Cheese

Truth be told, I envy Wisconsinites. They are the privileged few who can don triangular foam headpieces showing support for their beloved dairy products. Someone, I believe in error, once told me that Cheese hats were worn in support of a football team. That’s silly, of course. Wisconsinites are paying homage to one of man’s greatest culinary achievements, cheese.

Being from Maryland, I can’t get away with wearing a cheese chapeau. Besides the fact that I have a small head, which poses a problem for me wearing most hats, wearing an orange, triangular wedge just doesn’t cut the mustard, here on the East Coast. (Even if orange is the new black). And, if you will please indulge my intentional pun, I wouldn’t want to look cheesy, so to speak.

My fascination with all things cheese began as a child. I never minded the small inconvenience involved with unwrapping the plastic sheath that protected the Kraft Singles. After all that work, a bright yellow square of American cheese appeared. I knew that soon its melty goodness would be sandwiched between two toasty slices of buttered white bread (Please, do not mention tomato soup. I didn’t like it then)

What fun it was to slice into a round of Gouda! Not only was the semi-soft, salty wedge of cheese a treat, but also like Cracker Jacks, it came with a toy. One had a hunk of red wax that could be molded into a ball and played with for hours.

While I wasn’t enamored with the nutty, tanginess of Swiss, who could resist sticking their fingers in the holes? It wasn’t until I was older that I discovered the majesty of melted Swiss, creating the perfect Rueben or atop a steaming bowl of French onion soup.

I believe it was right after college, when my friends and I began our obsession with Brie. Who knew such lusciousness existed in the cheese kingdom? We learned patience as the Brie rose to room temperature, awaiting perfect texture. I felt very sophisticated as I chewed the rind, though secretly wishing for a napkin to dispose of its paper like crust. We thought we had reached cheese Nirvana, but then discovered Brie en Croute. Now, we had a crunchy, buttery layer of crust surrounding the creamy gooeyness with a bit of fruit preserves to sweeten the pot. Life could not get any better in the 80’s.

Now, with much fanfare, I’m here to share another mind-blowing cheese. For those who have not yet had the pleasure, I introduce you to Burrata. Burrata is similar to fresh Italian Mozzarella but tastes like it has been injected with cream. Though made from buffalo milk, it is not Mozzarella, as often reported. In this case, the Burrata stands alone, in its own category.

First tasting Burrata in a Caprese salad was love at first bite. The poor tomatoes and basil leaves didn’t stand a chance once paired with the elegance of the cheese. After returning home from Los Angeles, where I had had the dining experience, I was on the hunt for Burrata. The purveyors at the local Italian markets had no clue as to what I was asking for. Eventually, I heard through the grapevine, that Trader Joes brought it in in small batches. And, when Wegman’s appeared on the Baltimore scene, I could find it with a bit more regularity. Though not as good as house made, I was happy to find a pre-packaged version.

I am thrilled to report that local restaurants have begun to offer fresh Burrata on their menus and I’m starting to see more recipes featuring Burrata. Hopefully, this regal cheese will soon find the recognition it deserves.

Being a person whose professional purpose is to channel heat and use it wisely, I spend hours bent over a hot stove, frying, boiling, stewing and grilling. When I can find a near perfect product that is plate-worthy straight out of it’s packaging, I’m all over it! Just add several ultra thin slices of Prosciutto d’ Parma and a schmear of fig jam. Here we have the perfect trifecta of salty, creamy and sweet. Add a crusty baguette and basil leaf. Heaven on a plate.

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