hors Contrôl(é)eThe RindLinkshors Contrôl(é)e Roquefort

Roquefort was elevated to legal definition in 1925, ten years before the creation of the French government agency, the INAO, which now controls the right to call a cheese "Roquefort." This legal naming right, the Appellation d'origine controlée (AOC), after which this blog is named, is representative of the French national trait of paradoxically experiencing something as sublime, and yet dissecting it and circumscribing it with such exacting rationality that it seems mundane. But more on that another time.

The Gabriel Coulet Roquefort I got from Pastoral ($17.29 for 1/2lb) in Chicago is a delicate balance of strong, ambitious flavors, not unlike the political conditions of Europe in 1925. These flavors require something to spread them out, like a demilitarized zone of crusty bread. Although the taste is quite powerful and will be in your mouth for a while, different flavors in the cheese will present themselves over time and I found all of them pleasant. The only other food that I discovered which would wipe the flavor from my mouth was balsamic vinegar; I wouldn't recommend combining them. There is a subtle Mediterranean characteristic to the cheese that I was happily surprised to discover.

I found it very important to let Roquefort come up to room temperature, because right from the fridge it had that flavor of strong French cheeses that my olfactory memory calls "goats in a barn," but which could probably be attributed to many hairy farm animals. Once at room temperature it is creamy and easy to spread. Wheels of Roquefort are covered in salt that is later brushed off, so the rind is salty, a little grainy on the tongue, and fairly boring in flavor. It's fine to eat, but I wouldn't want to eat it by itself.

Jason and I made a white wine, cream, and mushroom sauce with two golf ball sized hunks of Roquefort in it, which we put over chicken and pasta. It was quite good and the cream, mushrooms, and Roquefort blended together very well (not unlike this recipe from Bon Apétit, but ditch the herbes de Provence and add mushrooms). Roquefort is a needy and filling cheese and after eating nearly a quarter pound of it over the course of an evening, I was really full and my tastebuds were exhausted.

Central to the characteristics of each AOC cheese is its relationship to its place of origin, hence the care taken to control the place of origin so precisely. Not having spent any time around the caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, I'm not going to claim to recognize the smell of the grass that the sheep graze on or the taste of the rocky dirt. I do, however, know a few things about French history, and 1925, like this cheese, was complicated.

The conditions that France and her allies had placed on Germany at the end of WWI hadn't been going very well, leading France to occupy a major German industrial region. That occupation came to a negotiated end (the first of several plans for sorting out reparations payments) in 1925. It was also in that year that Benito Mussolini became the dictator of Italy, so perhaps not the begining of the glorious future France might have hoped for.

Jason said,
"Creamy with a subtle grittiness. It has a distinct flavor that is equally perfect on its own, or for using in recipes. We paired this Roquefort with a 2007 Chateau Doisy Daëne Sauternes, but I think any dessert or ice wine would compliment it well."

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