The competitor (against roquefort) for the title 'king of cheese' in France is Brie, specifically Brie de Meaux. Perhaps the cheese the most widely recognised in the world, Brie has been made and enjoyed for many centuries. Brie de Meaux is the finest example of Brie. Brie the place is a region about 50 km east of Paris (now the Seine-et-Marne department). Various historical figures in France are claimed to have been Brie de Meaux enthusiasts, including Louis XVI, the emperor Charlemagne, and Talleyrand.
Like roquefort, Brie de Meaux is a controlled name, and it can only be produced by authorised producers in this one specific region.
The cheese is made from unpasteurised milk, and takes its distinctive flat shape from the mould in which it is made - after adding rennet and heating slightly, it is spread in the mould in layers manually with a so-called 'brie shovel'. After being inoculated with the mould, and several weeks of maturing, during which the cheese is turned by hand several times, the cheese has developed its soft, beige, interior with the whiter, mould based, crust. The final cheese is 3-4 centimetres thick and about 40 cm across.
The cheese is made from unpasteurised milkThis is a raw, soft unpasteurised cow's milk cheese. A massive 23 litres of milk are used to make each cheese. The milk is heated to 37 °C only during the renneting stage, but is never actually cooked. It is then manually cast into its mould.
Brie is best eaten at room temperature, and forms a crucial part of any cheese course. The cheese is soft, the crust slightly less so, and their is a very slight bitter taste. The crust / rind is edible!
A particular recipe for brie that is one of my favourites (hence quick, easy and delicious) is Brie and Onion tart, perfect for a summer day. Believe me, although it is extremely quick and easy to make, it is very good:
Recipe: Brie and Onion tart
Puff pastry - I cheat and use pre-made, seems good
250gm (8 ounces) Brie de Meaux (yes, it works well with other brie as well)
Chop the onions into large pieces, and fry slowly in butter at a low heat, until soft and slightly browned
Unroll the pastry (or roll it, if you are making it yourself)
Spread the onions out on the pastry
Cut the cheese into chunks about 2cm across, and spread these evenly across the tart
Cook for about 20 minutes at 220 degrees. The cheese will have melted, and flowed into the onions and pastry.