(Jan. 9, 2015) According to the Free Dictionary by Farlex, a king is one that is supreme or preeminent in a particular group, category, or sphere. One might be wondering what do culinary enthusiasts and a noble king have in common? The answer may be simpler that you think.
Today, the assortment of cheeses is more impressive than ever. The explosion of high-quality artisanal cheese makers have set new standards in the art of cheese mastery. This makes it even more impressive that most connoisseurs in this particular field look up to one variety as the pinnacle of excellence. If one is thinking in terms of Parmigiano Reggiano, you are correct. Parmigiano Reggiano has duly earned the nickname, “The King of Cheeses.”
Parmigiano Reggiano symbolizes the paradigm of perfection. Its ancient origin and processing methods have virtually remained unchanged over time. Strict respect for tradition continues Parmigiano Reggiano’s unquestionable success.
The words Parmigiano Reggiano indicate the place of origin. Parmigiano means “of or from Parma,” while Regiano means “of or from Reggio.” Parma and Reggio Emilia use to produce their own cheeses but were combined into the present joint name by a governmental decree of 1955 which established and defined the controlled appellations for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
Today, the product is produced exclusively in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena and parts of Mantua and Bologna. An iconic vision of texture, taste and aroma must be shared by all who endeavor in the meticulous making of Parmigiano Reggiano. Perfection is measured by details, superb pasta deserves superlative cheese.
An article, “Cracking the Cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano” sheds light on how the opening of the wheel of cheese is still bound by convention. This process requires five different types of knives and a unique skill to cut the wheel in half and still retain its crystalline and crumbly texture. Using special knives, the cheese wheel is scored down the middle of the top and down the sides while another knife is inserted in the center of the top of the wheel. The wheel is “encouraged” to open along the scored lines and is persuaded to crack by the specialty placed knives. Cutting corners is not part of Parmigiano Reggiano’s custom.
Name does matter and is imperative for distinction. Do not confuse Parmigiano Reggiano with Parmesan cheese. Parmesan, the English translation, is a product related in purpose but is by no means indicative of the “king of cheeses.” On the other hand, Parmesan is more available and less pricy than Parmigiano Reggiano.
It is best to purchase Parmigiano Reggiano in wedges and grate to order. Contrary to popular belief, the rind is edible. Waste is never part of a chef’s repertoire. When making a pot of soup, add the rind to the stock for extra flavor.
“According to legend, the first cheese ball in recorded history was made in 1801 by Elisha Brown, Jr. on his farm and presented to President Thomas Jefferson at the White House,” according to Michelle Buffardi, author of “Great Balls of Cheese.”
She also states that the cheese ball weighed 1,235 pounds.
On a much smaller scale, a smoked bacon-cheddar cheese ball is delicious and simple to make. Swirls of cheddar, Parmigiano Reggiano, and cream cheese are encased in a coating of crunchy pecans and crispy bacon. Football playoffs are here and smoked bacon-cheddar cheese ball will definitely get high fives. Mini versions of the cheesy balls along with crackers make a festive party favor to go. Smoked bacon-cheddar cheese balls are not bound by the seasons and enjoyed year-round. The following recipe makes one large cheese ball. Enjoy!
Smoked Bacon-Cheddar Cheese Ball
6 hickory-smoked bacon slices
½ cup chopped pecans
2 cups freshly shredded sharp
3 rounded tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
3 ounces cream cheese
1/3 cup good quality mayonnaise
½ to 1 teaspoon prepared
¼ cup chopped scallions
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon white sesame seeds
1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
1 teaspoon coarse ground pepper
1 tablespoon Herbs de Province
1. Cook bacon slices in a sauté pan over medium heat until crispy. Drain bacon on paper towels, reserving 2 tablespoons of drippings in the skillet. Finely chop bacon and set aside.
2. Sauté pecans in hot drippings for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and place on plate lined with paper towels.
3. In a large bowl, combine 2/3 of bacon, cheddar cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano, cream cheese, mayonnaise, prepared horseradish, scallions, cayenne pepper and salt. Using your hands, form a large cheese ball or several smaller ones.
4. In a medium bowl, combine the remaining bacon, sautéed chopped pecans, sesame seeds, ground pepper and Herbs de Province. Mix well.
5. Spread pecan mixture on a plate and roll the cheese balls in it. Make sure they are completely covered with the nut mixture.
6. Wrap in tin foil and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Tin foil has a less tendency to stick to the outer coating.
7. Serve very cold with favorite crackers.
Secret Ingredient – Understanding. “Understanding is a two-way street.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt