Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cheese (being the post in which I actually discuss cheese)

Part Skim Mozzarella, well, sucks.

I'm a cheese snob. I really am. I love cheese almost as much as I love beer. Cheese and beer is actually a favorite meal. Forget the wine. Although I do love wine. Mmmmmm. Shiraz.

My absolute favorite cheese is white extra sharp. It has to be white. I'm a cheese racist. The yellow just doesn't have the same texture. It's a bit softer. A little bit greasy. Cheap extra sharp cheese for those who know no better. Why does anything need annato anyway? The white extra sharp crumbles when you slice it, which can piss a person off sometimes. However, the more aged it is the more likely it is to crumble. Really good extra sharp has a salty tang that isn't found in any other cheese. It is the perfect heavy cheese for a Triscuit. It's also very good to pack for hikes along with a bag of small, chewy rolls and a penknife.

Mustard is good on extra sharp, but it isn't necessary.

My cheese experiences as a child were limited to the sharps, the Hickory Farms boxes, and a little tub of something called Wispride Port Wine Cheese Spread. There was always Wispride in the fridge at my grandmom's house. It was the perfect cheese to spread on water crackers or Sociables. Grandmom even had an actual cheese spreading knife. I was allowed to use it because it was dull. I remember being thrilled that I was eating something with wine in it. I don't know why this mattered, as if my parents were drinking something they always gave me a sip if I requested one. This would be why I had a taste for good scotch at the age of 6. Mmmmmmm. Dewar's.

Pepper Jack made it into my life sometime around my adolescence. My mom brought some sliced home from the local deli, and we were all over it. I remember us slathering brown mustard on seeded rye bread, slapping some Pepper Jack on it, and calling it lunch. Lunch was also occasionally a little trick my mom walked in on one day. I was taking slices of German Bologna, spreading mustard on them, and tearing slices of Cooper Sharp into tiny pieces and scattering them on top. She said, "What are you doing?" I said, "Making pizzas." Then I would roll them into tight little tubes and enjoy. Along those lines, my friend Ann introduced me to the concept of smearing cream cheese on thin Genoa Salami and rolling those up into tubes.

Tube food is good. Screw the nitrates.

I tried blue cheese as an adult. Prior to my Food Epiphany blue cheese scared the ever living shit out of me. There's mold in it for chrissakes. One day someone offered me some sliced French bread and had some blue cheese to spread. I was hooked. MAN, was I hooked. As a matter of fact, when my daughter was born Coyote did as requested and provided a wedge of blue and a bottle of wine after I got home from the hospital since I had been allowed neither during pregnancy. I had asked that it come to the hospital, but this was fine. Blue cheese is just- musty, rank goodness. I will eat any of the blues and be a happy chick. Stilton is frigging amazing on sourdough bread, and a few years back I discovered the joy of Gorgonzola on pizza and lost my mind. I'm still working my way through them. The blues seem to go best with crusty, chewy bread for me, but I am all over the blue cheese dressing on Buffalo Wings. Mmmmm. Tangy AND musty.

Back to Mozzarella. My husband, whose preferred cheese is processed singles in cellophane wrappers, also knows very well that the only good Mozz is whole milk Mozz. He's an ex-pizza man though. Ricotta should really be whole milk as well. It is incredibly hard to find whole milk Mozz these days, so when Rich makes stromboli or Long Island Rolls he usually stops at the Italian restaurant we discovered (that's owned and operated by several old and young men who barely or don't speak English) and purchases a container of cheese and some dough balls. This costs a fortune, which is why we don't often have stromboli. I've considered learning how to make mozzarella on my own. It doesn't look difficult; simply time consuming. I know I can do it. The only way I really like part skim mozzarella is as string cheese. String cheese is a fabulous idea, and it's fun to play with when drunk on margaritas and bourbon. Trying to peel down the thinnest strands of cheese can become a fabulous challenge when one's motor skills are impaired.

I'm at a point where if it's a cheese I'll try it. I have discovered that I find goat cheese to be meh on my palate, and I am not a fan of most soft cheeses. Most of them remind me of sinus infections to start, and I find them somewhat bland. I am, though, all over feta. The day I first tried feta with cracked black peppercorns in it I was floored. I also adore the milky, white cheese used by our favorite Mexican place and would love to make my own chicky nachos with it.

Two things-

Although I am essentially a Philly girl, do NOT come anywhere near my cheese steak with Cheese Whiz or I will slap you upside the frigging head. It's Provolone or nothing.


I find it highly disturbing that my daughter will pull the melted cheddar cheese off of her broccoli, eat the broccoli, and leave the cheese.

Does anyone else peel the crispy, greasy, brown melted cheese off of a cookie sheet and snarf it down like manna? Or is that just me?


Dagny said...

holy hell.

there are no words.

only saliva.

Julie said...

roll up baby swiss (smaller holes) with super hot mustard smeared on it.

HeatherGroves said...

Second you on the really good white cheddar with chewy bread, it also makes a killer grilled cheese with either sharp mustard and thin tomato slices or with apple butter.

I think mozzarella cheese is the one "real" cheese I really don't like, it is just "there" and bland and squishy.

Have you tried port salut cheese? It is creamy but it has a little bit of a bite, way way better than boring brie (ok another cheese I don't really like). Also, I like Havarti with dill on water crackers, mmmmm.

I could go on and on about my love of cheese, but you pretty much covered it. Nice post. Yummy.

HeatherGroves said...

Oh, have you tried the trick where you take your leftover bits of good cheese and grind them together in a food processor with a little wine to make a nice spread?

squirrelgirl said...

One of our favorite snacks is caprese: sliced tomato, REAL mozz and fresh basil, drizzled with good olive oil and balsamic vinegar {rolls eyes in pleasure}. On occasion, I have sprinkled shredded cheddar cheese on a cookie sheet and baked it until crispy - let cool, peel and eat :-) Brie is a soft cheese, but also quite tasty. My fridge is calling...

HeatherGroves said...

I really like this recipe for baked feta...

With crusty bread and a few greek olives, omg.

Julie said...

Heather- LOVE Havarti. Will someday maybe cover that and my love of Muenster. Have not tried port salut. I'll keep an eye out for it. Coyote gave me a tiny food processor recently which seems designed specifically for that brilliant idea.

SG- That cookie sheet idea is amazing, and it might make it into the PMS rotation.

HeatherGroves said...

Oh yeah, meunster. Love a slice of that on toasted wheat bread with scrambled eggs. Makes a nice breakfast sandwich.

jennyquarx said...

Wispride is good for cheese in a cup. No cheese beats Wisconsin cheese. Happy cows come from WI bitches. Not California. We make all the good cheeses here. All of them. Come to the land of cheese (and beer).

Cyn said...

I had cheese, bread and wine for dinner tonight.

sara said...

my SIL makes homemade mozzarella. it's the only time i have seen ozzie eat cheese that is not on a pizza. the kids inhaled it. it is not that difficult to make, you just need unpasteurized milk, which can be a challenge. she orders the rennet online. it took about 15 minutes to make. 30 seconds to eat.

Dagny said...

I'm gonna. Love me some swiss.

I am going cheese shopping today. For my holiday of cheeses. :D

Chuck said...

Re: cheese on the cookie sheet -- actually, I do that, and just that. Sprinkle cheese on sheet, bake, and you have these greasy, delicious cheese crisps. Great garnish for soup.

Also: look for a cheese called Prima Donna.

Do it.

I'll wait here.

-- c.