A COOK’S NEW ASSISTANT – CHEESE!

nina | January 10th, 2014 - 9:00 am

Are you slightly intimidated by the cheese counter?

When it comes to cooking with cheese, you can be overwhelmed by the possibilities. On top of that, good cheese isn’t cheap, so even when you cook with a small wedge, you’d like to be able to anticipate how it will behave.

We all know how to crumble a blue on greens or shave Parmesan over pasta, but it would be great to integrate cheese into daily cooking more often. 

Suppose you divide cheeses into six families — fresh, bloomy rind, washed rind, pressed, cooked and blue — each with its own appearance, aroma, flavor and texture. (There is no set number of families, and cheesemongers may define them slightly differently.) Once you absorb the basics of the six families, you can use cheeses from the same family interchangeably in a recipe with good results.

First which ones work well for smearing versus grating or shaving, melting and crumbling.  Cheeses like Brie, from the bloomy rind family (so-called because of the soft mold or yeast rind that “blooms” on the cheeses’ exterior), are ideal for smearing. They are also the best for emulsions, like salad dressings or dips, since the flavorful rind won’t gum up the final silken texture.

Firm pressed cheeses are good for grating or shaving, but you don’t have to limit them to garnishes. 

There are a lot of misconceptions about which cheeses melt well, like the notion that Cheddar is a good melter. In fact, Cheddar’s higher acidity (the reason for its so-called “sharp” flavor) means that it yields oily nubbins rather than the gooey smoothness we all desire. And sheep’s milk cheese may seem as if it might be good for melting, thanks to its semisoft or firm texture, but with twice the fat of cow or goat milk, it softens into a greasy slab when exposed to heat.

Then there are the fresh cheeses, often crumbled on salads. We decided to replace the cream in a sweet and spicy tomato bisque with a classic crumbler like Vermont Creamery’s fresh goat cheese. Mere topping no more, the cheese was swirled into the bisque just before serving, with the hope that it would enrich the soup while preserving the occasional lemony crumb. Ta-da, it worked.

So go and use cheese with confidence. Moving it to center stage can prove remarkably successful, not to mention unexpected and delicious.

Source:  nytimes.com, 1-7-2014

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