Eating cheese at room temperature is one of those basic tenets of so-called "correct" cheese consumption. So last week, when faced with a puck of freezing cold cheese, and without the patience to wait an hour or two for it to come to room temperature, I had a brainstorm: Put the cheese in the microwave, on the defrost setting.
Perhaps I needed to execute more restraint for the amount of time I set, because come to room temperature, it didn't. But what resulted was far superior.
I think I probably set the microwave timer for 10 seconds. Conservative, I thought. But when I pulled the cheese out, it was nearly hot and totally yielded to my poking finger. I'd entirely overdone it. But somehow, it became quickly clear that the pure gooey cheese inside was to be much more satisfying than my craving for mere room-temperature cheese.
I quickly transferred it to a board, cut into it, and out oozed the paste, a sexier, entirely more compelling version of its former self.
Genius, I thought. A quicker, more efficient version of baked brie or camembert, something most worthy of further experimentation. Because even at room temperature, I'm not convinced that the cheese would have been show-stopping. My sister had picked it up at a small shop and it was nameless, and the slice I'd tasted before my microwave brainstorm had been underwhelming.
When warm, every subtle flavor in the cheese amplified-- more than anything else, I tasted an overt earthy-mushroomy-eggy thing that uniquely occurs in bloomies. Maybe next time I'll try several seconds less, but as long as I'm working with a cold bloomy rinded cheese, I may just continue to take it all the way, especially since sometimes, your cheese cravings can't be perfectly timed.
Nora Singley is an avid lover of cheese, and used to be a cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop in New York City, where she continues to teach cheese classes for the public. She is currently an Assistant TV Chef and food stylist on The Martha Stewart Show.
Related: Beyond Baked Brie: New Uses for a Wheel of Cheese
(Images: Nora Singley)