This was the starter of our recent cookout: a small cheese fondue with black truffle.
The origin of this wood-matured cheese was a point of contention between the Swiss and the French for centuries. I don’t know exactly who won, but in Switzerland, all these cheeses are called Vacherin Mont d’Or, where in France, Vacherin refers to the cheeses that are molded and ripened in large wooden hoops. The smaller ones (approx. 400g) are called Mont d’Or and sold individually in the spruce boxes in which they ripened. It is a seasonal cheese and usually available only from November through March.
The main difference is that the French cheeses are made from either raw or pasteurized milk whist the Swiss varietal is always made from pasteurized milk due to local regulations against Listeria bacteria. We had a French Mont d’Or “au lait cru”, which has a slightly bolder flavour.
The most common way to do a fondue with a Mont d’Or is stuffing slivers of garlic clove and/or small sprigs of fresh rosemary in tiny slits that you make with a sharp knife in the top rind of the cheese. After sealing the bottom of the box with aluminum foil and adding a good splash of white wine you only need to oven bake the cheese for about 20-30 minutes at 180C / 360F before you can sail the seas of cheese. Due to the complex taste of the cheese, it will be quite unlike any cheese fondue you had before.
Inspired on a dish by Hélène Darroze, we decided to throw some black truffles in the mix. Judging from the various comments on the Internet this dish is rather controversial as many – also very renowned chefs – consider it a proper waste of the black truffle or a complete waste of the cheese for that matter…
However, as Hélène Darroze has something going for her, having been named the 2015 Veuve Clicquot World’s Best Female Chef and holding a total of 3 Michelin stars (1 for her Hélène Darroze restaurant in Paris and 2 for the Hélène Darroze at The Connaught restaurant in London), we mere lesser mortals thought that the truffle should work well in this dish. If only okay-ish, it would likely still be one hell of a cheese fondue. 😀
We couldn’t find the actual recipe online, but it was referred to on FXcuisine.com:
- 1 Mont d’Or
- 100ml / 3 fl.oz dry white wine
- 25g / 1 oz chopped black truffle
- Crusty bread
The only change to the basic preparation I described above was that you actually cut open and peel back the top of the Mont d’Or cheese and sprinkle over the finely chopped black truffle and add the white wine. Then you “close the lid” again and pop it in the preheated oven. We only managed to get half of the wine in before it started overflowing as the cheese is dense enough to prevent it from being absorbed. As long as the bottom of the wooden box is properly wrapped, any overflow will still end up into the fondue.
The FXcuisine review was penned by someone in the “proper waste of black truffle” camp, but after reading it remained unclear to us what exactly the problem was. Was the truffle too overpowering or was he not able to taste it after all?
We thought that he may have gone a bit overboard by adding already 30g in the fondue and topping it off with a huge shaving as well. Therefore, we decided to start with a black truffle that weighed slightly over 20g. That measure already tasted great. It added another layer of depth to the taste of the Mont d’Or cheese itself and was not overpowering at all. Delicious and well worth trying it!