There’s a pine tree in the corner of my living room, shiny with silver baubles. My ceiling has a string of orange lights hanging from it. There’s something on the television called “A Christmas Carol”. Why, it must be Christmas.
The reason I am sure that it is, indeed, Christmas-time (you never know, the gaudy decorations could be a style-statement and the tv-programme a re-run gone haywire) is that my dinner consisted of an oven-baked Vacherin Mont d’Or cheese with garlic.
The first time I had oven-baked Vacherin I was about sixteen or seventeen. I had a Saturday job in a cheese store and every week after the store closed, we would stay on and try one of the goodies we sold. One night, as a thank-you for working our butts off in the Christmas mayhem, we got a special treat: warm Vacherin Mont d’Or with garlic and kirsch. It was love at first sight. In fact, I might have shot dirty looks at colleagues who took more than two bites. It was creamy, pungent, warming and I was sad when we finished it. (Also, a little relieved; weekend-before-Christmas shopping in a posh cheese store gets ugly. Have you ever seen anyone with a Rolex quarrel for a full five minutes over a supposed over-charging of five cents? I have. After a day like that, bed-time is mighty appealing.)
I haven’t often had Vacherin since. Somehow, I never think of it until Wham comes on the radio. But then the craving starts to build and by 22 or 23 December it is time. I might have skipped a year since that first year, but I doubt it. Tonight, I paired it with a few slices of sourdough bread and Molly’s tarragon leeks and my Christmas holidays officially started. Here’s to hoping yours will be as soft, smelly and delightful.
Oven-baked Vacherin Mont d’Or
Serves 4 as a snack, 2 as dinner
1 small, whole Vacherin Mont d’Or (about 450 gr)
1 clove of garlic, minced
a splash of kirsch (optional)
Leave cheese in wooden container and place in a baking dish (to catch any spills that may occur.)Prick top all over with fork, to break up the rind. Spread minced garlic over the top and press into soft cheese with fork. Sprinkle with kirsch, if using. Place in oven at about 200C. Bake for approximately ten minutes or until cheese bubbles and smells incredibly good.
Serve immediately with slices of sturdy, crusty bread.