Get A Shroom

Nothing puts me in the mood for love like mushrooms. I know, I know – they’re a far cry from oysters or caviar, but aphrodisiacs rely on individual appeal and I happen to be mad for forest smells: wet earth, moss, the vaguely cabbage-y smell of tree rot. These are what led me to a special Valentine’s Day threesome: roasted mushrooms stuffed with Nancy’s Camembert and a spot of Brussels sprout relish.

It’s an ideal recipe for rekindling a stalled romance or seducing a new triple crème-loving lurker. Ladies, pour some Champagne and apply some dusky eye shadow. Gents, rent a little cabin and add a dab of musk under your flannel pajamas. Or forget to, and just ride the wave of a really ripe Camembert.

If you’re a Camembert skeptic, let’s pretend we’re not talking about French cheese, shall we? Let’s just whisper. Here’s what you need to hear: Nancy’s Camembert is nothing like the whiffy disks that pass for Camembert at the supermarket. It’s a rich, silky pillow made with sheep’s milk and a few splashes of cow’s milk.

A woman named Nancy Clark, and her husband Tom, produce this cheese along the Hudson River. Their farm, Old Chatham, is home to more than 1,000 ewes and 600 acres of organic pasture. The Clarks have won numerous awards for their artisan cheese and yogurt and are often cited in the news for their humane treatment of animals. Talk about love. The Clarks embody it when it comes to producing quality dairy without compromising the quality of life for their four-legged woolies.

Young, this Camembert is pure vanilla soft serve. Aged a few weeks, it develops into a mushroom cloud with a cruciferous twinge. (In lay terms: think “chive dip.”) Now close your eyes and trust me.

Because sheep’s milk is extra lush, this Camembert can handle a twist of vinegar, an element that would overshadow most delicate cheeses. Ann’s Brussels Sprout Relish, a new product on the shelves at select Di Bruno Bros. stores, is piquant with a sweet-hot backdrop. Credit its discovery to cheesemonger Ian Peacock, who plucked if from a list of  Good Food Awards. Save any leftover relish for a ham sandwich, or better yet, eggs that have been deviled or scrambled (the morning after?).

Pairing Camembert

Sure, other relishes might work with Nancy’s Camembert, but the cabbagey swing to this particular jar is just the right fit for a ripe ‘Bert. On Valentine’s, slather the combo onto baguette rounds, or nestle them inside whole roasted mushrooms for the dreamiest of night caps.

More pairings to try with Nancy’s Camembert: caramelized onions, roasted or pickled beets, baked garlic, toasted walnuts, honey.

Camembert Stuffed Mushroom Caps

A ripe sliver of Nancy’s Camembert is the perfect fit for this quick fix, but if you absolutely can’t find it, try ripe Brie de Meaux or an assertive wedge of Ardrahan. In place of Ann’s Brussels Sprout Relish, try substituting a cabbage-based chow-chow. Note: you can roast mushrooms ahead of time, then gently warm them before serving.

Serves 2

1/4 lb. Nancy’s Camembert; ripe, rind removed

1 jar Ann’s Savory Brussels Sprout Relish

8-12 large button mushrooms or baby ‘bellas

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400˚.

2. Snap off mushroom stems and clean caps with a paper towel to brush off any lingering earth. Set caps face-up in a shallow baking dish. I like to use an iron skillet.

3. In a small bowl or saucer, combine olive oil with salt and pepper. Use a pastry brush to shmear this across the caps, or use a teaspoon to drizzle. Pop the caps in the oven for 10 minutes until well browned.

4. The cooked caps will fill with juice; tip this out into a little dish (drizzle it over toast?) and fill each cavity with a dab of relish and a thimble-sized lump of Camembert. It will melt quickly, so you may want to plate the ‘shrooms first.

5. If you wish, garnish with small hearts cut from roasted red pepper. Serve with toasted baguette rounds and frosty Champagne.

For more lurid cheese escapades, please visit Madame Fromage.