jen yee pastry


Cheese Course

I have a soft spot for retro party food.  Spinach dip in a bread bowl, pigs in blankets, devilled eggs, cubed food on toothpicks, etc.  Sit me next to a crudite platter for 10 minutes, and you'll find an empty space where the carrot sticks and ranch dressing used to be.  

This dish takes its cue from another retro favorite, stuffed celery.  That cool crunchy stalk is a must for me when enjoying blue cheese.  The slightly bitter, watery crispness balances perfectly with the pungent chalkiness of a strong blue, in this case, Fourme D'Ambert.  Tiny champagne grapes sprinkled like confetti add a juicy surprise.  Grab it like, well, a celery stick, and dip each bite into a puddle of fennel seed honey.

I rarely order cheese when dining out, mainly because I'm saving room for dessert; but also because I most often end up feeling underwhelmed.  The standard accoutrements of bread or crackers leave me feeling very heavy and the saltiness of the cheese is never fully cut by the predictable fruit garnish.  But to be perfectly fair to this prized sector of the dairy world, I much prefer to eat "something with a little cheese", than "cheese with a little something". 

It makes a great pre-dinner snack and/or a nice segway into the sweeter part of the meal, with guaranteed room for dessert!

P.S. Please eat the leaves.  They're delicious and palate cleansing.

Stuffed Celery
Serves 4 as a light cheese course before dessert

4 ribs of young celery, leaves intact from near the heart of a large bunch
4 oz good blue cheese, I recommend Roquefort or Fourme D'Ambert
1 small bunch of champagne grapes, or a few regular seedless grapes if unavailable
a few whole wheat croutons, optional
a few pinches of toasted fennel seed

Fill each stalk of celery with about 1 ounce of cheese.
Sprinkle with a few individual champagne grapes on top, or slice a couple of large grapes and do the same.
If croutons are available, sprinkle those on top too.
Sprinkle fennel seeds along length of celery for extra crunch and anise-y flavor.
Serve with a teaspoon of fennel honey with each stalk.

Fennel Honey
100 grams good wildflower honey
10 grams toasted fennel seed
Put both in a pot and bring to a light simmer.
Allow to infuse for an hour or so before staining out seeds, if a smooth honey is desired. The honey will be perfectly fine with them too.