It’s hard enough choosing between pie flavors at a holiday feast—but add cheese to that after-dinner spread, and you’ve got even more reason to pay attention to the dessert course.
For Eric Schack, lead artisan of Salumi e Formaggi at Eataly Downtown in New York City and the winner of the Summer 2018 Cheesemonger Invitational, pie and cheese go gangbusters. With its variety of textures—from flaky crust to smooth, jammy, and even crunchy interiors—pie, Schack says, “adds so much more complexity than something like a preserve.” Plus, he quips, “Who doesn’t love pie?”
For some, the salty-sweet combo of cheddar and apple might be old hat. But worry not, experimental eaters, Schack shares his picks for taking the formula to the next level. At the dessert table, let pie and cheese break bread: Pecan pairs with nutty pecorino; old-school apple reunites with clothbound cheddar; silky pumpkin mingles with sumptuous goat’s milk; and tart cherry woos a grassy Alpine wedge.
1. Luigi Guffanti Pecorino Maremmano
Origin: Tuscany, Italy
Milk: Raw or pasteurized sheep’s milk
“You get a lot of the nuttiness that’s inherent to pecorino cheeses and some of those lanolin notes as well,” says Schack, of Luigi Guffanti’s version that’s aged just over 60 days. “The melt-in-your-mouth consistency of this pecorino works really wonderfully alongside pecan pie.” For textural contrast, try a rough crumble of pecorino over pie.
2. Bleu Mont Dairy Bandaged Cheddar
Origin: Blue Mounds, Wis.
Milk: Pasteurized cow’s milk
Following the adage of what grows together goes together, Schack describes his approach to pairings as “from the ground up.” With this earthy Wisconsin cheddar, he says, “It’s almost like bringing the earth and the grass itself to the apples.” Serve this bandaged cheddar as a block, and let guests break it apart between bites of pie.
3. FireFly Farms Cabra La Mancha
Origin: Accident, Md.
Milk: Pasteurized goat’s milk
Here, Schack plays off the velvety texture of pumpkin pie’s custard filling with a washed-rind cheese. “When I think of one of the roundest flavors in cream territory, I think of goat’s milk,” he says. “This washed rind doesn’t give too strong a flavor, but brings just enough [ital]Brevibacterium linens[/ital] activity that there’s an almost caramel quality to it.”
4. Bitto PDO
Origin: Lombardy, Italy
Milk: Raw cow’s and goat’s milk
Alpine cheese and cherries are a match made in heaven (think: kirsch and fondue). The sweet-tart intensity of the pie finds a friend in this Italian Alpine cheese that’s rich in grassy, nutty notes of tropical fruit flavor. “It makes me thirsty for a strong glass of schnapps just thinking about it,” says Schack. “It’s harmonious.”
Top It Off
Though we’re getting cheesy with our pie, whipped cream still finds a seat at the table. Schack’s secret ingredient? Cheese-infused cream. Lightly cook grated cheese in cream—to avoid boiling, a double burner works best here—let cool, and then whip or drizzle onto a slice. Classic plain cream has a purpose, too, he says: An unsweetened whip will help disperse the cheese’s flavor throughout the palate for an ultra-indulgent bite.
Photographed by Beryl Striewski