Facebook   Twitter   Instagram
Current Issue   Archive   Donate and Support    

Challenging Elements: Chevre


While reading our first crack at Challenging Elements last month, Moncia Smetena-Hertrich breathed a sigh of relief. The owner and chef at Longmont’s Praha Restaurant figured she was safe from having to work with pinto beans (March’s ingredient) during this month’s challenge.

We didn’t go easy on her though giving her a tomato, basil and chipotle sheep’s milk Chevre from Steamboat Springs’ dairy Sunny Breeze. We came back 24 hours later to taste her creation, Veal Chop Au Chevre.

About the only time Monica Smetena-Hertrich cooks with the southwestern flavor that comes from chipotle peppers, it’s for her “kids.” Her kids being the staff members of her Praha Restaurant.

The menu customers eat, however, is decidedly European with a heavy influence from her Czech background.
After much deliberation, we tossed a Southwestern flavor her way.

It was difficult picking an ingredient this month. Praha has a menu heavy on meats, and local, fresh produce is tough to find this early in spring.

So we were “forced” to call Longmont’s Cheese Importers for some advice. Sascha Stanger, whose 20 years with the company qualifies him as an expert, helped us with the selection from Sunny Breeze.

The spreadable sheep’s milk cheese offers a zippy, yet mild flavor that is popular on crackers and chips. Needless to say, it’s not the typical ingredient found on a European menu. Still it only took Smetena-Hertich about half an hour to figure out what she wanted to do with the tomato, basil and chipotle Chevre.

“This is what makes cooking fun, when you are not used to an ingredient, and you’re forced to use it,” says the chef who reopened Praha in 2004, revitalizing the Old Praha Inn her parents started in 1977.

Her marinated veal dish begins with a boneless veal cut soaked overnight in a chipotle, olive oil and basil marinade. The meat is seared prior to being wrapped in cooked prosciutto and topped with a hearty dollop of the Chevre. The dish will be a signature special at Praha this month, served with organic fingerling potatoes, gold and red beats, and served alongside a mild veal port wine reduction.

Smetena-Hertrich says she wanted the flavors on the plate to be simple, since the Chevre has such a strong and impressive taste. The first bite confirms this, with the melting cheese dominating the supple veal. She has pulled off the challenge with no problem, it seems.

Taste the dish for yourself beginning April 7 at Praha Restaurant & Bar, 7521 Ute Highway, Longmont. Call 303.702.118.0

Leave a Reply