27 December 2012

The 12 Days of Using Up Christmas Cheeses

The Christmas season -- or, more accurately, Advent -- is a little overwhelming here at the Rowhouse Livin' household. While our family and friends do a lot of celebrating, from hosting parties and dinners to shopping and whole-home decorating, Rowhouse Livin' tends to not join the whirlwind.

I love to attend a good party, and the teenager here has detailed plans for the next $32,339,945 worth of iTunes gift cards she receives. But during Advent, I prefer to hunker down with my end-of-season stocked pantry and enjoy the cool weather. Advent's nonstop loud advertising and droolingly predictable news stories about last-minute shoppers (oddly, often starting up during the first week of December) are too much for me. The ads are too noisy; the products are too unnecessary. I don't decorate; I admit I tend to just check out and wait until the storm blows through.

As I say, though, I love to attend a good party. This year my sister hosted a Christmas Eve shindig at her home in the outer Philadelphia suburbs. I offered to bring some bread, some butter tarts from our old-timey family recipe, and some cheese. But not just any cheese: I went to two shops and the farmers market to pick out some cheeses that we don't usually enjoy. It was a party, after all.

By the end of my shopping trip, my fridge held six types of cheeses. First, some cheddar from Vermont and supermarket mozzarella, two cheeses I almost always keep on hand. And in addition, a Robiola made of goat, sheep, and cow's milk (I've seen the one I found called "approachable"; I've had others that are more, shall we say, challenging). Two other Italian finds: a pecorino and a pecora, though I'm sure I can't tell the difference. One was wrapped in walnut tree leaves, which was fun. Both were sweet and the slightest bit sharp, and not so earthy that they weren't, you know, approachable. A Livarot, very similar to Camembert, while more approachable than a Pont-L'évêque. And finally an excellent local raw-milk blue from a farm closer to my sister's house than to mine. All told, I must have had more than a pound of cheese in there, making the fridge smell like les pieds de Dieu, as my host mother in Normandy when I was a student there would have said.

Not that we got through that entire pound of cheese at the party. Naturally I have a lot of it left over. So Rowhouse Livin' is celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas by using up all this cheese.

Day 1 was Christmas itself. Actually, we were out and about visiting family, so we didn't use any.

Day 2, Boxing Day, I made cheesy beans. Or, more elegantly, Tuscan-style beans with sage and pecorino (or pecora?). When the beans were done cooking, I removed them from the heat and stirred in a few ounces of pecora (or pecorino?) cheese until it melted and blended with the beans.

Today is the third day of Christmas (Feast of St. John the Evangelist). This morning, I had some leftover cheesy beans on toast with my breakfast, which felt odd because I'm such a silly creature of habit with breakfast and almost never, ever vary it. For lunch, we'll have a picnic plate of Livarot with apples and crusty bread. At dinner we'll use up the cheesy beans.

Tomorrow -- haven't decided yet!

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