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TIP OF THE DAY: Fried Cheese For The Cheese Course

Sophisticated diners in the U.S.—and many people in Europe—have long finished dinner with a cheese course and small salad, instead of a sweet dessert.

How about a twist: fried cheese with salad on top—or underneath?

There are many fried cheese recipes; today’s is a Sicilian specialty. Caciocavallo, which means “cheese on horseback,” is a cheese that dates back to Roman times. Two large, pear-shaped cheeses are tied with rope and slung over a wooden board to drain and age.

Believed to have been so shaped to make it easy to transport by slinging over pack animals, the cheese duo evokes the image of saddlebags, hence the name (here’s a photo).

Caciocavallo is hard to find in conventional U.S. markets, although you can find it at Italian specialty stores and online from cheesemongers like Murray’s Cheese.

   
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Fried caciacavallo cheese topped with salad. Photo courtesy E-squaredhospitality.

 
Or, substitute halloumi, kasseri, provolone, scamorza, smoked mozzarella or queso de freier (Mexican frying cheese). You’ve got plenty of options!

RECIPE: FRIED CHEESE COURSE

Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 3/4 pound of Caciocavallo, cut into 4 slices
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • Pinch of pepper
  • 4 tablespoons vinegar
  • ½ tablespoon sugar
  • Italian bread, sliced
  • Salad of choice (we like arugula, basil, cress, endive, chives or sliced green onions and sometimes, fennel; but you can use absolutely anything, very lightly tossed with vinaigrette to slightly moisten)
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    fried-cheese-eatwisconsincheese-230
    Fried caciacavallo served atop the salad. Photo courtesy EatWisconsinCheese.com.
      Preparation

    1. HEAT the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and slices of cheese and lower the heat.

    2. COOK covered for 1 minute; then turn the cheese over and cook covered for an additional minute, or until the cheese is golden in color.

    3. REMOVE the skillet from the heat, add the oregano and pepper and transfer the fried cheese to the serving plates.

    4. ADD the vinegar and sugar to the hot oil in the pan and cook for about 1–2 minutes until some of the liquid evaporates. This creates a sweet and sour sauce.

    5. DECIDE if you want your salad on top or underneath the cheese. Add the salad accordingly.

    6. TOP the cheese with the sauce if the cheese is on top of the salad; or use it to dot the plate if the salad is on top. Use the garlic as garnish and serve immediately with slices of fresh Italian bread.

     

    ABOUT CACIOCAVALLO CHEESE

    Caciocavallo, a popular cheese in southern Italy and Sicily, is typically made from unpasteurized cow’s or sheep’s milk. Two pear-shaped cheeses, about 4 pounds each, are joined at the neck by a rope to age.

    Like burrata, mozzarella, provolone and scamorza, caciocavallo is a pasta filata, a cheese made by stretching and forming the curd by hand.

    It is then aged for two to three months, and optimally for one year. Because the pairs of tied cheeses hang from rods in the air to age, instead of sitting on shelves like other cheeses, more microbes can enter the cheese, where they help to develop sharp, spicy flavors, deep, earthy undertones and fruity aromas.

    The result is a layered, complex cheese that is typically sliced and served with fresh fruit, plus a glass of hearty red wine. The yellow rind is edible.

    There are different types of caciocavallo:

  • Caciocavallo Silano, a PDO* cheese made in the southern Italian regions of Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Molise and Puglia.
  • Caciocavallo Ragusa, a PDO* cheese made in Ragusa, Sicily.
  • Caciocavallo affumicato, smoked caciocavallo.
  • Caciocavallo piccante, spicy caciocavallo.
  • Caciocavallo primaverile, made from milk gathered in the spring, which has subtle flavors of the aromatic herbs in spring pastures.
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    MORE FRIED CHEESE RECIPES

  • Cashew-encrusted fried cheese recipe.
  • Fried cheese curds recipe.
  • Grilled halloumi cheese recipe.
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    *PDO, Protected Designation of Origin, is a designation of authenticity from the European Union. In the case of Caciocavallo Silano or Ragusa, it guarantees that the milk used comes only from local herds.

      




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