I am kind of agnostic when it comes to cheese. Or maybe polytheistic. Overall, I love it. All the basics, like cheddar, blue cheese, Monterey Jack, parmesan, mozzarella, feta. And then some of those lovely, expensive cheeses that I seek out at parties or splurge on for holidays (Humboldt Fog, say, or a beautiful piece of aged gouda). But then there are some difficult, complicated cheeses that I wish I liked—given that I like pretty much everything—but I don’t. Maybe there’s a pee smell or a barn smell, or the rind tastes kind of like moldy oven cleaner, and I want to understand it, I do. But I am too busy choking on the ammonia fumes or glugging from my glass of wine to wash away the goat's-asscrack aftertaste. I even, I admit, would twitch my nose and bewitch the rind off of plain old brie if I could. But I eat it because I am too polite to scrape the good gooey middle out and leave behind the emptily sagging white outside, like some people do (cough *Dad* cough).
|Cabot makes my favorite cheddar and Monterey Jack, but I don't actually love their yogurt. I can't remember how we ended up with it.
There are also some kinds of grody cheeses that I crave secretly, like Velveeta microwaved with salsa, which I will eat all of, down to the scraping up of the dregs of waxy cooling cheese with my thumbnail once all the chips are gone. Boursin, which is a garlicky, creamy cheese spread that is “French,” in quotes, even though it really is from France, is kind of in the middle. I tasted it for the first time as a teenager at a friend’s house, and died a little from my own sophistication. I’ve eaten it only occasionally as an adult, though, because it is actually insanely expensive ($7 for 5 ounces!). But I still love it, and the kids love it (we ate it in Quebec), and I figured it wouldn’t be that hard to recreate. And you know what? It’s not! I’m making it all the time right now. The only trick is to use garlic powder. That’s what gives it its special fake-fancy flavor. Seriously. And you’ll notice that it’s creamy but not, like the real kind is, simultaneously creamy and crumbly. But I can live with that.
Boursin-style Cheese Spread
It’s quite possible that you’re going to think to yourself, “Oooh, this would be so much better with…” fresh garlic say, or fresh herbs, or rosemary, and I say: Go for it. Because that means you don’t actually want it to taste like fake fake-fancy fake-French cheese, and that’s a perfectly reasonable way to feel.
4 ounces cream cheese or, ideally, Neufchatel (which is less gummy), softened
1 tablespoon butter, softened
2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
½ teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
1 teaspoon dried dill
½ teaspoon garlic powder
large pinch each dried marjoram and dried thyme (or one or the other)
Use a standing mixer fitted with the paddle (or else a food processor or a wooden spoon and strong biceps) to beat together the cream cheese and butter until completely whipped and amalgamated. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Taste and add more of anything you think it needs. Serve with bread or crackers.