Note: In order to combine two of the author’s blogs, this post has been relocated from KathleenCremonesi.com. For those of you who have already viewed this post, my apologies for the repetition, and thank you for your patience. Original post date: February 28, 2015.

It’s wonderful to discover, and rediscover, a gem in your backyard. While attending the Seafood and Wine Festival in Newport, Oregon, I had the pleasure of rediscovering the amazing artisan cheeses of Oregon’s own Rogue Creamery.

Located in the Willamette Valley, Rogue’s cows graze in pastures that sit at 1,650-foot elevation along the Rogue River. The creamery was opened in the 1930s by Tom Vella and originally produced cheddar. According to their website, they produced 1 million pounds for four years running during WWII to ship to troops. After an enlightening trip to France in the 1950s, the creamery began to produce the first blue cheese produced in caves west of the Missouri River.

The creamery currently handcrafts a variety of cheeses from raw, certified sustainable, rBST-free milk — cheddars from delicate rosemary to spicy habanero, and blues from the lighter Oregon Blue to the earthy Smokey Blue. My hands down favorite, at least this year, is the Rogue River Blue.

Rogue River Blue is made but once a year, from milk gathered between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice, and is cave-aged for one year. After aging, the forms are wrapped in syrah grape leaves that have been macerated in Clear Creek Pear Brandy. Doesn’t that sound amazing? It’s not cheap, and it shouldn’t be with what goes into making it, so I ponied up and brought a wedge of heaven home from the festival.

Oh, what a beautiful cheese. Tiny crystals speckle the deep blue veins, producing a party for your tongue which is creamy and crunchy, smooth and striking all at once. Although there are certainly myriad ways to enjoy this beauty, I’m not willing to dilute its flavor just yet and have focused on simple pairings, such as a slice of perfectly ripened pear.

It’s no wonder Rogue River Blue has won so many awards, including Best Blue Cheese in the World (London, 2003) when up against such powerhouses as British Stilton, Italian Gorgonzola, and French Roquefort. It has also won Best American Cheese, Super Gold World Cheese Award, and Best in Show twice at the American Cheese Society (2009, 2011).

Rogue Creamery’s motto, “handmade locally, celebrated globally,” is spot on. Yet, I’ve never turned an I5 road-trip into a “Rogue trip.” With all the times I’ve made the jaunt between Eugene and San Francisco, I’ve never detoured five-minutes off the interstate in Central Point, Oregon, to visit their shop. Next excursion south, I will, and I expect it will be the highpoint of the drive. In the meantime, specialty grocery stores, here I come.

Advertisements

Sometimes, there just isn’t enough time in the day to do what you’ve got to do. Lately, this seems to be happening ALL the time.

The sun was shining this morning in Elmira, Oregon. Anytime that happens after, say, October 1st, the locals ought to take it as a gift and cancel any plans that didn’t have something to do with the great outdoors. I chose to be a devoted Oregonian rather than a devoted blogger. Once we cleared a new patch of the back-forty, planted our new fall-color trees, and set aside the tender perennials in preparation for the first frost (can’t be more than a week or so away), there wasn’t a lot of time or energy left for blogging.

The View From Here

I did manage to experiment tonight, with a recipe I found for a spiced rub in the Costco Connection (of all places). It called for anchovies, which I discovered I was out of; but I went ahead and mashed together some garlic, lemon zest, fresh oregano, fresh mint, olive oil, pepper and salt. No lamb chops on hand, so I rubbed it into some pork chops. I’m not fond of pork chops on the grill as they always seem to have the density of shoe soles once they’re cooked. Although I have had some success with brining chops lately, I didn’t have time to brine and then marinate with a rub, so I decided that oven-baked chops was the way to go.

After leaving the chops to marinate for an hour, I sauteed a sliced onion in olive oil and butter until it was nicely browned, removed the onions, and then used the remaining oil to brown the chops. Before gathering the herbs, I’d already decided that I’d bake the chops in coconut milk, so I couldn’t resist picking a handful of lemon grass as well. I layered the lemon grass, chops, and sauteed onions in the dish; topped it off with a can of coconut milk; and baked it for an hour at 350.

Well…. can’t say the rub was anything special. I suppose the missing anchovies could be to blame, but I’m not convinced. However,the pork chops were as tender and moist as can be, and the coconut milk sauce was soooooooo good, I was spooning it out of the baking dish and eating it like a soup! It would have been fantastic over rice as well. This is the first time I’ve baked pork chops in coconut milk, and I’m already looking forward to the next time. My husband cooks shrimp in coconut milk all the time, but it’s time to give some other proteins a chance. Chicken is probably next. And I will definitely experiment with other marinades.  The lemony flavor–whether from the lemon grass and/or lemon zest–was yummy, but I couldn’t discern any of the other flavors over the mint, which wasn’t even that strong. Probably will forgo the mint next time…

I’ll keep experimenting and will post anything that seems worthy. Any suggestions very welcome!

In the meantime, how about a quick appetizer recipe that always pleases a crowd. Not only is it wonderfully edible, these are ingredients I almost always have on hand, so it can be whipped up in no time at all. The first time I had this Artichoke and Chile Dip was at a friend’s summer party. The person who brought it was not too keen on sharing the recipe, but she did give me enough information to work it out on my own. And here I am posting it on my blog. (Honey, if it was a secret, it’s not anymore.)

ARTICHOKE & CHILI DIP

  • 1   14 oz can artichoke hearts (or 2 6.5 oz jars)
  • 1   7 oz can diced green chilies (or 1 to 2 fresh green chilies, diced small)
  • 1   8 0z brick of cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat your oven to 375. Drain the artichoke hearts and chilies. Add everything to a mixing bowl and blend well. You don’t need an electric mixer, but do make sure the artichoke hearts are completely broken apart. Use a rubber spatula to scoop out of the bowl and into a small oven-safe dish (pie pans work well). Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until the top is speckled nut-brown. Serve with crackers, corn chips, or a nice loaf of crusty bread.

Yum, yum, yum! The last time I brought this to a dinner party, I couldn’t even get a picture before a third of it was devoured (the pile of chips is covering the damage).

Artichoke Chili Dip

Quick! Get some while you can!

A few minutes later, it looked like this.

The Disappearing Artichoke Dip

This dip is so easy and so good, it’s due for some more experimentation. I’m a big fan of puff pastry, and I bet a dollop of this baked on squares of pastry would be crazy good!

Enjoy ~