Boxcarr Handmade Cheese began only two years ago, but it's already become a beloved, salty, creamy, gooey fixture in over a dozen states. Lucky for us, North Carolina is the one with the most access. The micro, family company, which was started by brother and sister Austin and Samantha Genke, is based in Cedar Grove, but the cheese sort of tastes like Italy.
"Cheese is pretty simple. There's not much in it," Austin says. "So making it stand out depends on the cultures."
And Boxcarr's cultures aren't just any—they're Italian, which is key. "They add a uniqueness," Austin says.
Campo is a cow's milk cheese washed in a b-linens (cheesemonger slang for brevibacterium linens) brine, before being cold-smoked with pecan wood until the rind turns orange, like a sunset. When I spoke to Austin, he was getting ready to put Campo toward arancini—Italian rice fritters—for an event. But when it comes to everyday cooking, he'd be just as happy with a Campo cheeseburger or a Campo grilled cheese.
These recipes are in that same spirit.
A few places you can find Campo: local Whole Foods stores, Raleighwood Provisions, Weaver Street Market, the Durham Co-Op, and the Wednesday and Saturday Durham Farmers' Markets.
Campo e Pepe
Cacio e pepe—literally cheese and pepper—is a classic Roman pasta dish and current American trend. There's instant ramen cacio e pepe (David Chang). Cacio e pepe fritters (Missy Robbins). Cacio e pepe shortbread (Charlotte Druckman). Cacio e pepe ice cream (Bon Appétit). And Campo e pepe (me and you!). This iteration swaps the standard cacio—Pecorino Romano—for some smoky Campo.
8 ounces spaghetti
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 1/2 ounces Campo, cubed
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for serving
Set a big pot of water over high heat. When it reaches a boil, add a couple of spoonfuls of salt, until the water tastes like the sea. Cook the pasta until almost al dente—about 5 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of the starchy water before draining the pasta and setting aside.
Melt the butter in a big skillet. Add the black pepper and let it toast, for just a moment, until fragrant. Add the pasta, half of the pasta water, and cheese. Toss like no one's watching. Add the reserved water as needed, splash by splash, until a creamy sauce begins to coat the pasta. Transfer to a bowl, sprinkle with more black pepper, and serve immediately.
Campo and Caramelized Onion Quesadillas
They say sushi is only as good as its rice, and the more you think about that, the more you see it everywhere. A burger is only as good as its bun, and a reuben is only as good as its rye, and a quesadilla is only as good as its ... you get the idea. These flour tortillas will convince you. Their recipe shares a lot in common with pie dough—cut butter into flour, hydrate with water—but where pie dough is finicky, tortilla dough is forgiving.
2 cups whole-wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 cup cold water
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 large yellow onions, chopped
Mayonnaise, to smear
Combine the flour, salt, and butter in the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low until the butter is incorporated and the flour looks crumbly—about 3 minutes. Slowly add the water—you may not need all of it—until a dough just begins to form. Gather the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic. Stick in the fridge for 10 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, start the onions. Add the canola oil to a skillet and set over medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to become translucent—about 10 minutes. Drop the heat to low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until they're caramel-colored, jammy-textured, and very sweet, about 50 minutes.
Unwrap the tortilla dough on a floured work surface and divide into 8 pieces. Form each piece into a disk. Roll each disk into an 8- to 9-inch circle.
Preheat a dry cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add a tortilla. Cook for about 1 minute total, flipping every 10 to 15 seconds. You want it to begin to blister and puff but stay supple, not crispy. (The first one will be the guinea pig and ugly duckling and that's OK.)
Keep your cast-iron hot! To assemble each quesadilla, lay a few slices of Campo on half the tortilla. Top with some caramelized onions and shut. Spread the outside with mayonnaise and add to the pan. Cook until brown and crispy, flip, and do the same with the other side.
Let rest for a moment before cutting into triangles and serving.
Campo en Carrozza
Mash up a grilled cheese and French toast and you get mozzarella en carroza. Or, "mozzarella in carriage," but all you really need to know is that it's a custard-dipped, pan-fried grilled cheese—all sorts of dreamy for in-bed brunches and last-minute dinners and half-drunk midnight snacks. This version replaces mozzarella with melty, sultry Campo, plus a smear of mashed anchovies and a squish of lemon for good measure.
1/2 cup whole milk
4 thick slices country-style bread
6 to 8 oil-packed anchovy fillets,
minced into a paste
Red chili flakes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Lemon cheeks, to serve
Whisk together the milk and eggs in a pie dish or other wide, shallow bowl. Season with salt to taste. Lay open the four pieces of bread to make two sandwiches. Spread each one with anchovy paste. Sprinkle with red chili flakes. Layer two of the bread pieces with Campo—as much as you want, but, as Austin says, "A little goes a long way." Close the sandwiches.
Preheat a large skillet. Add the butter. When the butter has melted and begins to foam, drown the sandwiches in the custard bath (you want them really soaked) and add to the pan.
Flip when the bottom is deeply golden brown—about 3 minutes—then repeat with the other side.
Let rest for a moment before slicing in half. Serve with a lemon cheek to squeeze on top.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Culture Shock."