Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Fried Cheese

[I wrote this last fall, when apples were in season and I wasn't on a diet. This kind of food is perhaps why I am on a diet today. Hmmm.]

How can you go wrong? Everything is better with cheese (except, perhaps, heart disease, a jiggly belly, and digestive clarity), and everything is better fried (except ditto). Frying soaks your food in delicious, satisfying fat, and gives you crispy, crunchy brown bits. Cheese is also full of delicious fat, although it's a strange substance when you think about it. I try to forget that it's the mammary secretions of a big smelly animal, left to spoil until solid and moldy.* It's just so tasty!

Cheese: yum. Fried: yum. So, again, how can you go wrong? Here's how:

Being about to leave on a trip, you have carefully planned to run out of food today, so you won't come home to a fridge full of chilled organic garbage. Unfortunately, this means there's not much to eat. There is one perfect apple left in the crisper, and a few tablespoons of grated pecorino romano (I know, better to grate it yourself, thank you, I'm lazy). Cheese and apples being the world's most perfect snack, there must be some potential there. However, alternating spoonfuls of cold grated cheese with slices of perfect Honeycrisp does not do justice to the apple's perfection, or to the whole idea of a restorative snack. And besides, haven't you read about some little Italian delicacy that involves frying grated parmigiano? Doesn't it yield lacy little crisp cheese wafers? Doesn't that sound charming? Wouldn't they be nice with cold apple slices?

And so to the internet. Type, search, click, read, repeat. Thanks to The Google Cookbook, you seem to have learned something today. And so, back to the kitchen. Sprinkle a little pile of cheese into a hot, well-seasoned cast iron pan and fry for a few minutes. Attempt to flip with a spatula. Switch from spatula to spackling knife and try again. Switch from "cooking the cheese" to "trying to save the frying pan from the landfill." End up with a clean frying pan and a hard, greasy, burnt little cheese turd (like a cheese curd, but much, much worse). Full of misplaced, naive optimism, take a small nibble. Suddenly, instantly, you're full! And you never want cheese again! And you notice that the house in now bathed in Greasy Fried Cheesefunk!

But you will not be beaten. You think that there must be a way to make better fried cheese than that greasy little puck. And there is. Here's how:

You dig out the non-stick, probably-carcinogenic, made-from-puppies frying pan. Heat thoroughly over low heat. Add a little fat, just for the sake of overkill. Sprinkle a tablespoon of cheese in a thin circle, about three inches in diameter. Don't aim for a thick layer of cheese-- little gaps are okay. When you start to see browned areas where the cheese is thin, gently lift with a spatula. It will be surprisingly cohesive, and yet totally non adhesive. Thank the puppies, I guess. Flip, and cook another minute or so. Set aside, and cook the next one (or several, if you have a big pan).

If you wanted to eat some more cheese, which you don't, these would probably taste delicious and be crispy and wonderful and the prettiest thing to come out of the kitchen since you got all dressed up for Thanksgiving. Remember this for later, in case you ever recover your taste for cheese.

Put the cheese wafers in the fridge. They'll probably keep until you get back.

Eat the apple with some peanut butter. Feel better. Go on your trip with a light heart and a full belly.

*So I left out some of the subtleties of the cheese-maker's art, but you must admit it's pretty close to the truth.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

wow! I did want to try those little cheese doilies...a frined made them and they were great (grated)- non-stick pan it was...carroll