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One afternoon in early February, I found a small package with a Wisconsin

return address on my front porch.

This struck me as a bit strange because I'd just been talking with a

friend, Colleen McGlynn of DaVero Olive Oil and Supper in Healdsburg, about

Carr Valley Cheese in La Valle, Wis., which was just where the box was from.

McGlynn knows of the cheese company because she grew up on a farm a couple

of miles from La Valle, but she had nothing to do with the appearance of the

box on my porch.

Call it meaningful coincidence.

Inside the box was a block of 10-year-old cheddar, sent to me as a gift

from a friend who thought I might enjoy it. He loves it so much he's become a

bit of a proselytizer.

With one bite, it is easy to understand why.

The cheese has the rich earthy quality we associate with cheddar but it is

a bit dryer than younger cheddars and has delightful little crystals, like we

might find in an old Parmigiano-Reggiano. These crystals are surprising,

delicious and addictive.

If the cheese is 10 years old, I kept thinking to myself as I headed toward

the kitchen for yet another nibble, surely I can make it last 10 days.

No such luck.

The cheese was but a memory after three or four days and before long I

found myself at www.carrvalleycheese.com.

Carr Valley Cheese currently is in the hands of Sid Cook, a

fourth-generation cheesemaker who spent 15 years completing advanced training

and education before taking over the family business.

Carr Valley offers a variety of cheddars, from fresh curds made daily and

day-old cheddar to baby cheddar, aged 45 days, and cheddars aged for three

months, one year, two years, three years, four years, five years, six years,

eight years and 10 years. There's applewood-smoked cheddar, cave-aged cheddar

and cheddar to which beer has been added.

The curds make for delicious nibbling and the young cheddars are perfect

for cooking. The oldest ones are best savored neat, at room temperature.

My new shipment of cheese has arrived just in time for St. Patrick's Day, a

day when I'm about as traditional as you can get, in spite of the fact that my

mother paid no attention to the holiday. She was Russian and with my Irish

father long in his grave, she made no effort to observe his holiday. I was an

adult before I ate my first corned beef and cabbage.

Now and then I opt for Irish stew and colcannon instead of corned beef, but

that's about as far afield as I've ventured, though this year I'll be

exploring possibilities suggested by the delicious cheese. But probably as a

first course or side dish.

Although this traditional cheese dish is most frequently referred to as

``rarebit,'' its proper name is rabbit. Rarebit is thought to be an

alteration, likely an unintentional one, of the original word. The variations

at the end of the recipe reflect traditions in England, Scotland and Wales. I

would not use an 8- or 10-year-old cheddar in this dish, as much of the joy of

cheese that has been aged for such a time is its texture, which is lost as the

cheese melts. Instead, I would use either an Irish cheddar or one of Carr

Valley's younger cheddars.

Classic Cheese Rabbit

Makes 4 servings

8 ounces cheddar cheese, preferably Irish

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon mustard flour, such as Colman's

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 cup ale, preferably Irish, such as Smithwick's or Harp's

1 egg, slightly beaten

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

-- Toast points from 8 slices of bread

Put the cheese, butter, salt, mustard and paprika in the top of a double

boiler set over slowly simmered water until the cheese is melted. Slowly stir

in the ale, the egg and the Worcestershire sauce and stir until the mixture

thickens.

Arrange toast points on individual plates, pour the mixture over and serve

immediately.

Variations

* You can serve the rabbit with cooked vegetables such as broccoli,

potatoes, asparagus, carrots and parsnips, hard-boiled eggs, sliced apples or

roasted ham instead of toast points if you prefer.

* Top each serving with a poached egg.

* Top each serving with a poached egg and fried crumbled bacon.

* Top each serving with minced yellow onions, gherkins and fresh herbs and

pass a good-quality white wine vinegar alongside.

Traditional colcannon is a mixture of potatoes, bacon, cabbage, butter,

onions and cream, all mashed together coarsely. This contemporary version,

adapted from a recipe in ``The Irish Heritage Cookbook'' by Margaret Johnson

(Chronicle Books, 1999, $18.95), is from chefs Paul and Jeanne Rankin of

Roscoff in Belfast. Served with a green salad alongside, it makes a delicious

and satisfying lunch or dinner.

Colcannon Torte with Cheddar Cheese

Makes 6 to 8 servings

-- Kosher salt

4 tablespoons butter

1 small yellow onion, diced

1/2 medium head cabbage, cored and shredded

6 bacon strips, diced

4 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 -inch slices

-- Black pepper, freshly ground

8 ounces cheddar cheese, preferably Irish

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Fill a large saucepan half full with water, add a tablespoon of kosher salt

and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the shredded cabbage and cook for 2

minutes. Drain and rinse thoroughly in cool water. Set on clean tea towels to

dry.

Butter a 9-inch pie plate or tart pan with a little of the butter and put

what remains in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook

until it is just crisp. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to absorbent

paper.

Add the onion to the pan drippings and saute until limp and fragrant, about

10 to 12 minutes.

Toss the cooked bacon and the blanched cabbage together.

Toss the sliced potatoes with the onions and bacon drippings.

Spread a third of the potato-onion mixture over the bottom of the buttered

pan and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle a third of the cheese over the

potatoes, top with half of the cabbage and bacon and season with salt and

pepper. Add another third of the potatoes, season, add the remaining cheese

and top with the remaining cabbage. Season with salt and pepper. Add a final

layer of the remaining potatoes, season with salt and pepper and cover with a

sheet of parchment paper or aluminum foil.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

Remove from the oven, cover loosely with a tea towel and let rest at least

30 minutes and as long as two hours.

Cut into wedges and serve.

This soup is about as close as you can get to Scotch Broth without actually

being Scotch Broth, which counts dried peas among its ingredients. It is just

the thing in March, when nights and mornings are still cold and pollen is

having its way with us.

Irish Lamb Broth

Makes 6 to 8 servings

2 pounds meaty lamb necks

-- Kosher salt

4 tablespoons pearled barley, soaked in water overnight and rinsed

1 large yellow onion, cut into small dice, or the white part of 2 leeks,

thoroughly cleaned and minced

2 carrots, minced

2 small turnips, minced

6 cups thinly shredded cabbage

-- Black pepper, freshly ground

Put the lamb into a soup pot, season with salt and add 10 cups water. Bring

to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low and simmer gently, partially

covered, for 2 hours. Skim the surface of the simmering water to remove foam

and impurities.

After the soup has been simmering for 90 minutes, add the barley and

continue to cook. After 2 hours, stir in the onion, carrot, turnip and cabbage

and season again with salt. Cook for one hour more, remove from the heat and

let cool slightly.

Use tongs to remove the lamb from the liquid. Separate the meat from the

bones, chop the meat and stir it into the soup. Reheat, season with several

turns of black pepper, taste, correct the seasoning, ladle into soup cups and

serve.

.

``Mouthful with Michele Anna Jordan'' can be heard each Sunday at 7 p.m. on

KRCB 91.1 FM. E-mail Jordan at michele@micheleannajordan.com

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