With this year's no-holds-barred winter ambush, my thoughts have been turning to the Swiss and their skill at providing full-flavoured, luxurious melting cheeses that bring robust flavour to a comforting fondue or raclette. Sure, an oozing cheddar grilled cheese sandwich can hit the spot after a run-of-the-mill driveway clearing, but after a serious wrist workout attempting to crack the mini-glacier that is your front step (and a depressing lack of success), you may feel you deserve more from your melt.
Which is where Le Maréchal comes in; its potent, long-lasting flavours persist even when heated (which mellows most cheeses). Le Maréchal is a newish cheese; the Rapin family first created the firm raw-milk cheese in 1992 in the Vaud region of Switzerland. The milk is delivered twice a day to the cheese makers from 14 local producers and turned into cheese no later than 10 hours after being received; it's often still warm from milking. Made with traditional techniques, it's ripened for 120 days (about half the minimum time for Gruyère, because it is made in smaller 13-pound wheels).
If you're a fan of Gruyère or Appenzeller, you'll want to add Le Maréchal to your cheese Rolodex. The intensity of flavour that hits on first bite pleasantly catches you off guard with a creamy mix of floral, nut and fragrant herbal notes .
If cheese was off the "indulge" list after the holidays, take heart – literally. Due to the flax seed that's added to the feed for the milk-producing cattle, some of the heart-healthy fatty acids are transferred to the cheese.
I love Le Maréchal for its versatility – it's a sophisticated wedge on any cheeseboard, has great melting qualities and makes a foolproof snack for lunch box or outdoor adventure.
So as you prepare to baby step your way out the front door in a harrowing game of "spot the black ice," tuck an emergency piece into your parka – one can get peckish waiting for an X-ray in the ER.
Sue Riedl blogs about cheese and other edibles at cheeseandtoast.com.