I fear it’s just not in me to master the art of French cooking.
It’s not that I think it’s beyond my abilities. It’s just that I don’t really care. This may be one of the more blasphemous moments in the history of food writing, but there it is: I don’t really care about French cooking.
It could very well be that I just haven’t fallen in love with French cooking yet. I had that experience with Italian cuisine; for years I was only vaguely aware of it, not particularly intrigued nor impressed. Then I visited Italy. Now the sight of obscure Italian greens at the farmers market stops me in my tracks. I learned how to make risotto–and I like it.
So I am entirely willing to accept that somewhere in my future lies the inimitable moment in which I will discover French cuisine. But for now I find it fussy and heavy, and lacking dynamism, the contrasting flavors and heady spices of my preferred cooking styles. That being said, every now and then I do get a yen for something rich and heavy, slightly luxurious, and perhaps even fussy. And when this feeling comes on, French cuisine is there for me, waiting patiently and not at all upset that I spend so much time ignoring it.
On this particular occasion, I was yearning for something luxurious to celebrate my discovery of raw buckwheat honey. It thrills me that after so many years of eating farm-fresh, local foods, both the mundane and the unusual, I can still experience something totally new and be blown away.
Buckwheat honey is a relatively rare single-flower honey, but if you fancy yourself a connoisseur it’s worth seeking out. Almost as dark and thick as molasses, it has a full, malty flavor and a lingering aftertaste. My first taste of buckwheat honey was drizzled over an apricot half with a nugget of blue cheese. The tart apricot, sharp cheese, and rich honey were an amazing combination, and I immediately wanted a honey jar of my own, and countless things to drizzle it over.
It was one of those wants that took me over single-mindedly, and satisfying it turned out to be, if nothing else, a bit fussy. I’ve only been able to locate buckwheat honey from one local producer, Boyco Foods, at one farmers market, which I’m never able to attend due to work. Luckily an understanding friend was willing to fetch the elusive dark honey for me.
Blue cheese is another flavor I can’t get enough of, so knowing that the two were lovely together I decided to try out David Lebovitz’s version of Julia Child’s blue cheese biscuits. These tiny, flaky crackers are almost entirely butter and blue cheese, and just as good as you would expect.
Heady blue cheese, a bite of cayenne, and deep, sweet honey–biscuits and honey were never more luxurious.
Like most buttery, flaky things, these are best fresh-baked. You can freeze portions of the dough up to 2 months, and bake them up at a moment’s notice for a quick, fancy snack.
David suggests topping these with an egg wash but that was one step too fussy for me, and mine still turned out attractive.
Blue Cheese Biscuits
á la David Lebovitz á la Julia Child
5 oz. blue cheese, at room temperature
4 oz. butter, at room temperature
2 T heavy cream
1 egg yolk
3/4 C flour
1/2 t salt
1/4 t cayenne
2 sprigs fresh thyme
Mash the blue cheese in a large bowl with a fork. Add the butter, cream, and egg yolk, and mash together with fork or electric beater. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Form into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
Preheat oven to 400° and line 1 or 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll the dough out on a floured surface to about 1/4″ thick. Cut out biscuits with a cookie cutter of your desired size (I used a 1 1/2″ cutter). Space evenly apart on the baking sheet.
Bake 10-15 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through, until puffed and golden. Cool on wire racks.
Makes about 45 small biscuits.