in Los Angeles, is to cheese what Jacques Cousteau is to the sea: an explorer, an innovator.
He moulds fresh goat cheese into pear shapes and dredges them in pistachio dust, fries the loaf-shaped Monte Enebro in olive oil and coils raspberry blossom honey over it. He bakes Petit Basque into savory cupcakes studded with dark cherries. Need I go on?
The Cheesemonger’s Kitchen is a caseophile’s dream.
My most breathless moment: staring at a richly dark photograph of Hastings’s goat cheese “beehive” (a term he credits to his mentor, the San Francisco chef Carlo Middione). It’s presented like a tiered mousse with layers of chèvre alternating with mashed roasted garlic – the whole thing liberally bathed in warm honey.
Over the weekend, I made a mini beehive for a friend celebrating his birthday. Because the original recipe serves 15 to 20 and calls for five pounds of garlic, I scaled it back, as Hastings suggests in his head note. I also added some toasted almonds, to look like bees.
The dish was a great success – and a lovely way to celebrate the birthday of a lactose-intolerant friend. Instead of giving him candles to blow out, we gave him a jar of honey to pour, ceremonially, over his birthday hive, while everyone buzzed around him.
Mini Goat Cheese and Garlic Beehive
Adapted from The Cheesemonger’s Kitchen, by Chester Hastings
1. Preheat the oven to 400°.
2. Separate the garlic into cloves (leaving the skins in tact) and toss them with olive oil in a mixing bowl. Then, line a cookie sheet with foil and spread the cloves out across it. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cloves are brown and very soft.
3. Let the garlic cool, then squeeze the cloves into a small mixing bowl. If you slit the skins, the center should pop right out. Mash the garlic using the back of a fork.
4. Line a 1 1/2-cup dish or ice cream bowl with plastic wrap, letting the edges drape over the sides. Press about a third of the softened goat cheese into the bowl to create your first layer. It helps to dampen your fingers with water. Then, add the mashed garlic, using the back of a spoon to smooth out the second layer.
5. Add a final layer of goat cheese. Cover with plastic wrap, and press all of the layers down using the palm of your hand to squeeze out any air bubbles.
6. Chill the beehive for 3 hours, or overnight. Before serving, flip the beehive onto a plate or small cake stand, remove the plastic wrap, and sprinkle toasted almonds around the bottom. Garnish with whole almond “bees,” edible flowers, and plenty of honey.
For more fanciful enticements, please visit Madame Fromage.