Idiazábal cheese and caramelised onion tapa

Nowadays, you can get decent (and indecent, for that matter) Manchego cheese in almost every supermarket. But, Idiazábal cheese is only to be found in high end delicatessen shops, at the price of an arm, a leg, and your children corneas.  I only remember having it once in the 9 years I have been living in Switzerland, and truth to be said, it was a Spanish acquaintance who smuggled it in  gruyère -land.

In case you are wondering, Idiazábal  is a  Denominación de Origen [Protected designation of origin] hard sheep cheese  from the Basque and Navarre regions, which has a rich smoky flavor. Apparently, the Basque shepherds used to store the cheese in their huts over Winter. The smoke coming out of their fireplaces eventually permeated their dairies, giving it a new flavor that the shepherds preferred. All I can say is that the flavor (and aroma) is strong. Very strong…

In fact, so strong I thought my suffering testers dinner guests wouldn’t appreciate it to its full splendor. I resorted to Simone and Inés Ortega’s The Book of Tapas for help, and as it turned out, it was actually a very good idea to serve this tapa rather than the pure thing. The sweetness of the onion and honey complement to perfection the slightly less smokey and hot-ish flavor the cheese, for complete delight of guests and cook.

Idiazábal cheese and caramelised onion tapa (adapted from Simone and Inés Ortega’s The Book of Tapas)

Ingredients 

  • 200g Idiazábal cheese, rind removed and sliced
  • 1 cup (=250mL) milk
  •  2 teaspoons black peppercorns, slightly crushed
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 6 slices of French baguette
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Method

1. Put the cheese in a bowl, add the milk and the crushed peppercorns. Let it sit for about 30min (until it is a bit softer)

2.In the meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a non-adherent frying pan until it shimmers. Drop in the onion, and let it caramelise, stirring every now and gain.It should take about 15min.

3. Fish the cheese out of the bowl and pat dry with kitchen paper.

4.Place each slice of cheese on top of the bread and drop about 1 teaspoon of the caramelised onions over it. Finish the tapa by drizzling a little honey over it.

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