Cookbooks: Cowgirl Creamery Cooks by Sue Conley and Peggy Smith

The story of Marin County’s Cowgirl Creamery echoes that of the organic food movement in the United States. Starting when Sue Conley and Peggy Smith met in college and twining through various paths to the ultimate creation of Cowgirl Creamery and, in 2010, the partners’ admission into the Guilde des Fromagers in France, one of the most esteemed groups of cheese professionals in the world.

And now, of course, this wonderful book. Cowgirl Creamery Cooks (Chronicle) celebrates all that this terrific duo of artisan cheesemakers have learned and accomplished over the years. Yes, this is their story. And it’s an interesting one. Even beyond that, it collects and shares information about tasting, buying, pairing, storing and appreciating a wide variety of cheeses. It also instructs on how to make a few simple cheeses from scratch (including a Fromage Blanc that is truly simple and — once you’ve done it — essential).

Though all of this information is valuable, to my mind the largest success in Cowgirl Creamery Cooks comes through the cookbook portion of the book. They offer 75 terrific recipes for appetizers, soups, salads, snacks, entrees and desserts that help you get the very most from your cheese.

Though I anticipate many happy hours cooking from this book, aside from the Fromage Blanc, my one attempt thus far was ultra successful. The Panade with Gruyere and Onion Garlic Confit is (for cheeselovers) a soup beyond anything you’ve imagined. A kind of country French Onion soup, this version is based on a cheese broth rather than the traditional beef stock. Yes cheese broth. And the resulting soup seems to me typical of this book: rustic, hearty, elegant, beautiful. Real. Everything that food should be.

That last line pretty much sums up Cowgirl Creamery Cooks. The sort of book that sets one off dreaming and cooking, you leave the book better than when you started. And possibly with a deeper appreciation for cheese and the artisans who make it.

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