It was Clifton Fadiman, the American intellectual, author, radio and television personality who said at some point during his ninety-five years here on earth that cheese was milks leap toward immortality. Who am Ito argue with an intellectual? But therein lies the issue I face. When do you know when to leave good enough alone?
When I was asked to develop a few recipes utilizing Michigan’s latest batch of artisinal cheeses I was excited, I love cheese, the more local the better. That being said after I sampled the wide array of expertly coagulated milk samples I was faced with a huge dilemma – these cheeses are good, nay, these cheeses are great how am I gonna to cook ‘em?
Michigan cheeses are so incredibly flavorful, so well made that the glory of the finished product is at its’ finest eaten out of hand. At the proper temperature with an honest loaf of bread and a good bottle of wine all of these cheeses are what Chef Blackstock the fictional chef on the BBC defined as “cow and bug in perfect harmony.”
There are a few basic rules when cooking with cheese that I followed while I developed these recipes. First, in almost every application high heat can produce problems. If you’re perplexed at what type of cheese you have check the label and look at the fat content. Lower fat cheese, like cottage cheese, ricotta, or feta has a higher proportion of protein and will not stand heat as well as a higher fat cheese. So cheeses like whole milk mozzarella or provolone will melt better and blend more easily in sauces that have other fats and liquid components as the different fats and liquids blend well. Higher fat cheeses are a good choice for baked dishes and sauces where you want the cheese to be well blended with the rest of the food.
I have spent most of my career canvassing Michigan in search of great local products and serving those foods in my restaurants simply letting the products speak for themselves. It’s my feeling that with cheeses this good its hard to cook with them, since I just wanna eat ‘em – that being said if you follow a few easy rules and keep it simple, letting the cheeses natural flavor and texture shine through cooking with Michigan’s artisinal cheeses is a glorious undertaking.