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Magic Ingredient: Camembert

A local take on a French staple.

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Imagine a popularity contest between Brie and Camembert: Brie would likely win, given its higher profile in cookbooks and on restaurant menus, and its wider availability on grocery store shelves. Yet a tasting panel would find few differences between them. Both are soft-ripened cheeses made from cow’s milk, both have white rinds with creamy, sometimes gooey centers, and both develop stronger flavors as they age.

So what is the difference between the two? “A lot of it is size,” explains Robert Poland, cheese maker and co-owner of MouCo Cheese Company. Camembert is shaped in smaller rounds than Brie, but originally the difference was the place of origin. Just like sparkling wine can’t be called Champagne unless it is made a certain way in a certain region of France, so it is with Brie de Meaux and Camembert de Normandie.

What does this mean for cheese makers like Fort Collins-based MouCo, whose Camemberts are made an ocean away from the protected region? “We joke we should’ve called it ‘White Cloud’ to protect it from the comparisons,” says Poland. In MouCo’s case, however, such comparisons have been good for business. The American Cheese Society awarded the company’s Camembert first place last year, raising its profile to the point that you’re just as likely to find it at an upscale grocery in Manhattan as you are in Denver. Like Brie, Camembert starts out mild and grows increasingly complex and nutty as it ages, making older Camembert a good choice for this stuffed chicken recipe from MouCo.

RECIPE: Camembert and Caramelized Onion Stuffed Chicken Breasts (Serves 4)

Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add sliced onion and sauté 3 minutes or until golden brown. Add sliced garlic and sauté 5 minutes. Stir in 1/3 cup wine; cook 5 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates. Spoon onion mixture into a bowl and let cool. Stir in Camembert, salt, and pepper.

Cut a horizontal slit through the thickest portion of each chicken breast half to form a pocket. Stuff about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the onion mixture into each pocket.

Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and sauté 6 minutes on each side or until chicken is done. Remove chicken from skillet. Set aside and keep warm.

Add 1/3 cup wine, minced onion, sage, and minced garlic to skillet. Cook over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Stir in broth. Bring to a boil, and cook 7 minutes or until reduced to 3/4 cup. Return chicken to skillet; cover and simmer 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Serve sauce with chicken and garnish with fresh sage, if desired.

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