How to Pair Cheese According to an Expert Cheese monger

image from Murray's Cheese

Cheese is already great on its own, but what if there was a way to make it better? Insert cheese pairing—the process of partnering various cheeses with jams, nuts, fruit, meats, or anything extra you can think of that might improve the experience of eating cheese or coax out new, unimaginable flavors.

“The best-case situation is when an essence combination of a pairing far exceeds the flavors of the peculiar elements,” Griselda Powell, head cheesemonger at New York City’s Murray’s Cheese, explains. “Think of it as one plus one reaches ten! Not only is the flavor of the pairing totally diverse than the components but it also has a taste that is both amazing and unexpected.” Powell affords an example, saying that the combination of Red Rock cheese with kimchi was suggestive of a Coney Island Nathan’s hot dog.

With a title like head cheesemonger and beyond ten years of cheese-tasting experience, it may seem like an intimidating challenge to get to Powell’s level of cheese expertise. The good news is that, according to Powell, all cheese-pairing is idiosyncratic. “The flavor combination either pleads to the individual or not,” Powell says. “I used to get overwhelmed with pairing because I felt I failed when I did not have the ideal pairing.’ I understood over time that searching for the perfect pairing’ is getting endlessly from the joy of cheese and having fun and placing too much stress on myself. Life is too short for that.”

If you want to try your hand at cheese pairing, Powell has a few guiding schooling that may help—but again, experimentation is all part of the fun.

Guiding Principles to Cheese Pairing

What grows together goes together

“Pair items from the identical geographic region since they share the same terroir. Chances are that they will match well together,” Powell says. A couple examples of this that Powell provides includes aged Manchego with jamona serrano from Spain, or parmigiano reggiano with prosciutto di Parma from Parma, Italy. You can analyze the fruits, nuts, and also beverages from the section you’re sourcing your cheese from.

Opposites attract

“The key concept is ‘diversity’,” Powell explains. “Not just different in taste but additionally form. Varying tastes and forms provide for a more interesting pairing experience because one is engaging multiple senses.” For this, consider soft cheeses matched with crunchy biscuits, chips, nuts, and cornichons—or hard cheeses with spreadable jams and quince.

Like with like

This concept seems a bit disturbing next to opposites attract, but it’s about getting a unifying flavor note. “Pair cheese with an accompaniment that shares the same flavor notes. For example, Idiazabal is a Spanish, old sheep’s milk cheese with smokey and irrational essence notes. Pair this with smokey meat like bacon or a smokey salami.” When pairing essence notes, Powell says to be cognizant of pairing strong flavors with delicate ones—as you don’t want to overwhelm any single component.

What to Pair with Your Favorite Cheeses

And presently that we know some of Powell’s loose rules, it’s time for pairing. Repeatedly, everyone’s appetites vary, and pairing cheese is ultimately subjective—so try some of Powell’s ideas out and find your ideal matches.

Blue

“‘Blue’ describes a whole family of cheeses. Even though the basic commonality is blue mold, the difference in flavor and texture varies extensively from a slight salty cream flavor to an intense, peppery bite,” Powell explains. To counterbalance all the funky notes, Powell recommends opting for sweetness. A drizzle of honey and a glass of sweet wine or sherry should pair beautifully.

Gruyère

Because Gruyère is regularly a very nutty cheese, Powell recommends following her ‘like with like’ source and pairing the cheese with nuts. “I prefer using candied or chocolate-covered fruits, such as candied walnuts or chocolate-covered almonds, which can proffer you layers of tastes and forms in the same meal.”

Brie

Similar to blue, there are a lot of brie and brie-style cheeses to choose from that vary in texture and flavor—but for the most part, popular American brie flavors lean towards buttery. “A buttery taste profile supports for a versatility of pairings,” Powell says. “One can pair a buttery brie with the conventional fruits jams and honey. However, I like to go a bit unusual—I think about pairing items that taste good with butter, such as cooked vegetables.”

Goat

Goat cheese can be executed in a myriad of styles, including goat gouda. Because there are so many options—like punchy herb-infused chevre or Powell’s favorite, a citrusy couple from Vermont’s creamery—Powell supports matching goat cheese with an aggregate of ingredients like maple syrup, pistachios, and pickled beets. “[This] allows you to really experience different flavor combinations based on the same base cheese.

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