I’ve been to Wisconsin a few times, whether traveling for work (involving food) or pleasure. So I’ve gotten a good taste of the dairy state, and even toured the caves of a cheesemaker once. So when I was asked to recreate a recipe from Wisconsin Cheese and Chef Michael Symon’s cooking series, Favorite Foods, I thought it’d be a good way to cook with one of my findings. But also, to maybe overcome a lifelong aversion I’ve had for Blue cheese.
It’s not a phobia, it’s simply a dislike: I can’t really get a morsel of blue cheese down without wanting to gag. Does this happen to anyone else? Well anyway, I’ve wanted to get over that for a while. So I chose the chef’s recipe for arugula salad with Wisconsin Blue cheese, green apple cubes and radishes. And I went up to the rooftop to pick the arugula and radishes, which are still growing rampantly.
Since I was far from Wisconsin at the moment, I knew where to go for the cheese. My pal Amy Thompson runs the cheese counter at Lucy’s Whey, a cheese store in Chelsea Market with a focus on American artisanal cheeses. She swiftly provided two distinct choices for me to use. One was a more familiar, crumbly, and very “blue” cheese from Wisconsin. The other was much more firm in texture and only slightly blue-veined, called Dunbarton Blue. I took them both home to try. While the first cheese I tried tickled my tastebuds in the wrong way, I could kind of see why this funky flavor is so well-loved. It was a start.
When I cut into the Dunbarton Blue, it crackled gently like a good cave-aged cheddar. It turns out that this cheese is cave-aged, too, and it’s actually a Cheddar-Blue vein made by hand from Roelli Cheese Haus. It was the perfect bridge for my palate to climb. And I thought it’d taste and crumble just great in this colorful salad.
I love the combination of the spicy radishes with the tart green apples in this simple mix. The juices crunch down in your mouth to blend with the tart, sherry vinaigrette, and the honey and mustard helps round all that out. I can see why chef Symon says he makes it all the time. I might now, too, after softening up to blue cheese because of it. Plus, having two out of the four main ingredients readily available on the rooftop garden doesn’t hurt.
Chef Symon says in the video for this recipe, while whisking the dressing, “Find a honey that you really like.” I’m still going on two quart containers of beeswax-embedded honey, that was made from bees kept by a friend. These homespun ingredients, plus getting to learn about a new cheese made by folks that Amy knows, really made the dish for me. I’m sure you can take the basic ingredient list and tweak it to fit whatever cheese, greens or apples you find in your market locally, too.
Thanks, chef, for the great inspiration. And here’s to trying more (Wisconsin) cheese.
Arugula Salad with Wisconsin Blue Cheese
(as per Favorite Foods with Chef Michael Symon)
2 shallots, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
6 tablespoons champagne vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups radish slices
2 Granny Smith apples, cored and diced
4 cups arugula
2 cups (10-12 ounces) Wisconsin Blue cheese, crumbled
Make the dressing: Place shallots and large pinch of salt in mixing bowl. Add vinegar, honey and mustard. Mix. Slowly whisk in olive oil. Set aside.
Make the salad: Toss radish slices, apples and arugula in salad bowl. Pour desired amount of dressing over and toss. Sprinkle Blue cheese over. Serve immediately.