I don’t watch as much food television as you might imagine. I still enjoy Nigella Lawson; her unabashed – nay, wanton – love of food always delights me. Her show was pioneering in its stylishness (you may recall that she originally aired on Style, not any food network), with artsy shifts in focus and food close-ups so loving they were nearly erotic. It’s interesting to see how the widespread copying of that style has made Nigella’s show, which hasn’t changed that much over the years, seem rather staid now.
Another show I am enjoying is French Food at Home. Laura Calder, the show’s host, wears simple dresses and is effortlessly chic, as any American who reads a lot believes all French women are. (Never having visited France, I don’t know if the common belief is true.) But she is also warmly casual, with an inviting manner. And her food looks delicious.
I had been content to watch without cooking any of it, though, until I saw the episode “Simple Terrines.” They all – the meaty country terrine, the vegetarian layered terrine, the simple salmon terrine – looked scrumptious and easy to make, but none more so than the blue cheese and dried fruit terrine, which didn’t even need to be formed in a dish. After stirring the ingredients together, Calder just scooped the cheese into plastic wrap and shaped it into a log.
I wanted to make it then and there, but I didn’t have the cheeses. So I waited a few days and finally made it this weekend.
This is one of the best bang-for-your-buck dishes I have ever made. The honey and mascarpone (which has the mouthfeel of cream cheese, but gentle sweetness in place of that cream-cheese tang) tame the distinctive funk of the blue cheese without breaking it. The sweetness is intriguing. I loved it spread simply on crackers – it would be a knockout on a cheese plate, either before or after the entree. I also tried placing a couple of coins on a simple salad of watercress dressed with olive oil, lemon, and balsamic, and it was a knockout. The terrine elevated a simple bowl of greens into something really special.
I used the fruit and nuts I had around – raisins, pistachios, slivered almonds, chopped apricots, and chopped dates that were a little too dry so I soaked them in a little port. Use whatever combination of fruit and nuts you like or have on hand.
Honeyed Blue Cheese Terrine with Dried Fruit
Serves: 6 Time: 10 minutes, plus 3 hours to set (or serve immediately as a spread)
8 oz creamy blue cheese (I use Maytag), at room temperature
4 oz mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
1/2 to 2 tablespoons honey, to taste (I used about one and a half)
1 tablespoon cognaco or brandy, optional
Freshly ground pepper
About 1/2 cup chopped dried fruit and nuts
In a medium bowl, mash the cheeses together with the honey, optional cognac or brandy, and pepper. When they are well combined but not completely homogeneous, stir in the fruit and nuts until they are evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
Lay a piece of plastic wrap on the counter and spray with cooking spray. Scrape the cheese mixture onto the plastic wrap in an elongated lump. Wrap the cheese with the plastic and shape into a log. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, until firm enough to cut. (Alternately, skip the plastic wrap and spoon into an attractive serving bowl. Serve right away or refrigerate. Remove from the refrigerator 1/2 hour before serving for best spreadability.)
Serve with crackers or bread on a plate with more dried fruit and nuts, or lay cut rounds over a simple green salad.