Cervelle de Canut, created in Lyon when it was the center of a thriving silk industry

(Translation:  LYONNAISE GARLIC & HERB CHEESE (aka boursin’s mama))

For the past seven years I’ve been taking leçons françaises. While I don’t speak the language well (really, I’m awful), I do possess an amazing vocabulary, know 13 of the 17 different verb tenses and can understand everything that is asked of me in a boulangerie.

That’s why I knew this week’s recipe involved cooking someone’s brain. Probably a duck. Cervelle means brain. Although duck translates to canard, the French do absurd things with word endings so I just assumed canut, canard, duck. If I thought Sardines Rillettes (April 13, 2012) was a culinary stretch for me, duck brains might be an impossibility.

Quack. Quack. Quack.

photo by greengabbro.net

Imagine my surprise when I realized canut meant silk weaver.  Literally, this week’s FFWD recipe: Brain of a Silk Weaver. Pas de panique.  Fortunately, there are no brains involved in the creation of this recipe.

Trust me on this.

After spooning the ricotta in the strainer, I placed it over a pan, covered it with plastic wrap, allowing it to drain and rest in the refridgerator overnight.

The next morning, I assembled the ingredients for the cheese spread.








Cervelle de Canut is a soft and creamy herb cheese that is part mix, part spread and part salad dressing. It is said to be the inspiration for the popular Boursin cheese that is easily found in any American grocery store. I was invited to a 70th birthday celebration last week-end and I knew it would be a wonderful addition to the appetizer table. Since it would be my first food contribution to party fare since returning to Aspen, this was a “Dorie, please don’t fail me now” moment.

photo by boursin.gif


The night before the party I spooned ricotta into a fine-mesh strainer, covered it with plastic wrap and refrigerated it overnight. The next morning I put the drained ricotta in a bowl, adding shallots, garlic, chives, parsley and tarragon, salt and pepper. After pouring red wine vinegar and olive oil into the ingredients, I mixed everything together and let it chill in the fridge for the entire day. Just before plating Trader Joe’s Raisin Rosemary Crisps with the cheese spread, I tasted the mix again and felt it needed more salt. Much more. Then it was perfect.


Mix all the ingredients lightly with a rubber spatula. Don’t overbeat the cheese and risk thinning it.

Luckily my food offering stood tall with the other delicious fare including crab won tons,  Chinese shrimp-snow pea skewers, spinach-cheese squares, paté mousse and smoked salmon-neufchatel spread in filo cups. Did I mention that all my friends are fantastic cooks?  And, there was some mention and mumbling that it appeared ‘Mary had not lost her touch.’

Thanks, Dorie. Soooooooo much. Merci beaucoup.

The Groaning Table

Every bite was well-worth the calories! Happy Birthday, Dear Friend.

Peter’s wife, Ruth, an author and writer, lighting his cake. The birthday boy stands nearby.


Although we urge you to buy Dorie’s inspiring cookbook, Around My French Table,  you will find the recipe here.  To see the brainy versions created by other Doristas, go here.