The Cookstr 10: Ten Cheesy Recipes
Cheese, glorious cheese. Writer Clifton Fadiman put it well: “Cheese–milk’s leap towards immortality.” Even the names roll deliciously off the tongue. Taleggio, fontina, mozzarella, Gruyère, brie, camembert, chevre, gorgonzola, Parmesan, muenster…well, maybe not muenster. And the sheer versatility! Melty or crumbly, creamy or firm, fresh or aged, delicate or sharp, made from the milk of sheep or cows or goats, or a combination…each cheese has a personality all its own, and every kind has its array of perfect ingredient dance partners.
It’s difficult to envision a time of day when you wouldn’t be delighted to encounter a piece of cheese: in omelets in the a.m., layered into a sandwich at lunch, bubbling in a gratin at dinner. Did famous food maven Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin overstate it when he said, “A dinner which ends without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye”? Only a little.
Cheese is made all around the world and many countries have a cheese-pride that–well, let’s just say don’t start a conversation about cheese unless you’re prepared to listen. The world of cheeses takes a lifetime to explore, a fact that we find to be less of a threat than a promise. In closing, we think French president Charles de Gaulle, trying to defend himself against critics, expressed himself beautifully when he said, “How can you be expected to govern a country that has 246 kinds of cheese?”
1. Janet Fletcher’s Escarole and Gruyère Salad with Walnut Oil. Beneath the broad, dark green outer leaves of escarole–a member of the endive clan–lies a paler, less bitter heart. The pleasant sharpness plays beautifully against the richness of the walnuts and the walnut oil, and the additional nuttiness of the Gruyère. Comté or Emmental are other cheese options to explore in this salad.
2. Jacques Pepin’s Onion Soup Gratinee. The first secret to memorable onion soup is slow, long caramelization of the onions. The next is a rich, flavorful stock. And finally, a generous amount of Emmenthaler, Gruyére, or Jarlsberg, enough to bubble thickly over the floating slices of bread and drip alluringly over the edges of the bowls.
3. Laura Werlin’s Italian Ham and Cheese. Fontina is a great melting cheese, which makes it perfect for grilled cheese sandwiches, amongst other things. Gently cooked leeks and crispy pancetta make this a sandwich to remember, however you choose to cook it.
4. Jamie Oliver’s Tagliatelle with Spinach, Mascarpone, and Parmesan. Mascarpone is a soft, delicate, Italian triple-cream cheese, often used in desserts and sometimes in savory dishes, like risottos or pastas such as this. There’s not much to this dish, but the simple, creamy, spinach-flecked sauce begets second helpings.
5. Sara Foster’s Chicken Mac and Cheese. Mac and cheese gets a little more substance, not to mention protein, thanks to the addition of shredded cooked chicken. Cheddar and Parm are the star cheeses, and you can pick the small pasta of your choice to feature in this baked favorite.
6. Victoria Blashford-Snell and Brigitte Hafner’s Cheesy Spinach Squares. Spanakopita is a classic Greek spinach pie featuring feta, a crumbly, tangy cheese made from sheep’s milk or a combo of sheep and goats’ milk cheese. You can cut it into small pieces and serve it as an appetizer, or nice big hunks for a main course.
7. Molly O’Neill’s Mike Gordon’s Lasagne. Ricotta, Parmesan, and Romano cheeses all join hands to create a cheesy triumvirate for this flavorful lasagna. The Romano and Parmesan appear in two acts: first, grated into the filling, and then layered in the middle and on the top in thin slices. Fresh tarragon and slightly sweet Marsala wine are the intriguing twists in the beefy sauce.
8. Susan Spicer’s Goat Cheese Croutons with Wild Mushrooms in Madeira Cream. Goat cheese is slathered on toasted sliced of bread, and then smothered in a jumble of wild mushrooms mixed with a rich, creamy, winey sauce. Decadent? You betcha.
10. George Geary’s Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake. Just in time for fall, a cheesecake that offers a platform for two autumnal flavors: maple syrup and pumpkin. Both ingredients are blended into a classic cream cheese-based filling, and a topping of classic whipped cream ensures that this is the dessert on the buffet everyone will be jockeying for.