I first met Brillat-Savarin cheese by accident, sort of. By sort of, I mean I was in a cheese shop, looking for cheese, specifically one that’s spreadable, and not cheese whiz, a spreadable i.e. super fatty, luscious cheese. I like brie and its cousins, especially on a panini with paper-thin prosciutto on black bread with sesame seeds and a drizzle of truffle oil on the streets of Lugano on the Swiss-Italian border.
But I was in our neighborhood, on a busy Soho weekend when the tourists descend like flies and dump their trash and maps all over the streets. Maybe a switch from brie would do me some good, and so I ducked into Dean & DeLuca, my most reviled store, to peruse the ultra-fatty cheese section. Among the creamy white wheels and wedges I picked the Brillat, a cheese, which would alter my worldview-political, culinary, emotionally, etc.
A massive stack of napkins is to the juiciest burger as a spoon is to a properly left-out Brillat-Savarin: critical tools. The spoon slides through the triple cream like a knife through melted bone marrow. However, unlike your standard rich cheese, Brillat isn’t a mouthful of fat; it carries with it a grassy barnyard, in other words, a little backbone, which is impressive for such an unctuous situation.
Now it’s a staple indulgence, and not just to eat as is, but in cooking, for instance, a grilled cheese. When you think grilled cheese you think gruyere or raclette or any kind of good melting cheese. But Brillat makes a delicious, if slightly trickier product; tricky because it doesn’t hold its shape. Rather, when warmed, it becomes a pool of goaty cream, which, as you might suspect, can result in soggy bread.
So you need a protective layer (in this case caramelized onions), a watchful eye, and above all, a stack of napkins. As I said, Brillat is the burger of cheese: you need a spoon and, I guess, a bunch of napkins.
(NOTE: Caramelized onions should be a fridge staple: slice a few large onions thinly and cook slowly in butter until deeply gold (does that mean amber? Not sure.) For this recipe, use them at room temp.)
Grilled Cheese w/ Brillat-Savarin and Golden Onions
Makes one sandwich, rich enough for 2
2 large slices country bread, ½ inch thick
3 tablespoons caramelized onions, room temp (see NOTE)
2 ounces Brillat-Savarin cheese, room temp
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- Scatter onions over one slice and drop pieces of the cheese over the onions. Cover with second slice. Sprinkle over the spice.
- Melt butter in a medium pan and brown, about 3 minutes per side. Done.