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Gnocchi mac n’ cheese

gnocchi mac n' cheeseMac n’ cheese (aka macaroni and cheese) has been around since the 1930’s and I grew up with it; both the boxed version and homemade.  The afternoon my daughter was born I ate a whole box for lunch…no wonder she likes it.  It’s been years since consuming the all-too-orangey-looking commercial stuff.  Continue Reading →

Smoked Cheddar Scones

applewood smoked cheddar sconesI don’t know about you, but there’s nothing mouth-watering about processed cheese. It lacks any kind of taste, looks artificial, and I doubt there’s any nutritional benefit once being processed. As a cheeselover, it pleases me to know there are cheesemakers in every province. According to the Canadian Dairy Commission, Quebec is the biggest producer of cheese, followed by Ontario.  Canadian cheesemakers produced more than 137.7 million kilograms (303 million pounds) and more than 1,050 types of cheese in 2011. Be still my cheese-beating heart! Continue Reading →

Parmesan Crisps

Parmesan Crisps with ThymeEntertaining can seem like a daunting task whether it’s your first time or 100th!  The key to any successful party is in the planning.  When I plan a dinner party its roots are usually based on a country we have been to and have enjoyed the food.  From there I start thinking about what I’d like to serve, where some of the food will be consumed and what libations will accompany the food.  I make a list…it’s the crucial part of making an evening end well.   Continue Reading →

Inside Out Burger

inside out burger by The Culinary Chase America is considered the true home of the hamburger, but chopped beef had been a staple of Eastern European cuisines for centuries.  German immigrants from Hamburg arrived in America in the 19th century bringing their Hamburg-style beef with them.  Burgers are all about the toppings and this recipe focuses on the topping you can’t see.  The idea behind an inside out burger is to sandwich ingredients within the beef patty and when you take a bite, the stuffing is uncovered.  Talk about a taste sensation!

Serves 4

1 1/2 lbs. medium ground beef
1 onion, thinly sliced
cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 cup Gruyère cheese, grated (or any mixture of hard or semi-hard cheeses)
4 slices bacon, cooked
bread and butter pickles
hamburger buns

Divide beef into 4 even chunks.  Divide those chunks in half and form patties.  Using all fingers, grab a generous pinch of Gruyère cheese and place on one half of the patty. Place the other half on top. Using your fingers, crimp and seal the edges closed – you don’t want the cheese exposed. Repeat for remaining patties.  Place in refrigerator until ready to use.  Keeping the patties cold before cooking helps them to stay together and stay as juicy as possible.

In a frying pan over medium heat add a splash of olive oil and sauté onion until golden brown. Remove and set aside. In the same pan, add a splash more olive oil and add mushrooms. Cook until light brown or to your liking. Remove and set aside.hamburger buns by The Culinary ChaseSeason patties with sea salt and freshly ground pepper and grill over medium-high heat (2 minutes per side for rare, 3 for medium-rare, 4 for medium, and 5 for well-done).  Resist the urge to press the burgers while they cook as this releases their natural juices (making for a drier patty) and the cheese will ooze out. IF USING A GRILL PAN: Heat pan over high heat on top of the stove. Cook the burgers the same as you would for the barbecue. Build the hamburger by placing one patty on the base of a hamburger bun followed by thinly sliced cheese (the heat from the burger will soften the cheese), pickles, bacon, mushrooms and onion.

inside-out hamburger by The Culinary ChaseThe Culinary Chase’s Note: The first time I made an inside out burger was 2 years ago when we lived in NY and I haven’t made a regular burger since!  I like my burgers thick and use a pound of ground beef for the two of us.  Get creative and use other toppings to stuff your burger.  Enjoy!

Baked Mozzarella Cheese Sticks

baked mozzarella cheese sticks by The Culinary ChaseSometimes it’s a photo or description of a photo that makes me stop in my web-surfing tracks. Such was the case when I wondered onto Averie Cooks site.  It was her 2 ingredient, 110 calorie baked mozzarella cheese sticks that grabbed my attention.

egg roll or wonton wrappers
low-fat mozzarella string cheese sticks

mozzarella sticks by The Culinary Chase1. Preheat oven to 400f. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or with parchment paper.
2. Place cheese stick on a diagonal of the wrapper and roll up (tightly), folding in the sides as you go. Place the bundle seam side down on baking tray. Lightly spray or brush with olive oil and bake for 10 to 12 minutes until golden brown.
3. Turn cheese sticks over and bake for another 5 minutes or until golden brown.
4. Serve immediately and enjoy with your favorite dipping sauce. I used my own marinara sauce.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  With 2 ingredients and no cutting involved, these were definitely easy to make. Just make sure the ends of the cheese are covered well or you’ll end up with some of the cheese oozing out…not a bad thing if you ask me. Enjoy!

