Friday, August 17, 2012

Food, Family, Friday: Remember the Alamo & Save Your Cheese Rinds

I printed out this recipe from The Kitchn for pasta fagioli (that’s pasta and beans for all of us who only WANT to be Italian).  We eat a lot of pasta around here and I like pasta fagioli because it’s a little different.  No meatballs in this dish.

I liked this one in particular because it was different still.  Classic pasta fagioli is quite soupy (NOT that there’s anything wrong with that).  It’s peasant food and peasants focus on fresh stuff that creates high flavor and then they stretch a single dish into as many meals as possible.  So leaving it soupy was a way to get a few dinners out of it.  By contrast, the whole motive force behind this Kitchn recipe was to reduce the liquid content and put the pasta and beans at center stage.

That, plus the bacon.  As I wrote recently, everything is better with bacon.  It was another excuse to use Applegate Farms turkey bacon.  If pigs could fly, they would taste this good.

The recipe sat on the island while I started gathering pots and such.  As you likely know, I do not follow any recipe to the letter.  BMW (that's the wife for new readers) looked at the printed paper and noticed my one chicken scratch across the top.

“Remember the cheese rinds,” she read out loud.  “That like remember the Alamo.”

Well, yes, but completely different.  It’s sometimes a losing battle, but I doubt that John Wayne will play me in the movie.

Those of you who regularly grate hard cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano probably have a few scraped knuckles from trying to pry the last shreds of real cheese off the rind.  There’s a principle to defend in doing so, of course.  You paid for all that cheese, including the part that’s up against the rind.  It’s simply American to feel a little irked about paying for something you are structurally unable to use.

Insert your own joke here about: taxes, toothpaste tubes, and that last sliver of soap that keeps slipping through your fingers and washing down the drain.

Save your cheese rinds, my friends.  When you can’t scrape any more cheese off the rind and figure you’ve donated enough skin to the grating gods, take the rind and put it into a bag in the freezer.  It will keep for months.  Just like a chicken carcass is the start of a pot of soup or a freezer full of stock, cheese rinds can be tossed into soups or sauces so that you can milk all the final flavor out of them. 

It’s not so much a cheese flavor they add as a depth of flavor in general.  If you ever had a thin soup that tasted like warm water with stuff floating in it (NOT that there’s anything wrong with that), that was a soup that needed cheese rinds.  Or, if you ever wondered how the Italian grandmother down the street turned a simple tomato sauce into a religious experience, check her freezer for cheese rinds.

In this case, I threw two Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds and a Manchego into the pot right when it started simmering.

My challenge is always remembering to use the cheese rinds, especially when I’m working with a recipe.  Recipes generally don’t include using your saved cheese rinds because most people don’t have them hiding in the freezer.  It’s something you pick up from another cook.  Thus, I scrawled the words “remember cheese rinds” across the recipe while it was hot off the printer.

And this was the result.

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