Marinated Soft Cheese with Herbs and Spices by Alon Shaya
From Alon Shaya: “This dish was a revelation when Emily and I ate it in Milan: when you start with great ingredients, you’re wise not to mess with them. It’s a moment of perfect simplicity; at the right temperature, olive oil and cheese can be as flawless as anything that costs you far more time, money, or energy. Any brand of soft-aged cheese will do—I like La Tur, a mixed-milk cheese that’s as creamy as goat, with just a little sheepy funk, softened by the cow’s milk. Mt Tam, a domestic triple-cream cheese, is a great alternative. Have fun with the spices: throw in a couple cloves instead of the star anise, add a sprig of rosemary instead of the bay, or use lemon instead of orange.”
6 to 8 SERVINGS
8-ounce wheel of soft goat or mixed-milk cheese, such as La Tur
3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 teaspoon whole allspice berries
1⁄2 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 dried bay leaves
1 dried árbol chili pepper, or 1⁄4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1 star anise pod
Two 2-inch strips of orange peel, orange part only, divided
A crusty baguette
Maldon or other flaky sea salt, to finish
1. Heat the oven to 325 ̊F. Put the cheese in the bowl or rimmed plate from which it’ll be served, to let it soften.
2. Use the side of a knife or a rolling pin to crush the garlic lightly, just so it starts to open up in its skin. Lightly crush or roughly chop the allspice and coriander, and add them, with the garlic, to a small ovenproof saucepan, along with the olive oil, bay leaves, árbol chili, star anise, and one strip of orange peel. Cover with a lid, and bake for 40 to 45 minutes; the garlic will be very golden and the orange rind will have darkened quite a bit.
3. Once the sauce has come together, remove the saucepan from the oven and increase the heat to 425 ̊F. Take the second strip of orange peel and give it a little twist over the pan to release the oil, then drop it into the pan and let the oil cool down.
4. Cut the baguette on a bias into 1⁄2-inch slices, and arrange them on a baking sheet. Toast at 425 ̊F for 6 to 8 minutes, until they’ve built some nice color along the edges.
5. Pour the seasoned oil over and around the softened cheese, letting the spices run free, and sprinkle on the salt just before serving. Slather the toasts with the cheese, and encourage your friends to dab up every last drop of the infused oil.
Excerpted from Shaya by Alon Shaya. Copyright © 2018 by Alon Shaya. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.