Polenta Sticks with Mozzarella and Salami

polenta sticks with smoked mozzarella wrapped in salami by The Culinary ChaseI love simple ingredients as they tend to work symbiotically to create great flavors. Less is more…I know this sounds cliché but it’s true and not just in the food world. The more ingredients you use the greater the risk of losing the essential flavor of your food. When the ingredients are good, they need minimal help to make them better.  This recipe is easy to make and with only five ingredients, it’s a winner.  These polenta sticks with smoked mozzarella peeking out of the salami will be a hit at your next dinner party.  Cornmeal, the golden-yellow polenta, is a culinary staple in Northern Italy. Polenta is a neutral flavored dish that can be used as a base to carry other flavors. Using a medium grind cornmeal will yield the best results. Look for ‘stone ground’ cornmeal on the label.

Serves 4 as an antipasto

1/2 cup cornmeal (packaging may also say polenta)
2 cups water or chicken stock
pinch of salt
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or aged cheddar cheese
smoked mozzarella
fennel salami (or favorite salami), thinly sliced

polentaTo make the polenta sticks, place water and salt in a large pot. Bring to a boil then slowly add the cornmeal, stirring occasionally. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes (if using instant cornmeal, the time is shortened to about 10 minutes). Remove from heat and add a tablespoon of butter. Stir until butter is melted then add the cheese. On an 8-inch plate, grease with 1 tablespoon of olive oil then pour polenta on top. Smooth to edges of plate and allow polenta to cool to temperature. Once cool, cut into strips.

polenta sticks by The Culinary ChasePreheat oven to 400f (200c). To assemble, place a thick slice of mozzarella on top of the polenta and wrap a piece of salami around it. Place on a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Bake 10 minutes or until cheese has softened. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly…you don’t want these piping hot when you serve them as the flavor intensifies when warm.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  You can make the polenta the night before.  When ready to assemble, remove from fridge and slice into sticks. To keep things looking more uniform, cut the polenta based on the length of the mozzarella slices. If the salami slices are larger than the polenta sticks, fold under (like I did) to make it fit before wrapping. Enjoy!

Baked Fontina Dip

baked fontina dip by The Culinary ChaseI was on the train into the city and caught a glimpse into my future.  I spotted an elderly couple who were deep in conversation.  They looked so cute together; her silver hair was a bit disheveled and his white mane slicked back.  Both were in great shape.  He pulled out two books from his bag and gave one to his wife.  She smiled.  As I watched from a distance, it occurred to me that this could be us in a few years.  I wondered if we will be as energetic, outgoing, and loving as we are now?  With a relatively healthy lifestyle, a natural yearning to be active and inquisitive, I have to say yes.  I encourage John to do things that are out of his comfort zone and he does the same for me.  I glanced up and the lady is already out of her seat waiting for the train to pull into Grand Central.  I catch her looking back at her husband…she smiles and he laughs (a private joke no doubt).  Yep, this is exactly where I want to be when I reach their age.

Serves 4 to 6
adapted from Barefoot Contessa

1 lb. fontina cheese, rind removed and cut into chunks (can also use gruyère, provolone or gouda)
1/4 cup olive oil
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
baguette

fontina cheese melt by The Culinary ChasePreheat broiler and position the oven rack 5″ from the heat. Distribute fontina evenly in a 12-inch stainless steel pan. Drizzle on the olive oil. Combine the garlic and rosemary and sprinkle it over the cheese. Season with salt and pepper and place the pan under the broiler for 5 minutes, until the cheese is melted, bubbling and starts to brown.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: Serve this straight out of the oven and let everyone scoop up the melted cheese with chunks of bread.  If you liked this dish, try spicy baked Greek feta.  Enjoy!