The first cheese that pops into my head when I think of Fall is Valdeon, a blue cheese made with Cow and Goat milk and wrapped in Sycamore leaves, from Castilla-Leon, Spain. The leaves are what remind me of fall. When you cut a chunk of Valdeon the leaves crackle as the knife breaks them. It reminds me of leaves rustling underfoot and the hot summer air giving way to the cool breeze of autumn. That brought me back to fall of last year a trip that I took to Spain with my fiance. My most memorable blue cheese experience in Spain was in Granada at a place called Bodegas Castañeda, a traditional tapas bar with Jamon hanging everywhere.
The dish we had in Granada was a thick slab of uncured pork belly that was roasted and crispy around the edges. With a thick slice of Roquefort on top of it. It was so simple and good. But looking back on it I would do it a little differently.
First I would use a spanish blue cheese like Valdeon.
Second I would take advantage of all of the great bacon we have here in our Italian Market location. My bacon of choice right now would be Broadbent’s Peppered Bacon cut about ¾” right off of the slab. This is a big step up in flavor from an uncured slab of pork belly. Broadbent’s Peppered Bacon is an award winning bacon made from Grandma Broadbent’s 100 year old recipe. It is the perfect blend of hickory smoke and spicy pepper to complement the woodsy piquancy of the Valdeon.
The last change I would make would be to add a sweet element to the dish. I would do this by slathering a healthy dose of Fig Jam on the bacon just after I take it out of the oven. Fig jam is the perfect foil for moth cheese pairings because the figs lend an earthiness that mitigates the overwhelming sweetness you find in other jams. The earthiness also plays up some of the musty and woody notes you find in the cheese.
If you have been there and done that with fig and cheese pairings you could substitute the Fig Jam with Peccati di Ciacco Amarena Cherry Jam, available at our Italian Market Store. Dark, sweet and rich, Amarena Cherries have long been a favorite pairing for blue cheese. Using the Amarena Cherry Jam brings this dish into the hallowed realm of desert with bacon.
Put your slabs of Bacon in the middle of a cold oven on a foil lined baking sheet (for easy cleanup). Set the oven to 425 degrees F and set your timer to 25 minutes. I did this on a pizza night while I was waiting for the oven to preheat to pizza temperature, I like efficiency. While you are waiting cut your ¼ lb chunk of Valdeon into 4 equally sized wedges. After 25 minutes check the bacon it should look like the picture above. If not give it 5 more minutes. Cut each slab in half and immediately apply a thick coat of Fig Jam or Amarena Jam. Finally, nestle a wedge of Valdeon on each piece and enjoy with a glass of Rioja.