Cooking by the Books

For any Marin resident (and cheese lover) it’s impossible to not know Cowgirl Creamery Cheese. Located in Point Reyes, this iconic creamery produces glorious cheese found in our local markets and retail stores. Sue Conley and Peggy Smith are the the Cowgirls behind the Marin creamery, and now they have a cookbook. If you love cheese and are passionate about local artisan food, this book is for you.

The first chapter titled “Go West, Young Cowgirls!” aptly sums up Conley and Smith’s journey from college friendship at the University of Tennessee to the Bay area, where they worked as chefs in Berkeley restaurants before launching Tomales Bay Foods to promote West Marin’s farms and dairies to Bay Area chefs. From there it was a quick step to producing their own cheese locally produced with milk from Strauss Family Creamery. Nearly 20 years later, the Cowgirls are known throughout the Bay area and beyond, garnering numerous awards, including the induction into the Guilde des Fromagers, while helping to pioneer the American artisan cheese movement. Go west young cowgirls, indeed – we’re happy they made the journey.

Cowgirl Creamery is a great read. Not only is it the Cowgirls’ personal story, it’s the story of the rise of the organic food movement. It’s also a primer on tasting, buying, storing, pairing and appreciating all kinds of cheese, including 75 recipes and photographs by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton. This book will entertain, enlighten, and, most importantly, leave you very hungry. Here is a recipe to get you started.

Red Hawk Potato Gratin

Reprinted with permission from Cowgirl Creamery Cooks

Serves 6 to 8.


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, julienned
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 10 ounces Red Hawk cheese, cut into 16 wedges

To Prepare

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Heat a cast iron skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the butter and olive oil to the pan. When the butter has melted, add the onion and garlic and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and add the cream and half of the Parmesan.
  2. Transfer half of the onion-cream mixture to a glass 13 by 9-inch baking dish or casserole. Arrange half the potatoes in an overlapping layer on top of the mixture, and then top with 8 of the Red Hawk wedges. Add the remaining potatoes in an even layer, the remaining half of the Red Hawk, and the remaining onion-cream mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.
  3. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the top is browned and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Let the casserole cool for 10 to 20 minutes. Serve warm.