Thursday, March 11, 2010

Staples: Parmigiano Reggiano

There's always at least one chunk in the fridge, if not more. I'm always buying the stuff, partly because it has a long shelf life and partly because . . . . I hate running out.
An aged cheese like this is worth so much more than the usual applications: grated with pasta or stirred into risotto. It is the gift that keeps on giving. It's great on freshly popped pop corn, it holds together my mashed potatoes, it's shaved onto salads with a peeler and shredded onto sliced apples with sea salt and olive oil. The rind goes into the freezer for my next batch of chicken stock, to which it adds a great nutty complexity. At the top of the list of possible applications? Popping a chunk in my mouth.
You might notice little bits of crunch throughout; light specks that freckle the cheese, these crystals are naturally forming MSG's (mono-sodium glutamates), affecting how your tongue perceives the cheese's taste . . . . flavor crystals if you will.

NOTE: There is no true substitution for the real deal. If you are in a pinch, grana padano will pass, or something like a cave aged gouda can be nice. Just look for those white specks, they're what make the difference.
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