I really love cheese, and ever since I was introduced to Irish-made cheese — from the great selection of Kerrygold cheeses like Dubliner, Blarney Castle, and Swiss to harder-to-find ones like Cashel Blue, Ardrahan, or St. Tola — I enjoy it as often as I can. When I go to Ireland, as I did in May, I order it whenever I see it on the menu and marvel at the many interesting ways it’s used. At the Kilkenny Café in Shanagarry, I lunched on an oozing deep-fried Camembert with sweet-tart pear-cranberry chutney from the café’s chef Fred Pillavoine. I persuaded him to share his recipe and think you’ll find it delicious with cheese as well as with cold meats and pâte. You'll find other wonderful cheese recipes in my newest cookbook ,"Favorite Flavors of Ireland," available at www.irishcook.com.
DEEP-FRIED CAMEMBERT WITH PEAR-CRANBERRY CHUTNEY
For the chutney
3 cups white wine vinegar
3 cups brown sugar
2 large onions, finely diced
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 1/2 pounds firm ripe pears, peeled, cored, and diced
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups dried cranberries
For the cheese
1 cup plain breadcrumbs or Panko
Two 8-ounce rounds Camembert or Brie, each cut into 6 wedges
1 large egg, beaten
Canola oil for frying
Mixed salad greens for garnish
1. Make chutney. In a large saucepan, bring vinegar, sugar, onions, ginger, and cinnamon to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes, or until mixtures starts to thicken. Add pears, reduce heat to simmer, and cook, stirring frequently, for about 30 minutes, or until pears are tender and most of liquid has evaporated.
2. Remove from heat and stir in salt and cranberries. Let cool completely; cover and refrigerate for up to 1 month. (Makes about 2 1/2 cups)
3. Make cheese. Sift flour onto large plate and coat cheese on all sides. Dip into egg and then coat with breadcrumbs. In a deep fryer or skillet, heat oil to about 350° F. Gently lower wedges into oil and fry for 2 to 3 minutes on all sides, or until golden. With a slotted spoon, remove cheese to paper towel-lined plate to drain.
4. To serve, spoon chutney into ramekins, arrange salad on plates, and top with wedges of cheese.