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Monday, June 12, 2006

SubMarie's: Course Correction, Further Experimentation

When last I wrote of my quest to reproduce Marie's Blue Cheese salad dressing, I noted that direct comparison of the commercial product with the most recent iteration of my replica recipe had led me to conclude that the Roquefort cheese I was using was significantly more strongly flavoured and salty than the blue cheese in Marie's, and that experiments with other kinds of blue cheese were in order to try to come closer to the bull's eye.

A few days later, I was reading up on blue cheeses in Steven Jenkins's Cheese Primer, where he observes (p. 155), “I have never cottoned to the practice of blending Roquefort into a dressing for salad. For this purpose, any blue cheese, such as Danish Blue, will do, and at one-third to one-fourth of the price. The deep, full, spicy round flavor of Roquefort is denigrated when used in this manner. It deserves solo billing alongside a salad; then, both tastes are elevated, rather than diminished.”

Well, if you live in Switzerland, one thing you should never do is denigrate cheese, even if it comes from across the border! So, I decided to try a different kind of blue cheese in the next batch of SubMarie's, and picked up a variety when next I visited the grocery store, including the recommended Danish Blue (“Bleu Danois”—this was sold by the cut at the cheese counter and no brand name was in evidence, but according to Jenkins it is mass produced and generally consistent in quality), St. Agur, and Bleu de Maries_Super_200.jpgBresse. I tasted these (and a few others, which weren't even close), and decided the Danish Blue was the closest to the blue cheese used in Marie's, with the St. Agur in second place, but closer to Roquefort than the Danish Blue.

Based on my taste testing to date, I decided that from now on, my goal would be to reproduce Marie's “Super” recipe instead of the original “Chunky” because, having the opportunity to make a direct comparison, there's no question that the Super, with 25% more blue cheese according to the label (yet 10 fewer calories and 2 g less fat per serving—blue cheese, sinful as it is may be, still finishes second on the express lane to the afterlife compared to mayonnaise!) is without the slightest doubt the better salad dressing. Not only are there fewer calories in the Super, since it's more strongly flavoured, you may end up using less of it to obtain the same blue cheese bite on your salad.

Sub Marie's: Attempt 6
Danish Blue cheese 100 g
Sour cream 4 tbsp / 60 ml
Buttermilk 4 tbsp / 60 ml
Mayonnaise 10 tbsp / 150 ml
White vinegar 1/2 tsp / 2.5 ml
Salt 1/8 tsp
Mustard powder 1/4 tsp
Garlic powder 1/2 tsp
With the revised target in mind, I made a batch of what has become my standard recipe modified as indicated at the left. The only changes were substituting the Danish Blue cheese for Roquefort and using Colman's powdered mustard instead of the ground whole-grain mustard I used before. The latter was because I noticed the whole-grain resulted in dark specks and a slight crunchiness absent in the prototype. I should have reduced the quantity of ground mustard to 1/8 tsp to compensate for the absence of mustard bran, but I didn't and I doubt if anybody would notice the difference.

After leaving this batch to mellow overnight in the frigo, I compared it with the Marie's Super and concluded that it was almost indistinguishable in direct A/B taste testing. At the same temperature, my recipe was somewhat more thick than Marie's, but both had flecks of blue cheese distributed about equally through the bulk. Unlike my recipe made with Roquefort, which was distinctly more green than Marie's, this batch was just about the same shade of blue. Trying to be as fussy as possible, I noted the following slight differences:

We are definitely into the domain of fine tuning here. The recipe above, with Danish Blue, makes a better salad dressing than the Roquefort in my estimation, but if you're one of those people who blesses every bite with the sodium ion dispenser, the difference may not be all that apparent. There is still a little “crunchiness” to this recipe compared to Marie's: this is due to inherent granularity in the Danish Blue cheese which is not present in that used in the Marie's dressing. The difference is apparent only if you taste the dressing directly (which can lead to drinking it with a straw, intravenous injection, and even more ignominious compulsions—step back from the brink, while there's still time), and imperceptible when you use it on a salad or as a dip.

I suspect that if you want to approximate the original “Chunky” recipe, you can make up a batch of my emulation of the “Super” and give it a good squirt of mayonnaise (and maybe some sour cream) to increase the volume by about 20%, and you'll end up with something close. I haven't tried this, but I shall eventually, as long as my comparison sample of the Chunky doesn't go bad until I get around to it.

Posted at June 12, 2006 00:22