Cookbook Profile

Cervelle de Canut

Makes 6 servings

Cervelle de Canut  
I don't know why this Lyonnaise cheese spread—it has to have been the inspiration for Boursin cheese—is called "the brains of the silk weaver"; its name has never made sense to me. It's a mixture of chopped herbs, shallots, a drop of vinegar, and a little olive oil beaten with soft fresh cheese. I use fromage blanc, but you can substitute ricotta-just make sure to drain it for a couple of hours before using it. In Lyon, it is served in a bowl and accompanied by toast and small warm boiled potatoes, and it's delicious that way. But I also like to use it as a salad dressing on bitter greens, such as frisée, as I do here; arugula; or, when I see them in the market, dandelion greens. The salad is wonderful paired with air-cured beef, such as bresaola or viande des grisons.


The Cervelle de Canut:
1-1/2 cups fromage blanc
   or fresh whole-milk ricotta
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
1 tablespoon finely chopped Italian parsley leaves
1 teaspoon finely chopped tarragon leaves
1-1/2 teaspoons finely chopped shallots, rinsed and dried
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground white pepper


1. If you are using fromage blanc, whisk together the cheese, herbs, shallots, garlic, olive oil, and vinegar in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. If you are using ricotta cheese, you'll have to drain it: Put the ricotta in a cheesecloth-lined sieve set over a bowl. Draw up the ends of the cheesecloth and squeeze the cloth to extract some of the liquid from the ricotta. Put the ricotta, still wrapped in cheesecloth, back in the sieve, put the sieve and bowl in the refrigerator, and allow the ricotta to drain for 2 hours. When you are ready to make the cervelle de canut, put the ricotta in the work bowl of a food processor and process until the cheese is smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the remaining ingredients to the processor and pulse just to blend, taking care not to process the mixture too much.

2. No matter which cheese you use, the cervelle de canut should be chilled, covered, until needed. (It can be made several hours ahead and kept covered in the refrigerator.) If the mixture seems a little thick for your taste, you can thin it with a touch of milk.


The Frisée:
3 heads frisée, white and light yellow
   parts only, trimmed, washed, and dried
   (or 1 pound other bitter greens,
   trimmed, washed, and dried)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground white pepper


Toss the frisée together with the oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. The frisée will be very lightly dressed, which is just right-the fromage blanc will finish the dressing.

To serve:
Place a mound of frisée on each plate and top with a scoop of the cervelle de canut.

To drink:
A fruity, fresh red wine from the Beaujolais region, a Saint-Amour or a Chiroubles

Buy the Book!


Daniel Boulud's Café Boulud Cookbook
By Daniel Boulud and Dorie Greenspan
Scribner, November 1999
Hardback, $35.00
ISBN: 0-684-86343-X
Recipe Reprinted by permission.


Daniel Boulud's Café Boulud Cookbook



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This page created November 1999