Laura Chenel - Cabecou

Laura Chenel - Cabecou

Five years ago, goat-cheese pioneer Laura Chenel sold her business to a family-owned French firm that makes Epoisses, Selles-sur-Cher and other AOC (appellation d'origine controlee, or name-controlled) French cheeses. The family sent two young French women to Sonoma to run the company: Marie Lesoudier as general manager and Isabelle Dion as cheesemaker.

These fresh rindless disks are air dried for only a couple of days, then packed in jars with California extra-virgin olive oil, rosemary, thyme and black peppercorns.

Brought to room temperature, the Cabecou is a compact little round, dense and creamy, with a pronounced tang and herbaceous scent. The lively acidity comes from a slow fermentation, which allows lactic acid and flavor to build slowly and minimizes the need for rennet. Dion uses microbial (nonanimal) rennet for Cabecou but very little, to ensure a creamy texture.  

The Cabecou becomes even more compelling when warmed. Put it in a ramekin with some of the aromatic oil from the jar.  After five to seven minutes in a 400-degree oven, it is quivery to the touch. Serve the warm cheese with toasts and a green salad, or with sliced tomatoes or slow-roasted Roma tomatoes. 

We love to brush fresh Roma tomatoes with some of the oil from the cheese and roast them in a slow oven until they begin to brown and the flavors are concentrated. We layer the Cabecou on the tomatoes and bake until it begins to brown and soften. Who could resist scooping them up with warm grilled bread!

As long as the disks are submerged in olive oil, an open jar will keep in the refrigerator for at least a couple of weeks.

Sorry, this cheese is only available via special order