An easy recipe with a gourmet result
A torta (not to be confused with a tortilla, which is an omelet) is the Spanish version of a crustless quiche, although it’s a bit lighter. It is easy to prepare, looks like a showpiece, and of course, it’s marvelously delicious.
Today’s torta is made with broccoli sautéed with a fresh cayenne pepper (which spikes up the dish without making it spicy-hot) and a sublime clothbound cheddar. If you’ve never tasted clothbound cheddar, you’re in for an exhilarating ride! It reminds me of the famed English Farmhouse Cheddar, with all its sweet caramel and tangy, nutty, deep, complex flavors.
A tribute to fine cheesemaking, from Vermont to Wisconsin
My first introduction to clothbound cheddar was in Vermont, where I tasted Cabot Creamery’s exceptional clothbound cheddar, which is crafted by the expert cheesemakers of the Cellars at Jasper Hill. There, the young cheddar wheels are wrapped in muslin, then aged for 10 to 14 months in carefully controlled temperature, humidity and airflow. Special molds start to grow on the cloth, and in time they impart to the cheese its signature flavor. I fell in love!
A couple of years later, though, my love affair with clothbound cheddar took an even more delicious turn: While visiting Wisconsin, I was invited to Bleu Mont Dairy for a tour of their cave. This is where I finally had a close encounter with the superb cheese… one that I shall never forget. Stepping into Bleu Mont’s underground cave was exhilarating – rows of cheddar wheels, totem-like, were waiting patiently for the molds to work their magic. The pungent, earthy smell that hit my nostrils as I entered the cave made me want to move right in.
This torta is my tribute to Bleu Mont Dairy, to the Cellars at Jasper Hill and to all the cheesemakers whose skills and patience deliver such goodness to our tables.
Say cheese… and torta!
Murray’s Cheese, based in NYC, sells both Cabot’s and Bleu Mont’s cheddars. They ship anywhere in the US. Make sure to order enough for this recipe and for savoring the cheese on its own.
Food & wine pairing: California Chardonnay with broccoli and cheddar torta
Here’s where a California Chardonnay can shine! The texture and weight of the wine goes perfectly with the richness of the cheese, while pairing wonderfully with the broccoli too..
Broccoli and clothbound cheddar torta
serves 6 to 8
active time: 45 min
For the broccoli
- 1 tablespoon sea salt (to blanch the broccoli)
- 1 large bunch broccoli (1 1/2 lbs) (680 g) – florets cut in 1 1/2″ pieces (6 cups)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small cayenne pepper – stem removed and finely chopped or 1/4 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
- 2 large garlic cloves – skinned and finely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
For the torta
- 1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cups milk
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 8 extra large eggs – lightly beaten
- 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Reggiano Parmesan
- 8 oz (225 g) clothbound cheddar (or aged cheddar) – coarsely grated
- 9″ non-stick spring-form pan – lightly buttered and floured
- Preheat oven to 375ºF (190ºC).
- Step 1: Rinse the broccoli, trim off the stalks and cut florets in 1 1/2″ pieces. Fill a large bowl with cold water and several ice cubes. Fill a large heavy-bottomed pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the salt and blanch the florets for 2 minutes until barely tender. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and transfer to the ice water bath until cool. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
- Step 2: Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, cayenne and garlic. Sauté for 15 seconds, until the garlic begins to sizzle and release its flavor. Add the broccoli and toss until the florets are well coated with the oil. Sauté for 1 to 2 minutes until heated through. Sprinkle with the salt. Toss again and transfer to a bowl. Set aside.
- Step 3: Place the flour in a large bowl. Add a bit of the milk and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Add the balance of the milk and whisk until well blended. Add the cream and whisk again until well blended. Add the eggs, salt and pepper and whisk until well blended. Add the cheeses and broccoli and stir until well incorporated. Pour the broccoli-egg mixture into the prepared mold and spread the broccoli pieces evenly in the pan. Place on a jelly roll pan (to avoid spills) and bake for about 1 hour until the center has risen and the top is golden-brown and puffed up. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 15 minutes before un-molding. Serve warm.
- Cook’s note: The torta can be made up to 4 hours ahead, and kept in its mold in a cool place at room temperature. Before serving, bake at 375ºF (190ºC) for 6 to 8 minutes until warm.
- If you decide to cut the recipe in half, make sure to use a smaller mold… otherwise, the torta will be too thin and dry.