Saturday, April 15, 2017

Carré Nantais or Curé Nantais – A special 40% fat, yellow, cow’s milk cheese from the Pays de Loire and Bretagne, Brittany.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Curé Nantais Cheese.

The Cheese
Carré Nantais or Curé Nantais is a medium soft, light yellow, 40% fat pasteurized cow’s milk cheese. It is aged for a minimum of four weeks before being sold. Since it is a pasteurized cheese, there will be no problems with USA customs, the UK presents no customs problems; nevertheless and cheeses must be carefully wrapped for traveling; good cheese shops offer vacuum packing that is the best solution for smelly cheeses.  (For more about buying cheese in France and taking cheese home click here). For this link I will just use the name Curé Nantais as that name includes some 80% of the cheeses on sale.
Cheeses from the Curé Nantais Dairy in Pornic.
This is a great website that gives details (in English) of cottages to rent along with information about the many wonderful activities in Pornic.  A town that sees many French visitors but needs more English speaking visitors.
Aging the Carré Nantais cheese.
The Curé Nantais is aged on wooden spruce boards, and during this time the cheeses will be washed every two days with salt water or Muscadet wine; during this period the Curé Nantais will gradually acquire a beautiful orange rind. When cheese is opened, you will note its strong smell and find a medium-soft pate with some small holes.  The cheese has a strong smell which is nothing like its taste; it has a smoky, almost bacon type smell along with a mild spicy flavor. (The Muscadet white wine used during the curing comes from vineyards growing all around the City of Nantes).

Collector’s label for Carré Nantais Cheese

The story behind the cheese.
The cheese’s first name Carré Nantais refers to the cheese’s original shape a carré, a square; now you may buy the cheese in other shapes; nevertheless, the name remains. Its familiar name is the Curé Nantais, and that means the Priest of Nantes’s cheese. That refers to a tradition where the original recipe was given to a local farmer (Pierre Hivert) in the Saint-Julien-de-Concelles (a Nantes vineyard), by a priest escaping the French Revolution.  After giving the farmer the recipe for the cheese the priest just left and disappeared in the smoke of the French Revolution.  (Shades of the story of Camembert).

Aging the Curé Nantais Cheese.
Curé Nantais On French menus:
Burger Charolais à Notre Façon, Pain Artisanal de Notre Boulanger, aux Éclats De Pistaches, Sauce Barbecue Maison, Oignons Rouges, Tuile De Lard, Curé Nantais et Frites Maison – A hamburger made with Charolais beef to the restaurant’s own recipe. The bread for the hamburger buns is made by the restaurant’s own baker. The burger is covered with slivers of pistachio nuts, the house’s own barbecue sauce, red onions, squares of bacon, Carré Nantais cheese and the restaurant’s own take on French fries. For more information of the different breads offered in French bakeries follow the link to French Bread - Different Types of French Bread. (Bread in French is Spelled Pain and Pronounced as Pan).

Hamburger with Carré Nantais cheese.
Carré Nantais et sa Confiture de Cerises Noires – A dessert of Carré Nantais cheese accompanied by a jam made with black cherries.

Crevettes et Saumon Gravlax, Samoussas au Curé Nantais et Figue – Shrimps made with gravlax cured salmon served with samosas stuffed with Curé Nantais cheese and figs.  (Samosas came to France with France's colonization of India (1763-1954) when it set out its areas of interests in that great country.  That was long after the Portuguese and others had established colonies: Portugal (1505-1961), England (1612-1948), Netherlands (1605 - 1825), and Denmark (1620 - 1869)).
Filet Mignon De Porc Au Curé Nantais – A cut from the pork tenderloin, a pork fillet, cooked with Curé Nantais cheese. A filet mignon in France unless clearly noted is a cut from a pork tenderloin. Before ordering a filet mignon in France read this link on Filet Mignon on French Menus.
Making crepes with Curé Nantais
Onglet de Bœuf Sauce Curé Nantais, Frites Maison  - A US hanger steak or UK skirt steak served with a sauce made from the Curé Nantais cheese and accompanied by the restaurant’s own take on French Fries.  Whenever a restaurant notes that is offering its own take on French fries ask what makes them different.  The first French fries were made with beef fat and many of the best restaurants continue with that recipe; also in the South-West of France duck fat is often used and the chef may point to the different potatoes used.

Toast with Curé Nantais cheese

Pavé De Veau Gratiné au Curé Nantais, Gratin de Pommes de Terre et Son Jus au Vinaigre Balsamique – Veal cooked or finished with a Curé Nantais topping and served with potatoes cooked in the cooking juices of the veal and Balsamic vinegar and then browned under the grill with Curé Nantais cheese.   N.B. Pavé is a paving stone or a flat slab; however, on a menu pavé will describe wide slices of steak, liver and or fish and in this case veal.  Gratiné or Gratinée is any dish that is cooked au gratin; that means browned in the oven or under the grill. Many of these dishes will have a grilled cheese topping).
Nantes the city that gave
Curé Nantais cheese its name.
Nantes, the city that gave the cheese its name, is the capital city of the Pays de la Loire region and the Loire-Atlantique department. Apart from its cheese, wines and other produce Nantes is the sixth largest city in France and is considered by the French to be one of the top cities to work in and live in.  For more about Nantes, you may follow the link: Nantes, The City, and its Cuisine. N.B. In 1941 Nantes was separated from Brittany and that still upsets the Bretons. 
The city of Nantes.
Photograph courtesy of  Amaud Abelard
The production of Curé Nantais.

For tens of years the Curé Nantais cheese was made on the farms; then with the cheese’s commercial success, the farmers who supply the milk created dairies that use the traditional and modern methods for making this cheese. The cheese now comes in three forms. The original square which in fact is a cushion shape as the edges are rounded is  9cm x 9cm  x 3 cm thick. (3.5” x 3.5” x 1.2”) and weighs approximately 210 grams (7.5 ounces)  The second form is round and weighs approximately 800 grams (28 ounces). The third form is also round and weighs about 200 grams (7 ounces).

Making the cheese in a dairy.

Visit a dairy making the cheese.
You may visit one of the dairies producing this cheese in the in the small town of Pornic about  50km (30 miles) away; that is 55 minutes from  Nantes and receive an explanation on cheese making, a tasting and the opportunity to buy the cheese and other local products.  Call them first for the exact hours.  N.B. The dairy closes for lunch, like many factories and offices in France, including tourist sites; lunch hours are between 1 pm and 2.30 pm ( 13:00 and 14:30).
The Dairy’s address :
Le Curé Nantais
28 rue Port Chéri
44210 Pornic
The dairy’s telephone number is: 02 40 82 28 08.

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Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
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