Tete de Moine is a semi-sacred cheese. It's a monk's head and you get to shave it yourself. It requires a specific curler, a girolle, which we happen to own. In spite of this, it has been years since we purchased a whole tete de moine. When we were planning our Thanksgiving feast this year, we saw an opportunity to share this delicious Swiss cheese with the crowd. We ordered the cheese from Murray's and on Thanksgiving day our guests shaved and savored curls of cheese all night long. Still, we only put a small dent in the whole cheese. We continued to serve and shave the cheese in small doses for several days afterwards. The Tete de Moine continued to entertain and delight. But since we had a surplus, I figured we could do more with it. Half of me thought it would be blasphemy to smoke the cheese. The other half thought it would be brilliant.
I pulled out our tube smoker and placed the remaining half a monk's head into our cold grill. It is a great space to smoke foods, especially in this cold weather. We smoked the cheese for two hours. Then we wrapped it in plastic wrap and refrigerated it. We put it back onto the girolle. The first shaving was intensely smoky. I expected that as we were scraping off the full top layer that was covered in smoke. The second shaving was incredible. The smoke permeated the cheese, accenting it, without overpowering the natural flavors. The shaving process makes the cheese soft and malleable. It gently melts and dissolves on the palate.
Smoking the tete de moine was so good. It reminded us that even though it can be hard to push against the idea that something is sacred and should remain untouched, it's important to trust our instincts. Evolution is a part of life. Great ingredients are a foundation. Improvising with them is essential to finding new pathways to delicious.