Food & Culture

Anatomy of a dish: baked Vacherin

Alpine indulgence at its finest.

By Matthew Hirsch
Baked Vacherin
Simple pleasures (and dinner party people-pleasers) don't come much simpler than baked cheese. And few, if any, cheeses are as revered in molten form as Vacherin Mont d'Or. Named after a mountain peak in the Jura, this soft, pungent washed-rind cheese is the hard work of a small but steadfast network of farmers and makers in the Swiss canton of Vaud and the department of Doubs in eastern France, where it's known as Vacherin du Haut-Doubs. Production begins mid-August and concludes mid-March, making the most of the dense winter milk from the same dairy cows responsible
for Comté and Gruyère.

1. Cheese

The most important thing is that the cheese is cooked until it is completely soft, golden on top and warmed all the way through. Serving it in its circular spruce box retains the distinct woody flavour and rustic charm. Spoon it over potatoes and sides if you wish, but have at it fondue-style to maximise the fun.

2. Seasoning

Sprinkle the Vacherin with rosemary before baking for added fragrance, or tuck slivers of garlic into slits cut into the rind. Some anoint the surface with honey or olive oil before baking, but an aromatic white wine such as chasselas is the time-honoured finishing touch.

3. Accompaniments

Virtually anything works here, but aim for a variety of flavours and textures. Boiled baby potatoes, gherkins and crusty bread are comme il faut, while lavash or savoury biscuits add extra crunch and flavour. Shaved leg ham or jambon cru is a worthy inclusion, and adding crudités to the mix is a great way to clear out the crisper.

Where to find one

Sydney's Continental Deli serves baked Vacherin with smoked Polish sausage and olives, while Cutler & Co, in Melbourne, sticks to the classic bread-and-gherkins script.