There’s really no bad time for melty cheese, but winter is an especially nice time to settle in with something oozy, warm, and highly caloric.
Of course, not all gooey cheese treats should be approached the same way. Some really are as simple as a quick toss in the oven. Some are best when sliced and thrown into a cast-iron pan for a sort of quick fondue. For lovers of baked Brie, try upgrading your cheese to a decadent double cream or a more authentic, savory version of Brie that the French go nuts for.
Read on for our six favorite cheeses to throw in your oven and what to drink with them.
Throw Right In
This American Brie-style cheese from Vermont’s Jasper Hill Farm is likely one of your cheese monger’s favorite cheeses. A round wheel bound in spruce bark, Harbison is ooey gooey perfection at room temperature, but after spending some time in the oven, its flavors of mushrooms, forest floor, and wild raspberries intensify. Dip crostini, salami, or potato chips and pair with a Vermont IPA.
Rumored to be banned on the French subway, ripe Époisses smells like feet and tastes like bacon custard. Époisses hails from Burgundy and gets its notorious stench from being gently washed in a solution of brine and grape pomace, putting it solidly in the “washed rind” family. Époisses smells stronger than it tastes. Especially after a broil, the delight of supercharged umami overpowers any residual stink. Thanks to its lovely yeasty notes, Époisses is excellent served simply with slices of baguette or sourdough bread. It’s traditionally and beautifully paired with red Burgundy, but is also excellent with a smoky spirit like Mezcal.
Slice in a Cast Iron Pan
If you’ve been on the internet anytime in the past few years, you’ve likely seen drool-worthy melty cheese videos featuring raclette. There’s a fancy machine you can get to recreate the experience at home, but you can also simply slice raclette (after removing the rind), broil it in a cast iron pan, and then top the cheese with potatoes, bread, meat, and roasted veggies. Just like they did on Instagram! Enjoy with a brown ale.
Fontina Val d’Aosta
This is not the red waxed Danish fontina from the grocery store. Fontina Val d’Aosta has been made in Italy’s Aosta Valley region since the 12th century from the milk of cows grazing on Alpine pastures. Made similarly to Raclette, it melts in the same no-holds-barred oozy way, and its nuttier, grassier flavor pairs perfectly with Barbaresco. If you want your baked fontina to feel like a fancy party dish, try Ina Garten’s Baked Fontina recipe with garlic, thyme, and rosemary. Pair with a dry, fruity white wine from northern Italy, like Pinot Grigio.
Wrap in Puff Pastry
Fromager d’Affinois is a double cream cheese, meaning it was made with full-fat milk plus a splash of added cream. Thanks, though, to a process called ultrafiltration that breaks down the fat molecules in order to fully disperse them throughout the paste, d’Affinois feels just as decadent as the best triple cream or even butter. If you like sweeter variations of baked Brie, d’Affinois is the way to go — its creaminess is spectacularly cut with some raspberry preserves. Enjoy it with the most cheerful sparkling wine you can find, such as Prosecco or Cava.
For more savory snackers, Brie Fermier and its broccoli cheese soup flavors will be a revelation. Made to mimic the raw milk French Bries, which are illegal here in the U.S., Brie Fermier is garlicky, cabbage-y and onion-y, with notes of broccoli. It’s lovely at room temperature, but when baked, it really leans into its savory soup flavors and will knock the socks off anyone who’s worried that baked Brie is a boring dish of yesteryear. For extra oomph, top it with caramelized onions or sautéed mushrooms. Baked Brie Fermier is excellent with a dirty Martini, but also nice with a dry Alsatian Gewürztraminer.