Home Grown Chef: Cheese

written by Thor Erickson | photos by Heidi Weiss-Hoffman


A few years back, I had a job as the chef at a restaurant in Bend. About a week after I started, I was preparing for dinner service when a man walked through the back door. He was wearing white rubber boots and carried a small ice chest. With purpose, he headed straight for the walk-in refrigerator. About twenty minutes passed and he was still in there, amid the bustle of line-cooks going in and out of the fridge. When he finally emerged, I introduced myself and asked him what he was doing.

His name was Pierre and he was one of our cheese suppliers, dropping off an order. “Why were you in there for so long?” I asked. “I was looking at all of your other cheese,” he said, and walked out the door. Over the next few months, I got to know Pierre. He was an American with Franco-Belgian lineage and a “strictly business” demeanor. He made wonderful goat cheese. I found myself using his cheese in many ways—it fueled my creativity. I started to flavor his chèvre with applewood smoke. Pierre was always curious how we used his cheese, but I was worried that he may not approve of my latest effort.

One day he caught me red-handed. I was pulling the chèvre from the smoker. I opened one of the cheesecloth-wrapped cylinders of smoked cheese and gave him a sample. He nodded and walked away without a word. A day later, he called me. “That smoked cheese was fantastic,” he said, with an unusually upbeat tone. “You must show me how to do that.” I told Pierre that if he taught me to make goat cheese, I would show him how to smoke it. A few months later, I was an apprentice cheesemaker in the morning, and running a busy kitchen at night. Through that apprenticeship, Pierre and I developed “Thor’s Special Smoked” chèvre. This dressing is inspired by that experience.

Smoked Bleu Cheese Dressing

2 ounces Rogue Creamery smokey blue cheese, crumbled
¼ cup buttermilk
¼ cup sour cream
¼ cup mayonnaise
Juice of ¼ lemon, or to taste
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, stir to combine all ingredients. Pour over salad or roasted vegetables, or use as a dip. Keep leftovers refrigerated for up to one week.

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