Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Cooking with Cheese

Cooking with Cheese

Cheese is a very versatile ingredient and adds interest and flavour to all manner of dishes including sauces, souftles, dips, quiches and pizzas. It can be used in baking, and deep fried it makes a delicious starter in its own right. Of course, cheese is not limited to savoury recipes, for it can be successfully used in cheesecakes, mousses and other sweet dishes. The selection of gourmet recipes in this book explores the versatility of cheese to its full.

As with wine, it is a mistake to assume that poor quality cheese will undergo a radical metamorphosis once heated. The better the quality of the cheese, the better the finished dish will be. Careful cooking pays dividends, because cheese separates at 65.5'C/ 150F and if cooked for too long becomes leathery and tough. When melted on its own it tends to become stringy and the texture is better if the cheese is mixed with a starchy food, such as breadcrumbs or potato, or added gradually to a sauce. Hard cheese cooks better if it is first grated, although crumbly cheese can be added to a recipe in small chunks. Avoid ready-grated cheeses of the type found in supermarkets, however. These are impregnated with a non-caking agent and although convenient, quickly lose any flavour they once had.

Some cheeses melt better than others. Crumbly varieties such as Lancashire, Stilton or Cheshire are good in soups; while smooth types like Mozzarella and Bel Paese melt clown to a pleasingly elastic consistency for pizza toppings. A finely grated hard cheese like Parmesan is perfect for sprinkling on soup or pasta, because the fine particles melt readily and mix into the dish so easily.

Cheddar is an excellent all-round cooking cheese, which grates well and gives a good flavour to sauces and souffl6s. Soft cheeses such as Brie or Camembert add interest to quiches, and you can use Leicester or Double Gloucester to add colour. Stilton keeps its characteristic flavour when cooked and melts well. Gruyere and Emmenthal are the classic fondue cheeses.

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