The Cabot Challenge: Chocolate and Cheese

Last week I noticed that one of the commenters on the Scotch Eggs post worked at Cabot in Vermont, which was exciting since Kristi and I are big fans of their products.  The Cabot horseradish cheddar is my fav thing and, with Kristi’s family in Middlebury, we can usually count on receiving a gigantic block of the Seriously Sharp Hunters Cheddar with our Christmas gifts.

Stole this from Google images. The giant block is the one I was talking about. It was like a cheese briefcase, but what's sad is how quickly we went through it

Anyhoo, I reached out to Jacquelyn at Cabot and ended up exchanging emails with her and her colleague Wendy last week.  While we were were emailing, the idea for “The Cabot Challenge” was hatched.  The idea is that Wendy talks with some of the folks that develop Cabot recipes and together they come up with a challenge to see if I can use their product in a specific way.  The first challenge from Wendy and co: make a dish that combines chocolate and cheese.

When I saw the challenge I was a little scared; chocolate and desserts aren’t exactly in my normal wheelhouse.  Although brother Tim bought me the Ween album Chocolate and Cheese when I was in college, it wasn’t going to be any help to me here (nor can I show the album cover, this is a family site for cripes sake).  But one of the goals of the Cabot Challenge idea was to force me to attempt new things.

After receiving the free item coupons that Wendy was nice enough to send to me, I headed to the grocery store and returned with this lineup:

Yep, went with the generic nutella. I figured if I didn't call myself out for that I could expect a fair amount of, "everything OK financially Pete? Let me know if you need a loan or something"

At this point I had an idea of what I wanted to do, but there are still two ingredients in this shot I didn’t end up using because I decided how to execute it on the fly.

Before the weekend I had planned on dipping cheddar slices in dark chocolate and making a sauce to drizzle over it, but it felt kind of boring.  One idea that kept coming up when I talked to people about the challenge was a chocolate grilled cheese.  This morning I finally came around to the idea; some sort of cross between a grilled cheese and a stuffed french toast that could be served as a desert.  I envisioned the filling being a mixture of sharp cheddar, dark chocolate, macerated raspberries, and a little nutella.

First step was rinsing and chopping a handful of raspberries and mixing them with a couple teaspoons of sugar.

When I say stuff like "macerated" it makes me feel like I know what I'm talking about, but you all can see through that and know I am just mixing fruit and sugar and letting it sit for a while

While those sat in the sugar, I broke the dark chocolate pieces up using a mallet so that they would be easier to melt when cooking.

The plastic bag is key, keeps chocolate shrapnel from flying all over the place

After the broken up pieces of chocolate went into the mixing bowl, I attempted a brunoise cut on the cheddar.  Again, trying to sound fancy and not just say, “I cut the cheddar into tiny cubes”.

Kristi was happy that I didn't need to use the whole block for the challenge

That headed into the mixing bowl as well.

My goal was to have about 1.5x as much cheddar as chocolate. Looks about right

At this point I checked on the raspberries and it looked like the sugar had done the work I hoped it would.

Now dats some maceratin'

Which headed into the bowl along with a spoonful of the (faux) nutella.

I considered the raspberries the key ingredient in making this work. Their tartness goes well in pairings with chocolate or cheese and would help cut the richness of the dish

Once I stirred this together and tasted it, it was missing some sweetness and was a little thick.  So, I decided to make it a bit more Vermont pride-y and added a little Vermont maple syrup.

I wanted to make sure I didn't hide the cheddar, that would be cheating the challenge, and as you can see in this shot it's definitely still a main ingredient

While that rested together for a few minutes, I cut the loaf of bread and made the batter that the mini sandwiches would be dipped in before cooking.

I was hoping for a loaf of Italian bread, but couldn't find any that looked good. This mini baguette's size was much more fitting for the final dish

One egg, whole milk (in this case 2% and a little half and half), vanilla extract, and a lot of cinnamon beaten together. Pretty much my go-to French toast batter. This one was a lot milkier than normal since I didn't want it too eggy

After cooking a quick test batch, I decided it needed a little more tartness to balance out the flavors, so I chopped a few more raspberries and added them to the mixture.  Once that settled, we were ready to go.

While melting a little butter in a nonstick pan I cut each piece of baguette most of the way through so they could be filled.

Each piece of bread held about one spoonful of filling

After pressing the sandwiches closed, I placed them in the batter for about 30 seconds on each side.

I love when I see the cinnamon cooked into the finish product

These went into the pan for 4-5 minutes on each side.  Much like a grilled cheese, I needed to keep the pan covered while cooking to make sure the cheese and chocolate melted completely.

They look more like mini grilled cheeses than french toast, right?

After a quick rest on a paper towel to remove any excess butter, you had this delicious looking tiny sandwich:

I was happy the filling didn't ooze out too much. Seeing a little bit of the cheese, chocolate and raspberries is a nice touch, though

I had one of them as-is, just ate it like a sandwich…

It might not look like it in this picture, but the inside was a completely melted delicious mess

…But, eating them with a scoop of vanilla iced cream and a few fresh raspberries really pushed it to another level of deliciousness.

I don't make pretty food, but this comes close. Can't wait to get back to Boston and be in a kitchen that doesn't look like it's lit with a 30 year old Eveready flashlight

The combination of flavors was pretty crazy.  The dark chocolate was bitter, but when mixed with the (faux) nutella there was a nice nutty chocolate flavor.  The raspberries contributed a tart fruity flavor, while the the cheddar added a creamy sharpness.  It was almost a slightly sour flavor, but in a good way.  Overall, I was very happy with how it came out and that both of the key ingredients of the challenge were primary flavors in the final product.  Kristi enjoyed it as well.

If Kristi had her way, every food item on earth would be served in a bowl

Thanks to Wendy and the Cabot team for the cheese and the creativity provoking challenge.  I’m hoping we can make this a somewhat regular feature on the blog and keep mixing things up a bit.

And Bendle (ADB blog villain #2), please keep your comments on two weeks in a row of posts about foods with gooey insides to yourself.