Friday, March 05, 2010

Cheese Cookery 101.

One of my recent themes has been single-topic cookery books, so naturally this week my thoughts turned to those dedicated to cheese. There have been many manuals written over the centuries for the dairyman and dairymaid, but for the cook – I am sad to say, my friends, there is a dearth. There is The Complete Book of Cheese, by Bob Brown (New York, 1955) – but 1955 is hardly historical, is it? Not for those of us born before that date anyway.

The best I can do for you is explore The Woman’s Institute Library of Cookery, Volume 2: Milk, Butter, Cheese, Eggs, Vegetables, published in the early 1920’s. The book manages quite a reasonable number of very uninspiring recipes for cheese, which are preceded by some general advice (or is it opinion?)

Cheese does not lend itself readily to many ways of serving, still it frequently adds zest to many foods. When grated, it may be passed with tomato or vegetable soup and sprinkled in to impart an unusual flavor. In this form it may also be served with macaroni and other Italian pastes, provided cheese has not been included in the preparation of such foods. When sliced, little slices may be served nicely with any kind of pie or pastry and with some puddings, such as steamed fruit puddings. Thin slices or squares of cheese and crackers served with coffee after the dessert add a finishing touch to many meals. It will be well to note that crackers to be served with cheese should always be crisp. Unless they have just been taken from a fresh package, crackers can be improved by placing them in a moderate oven for a few minutes before serving. Also, firm crackers that do not crumble easily are best to serve with cheese, water crackers being especially desirable.

Because cheese is a highly concentrated food, it is generally considered to be indigestible; but this matter can be remedied by mixing the cheese with other foods and thus separating it into small particles that are more readily digested. The way in which this may be done depends on the nature of the cheese. Any of the dry cheeses or any of the moist cheeses that have become dry may be grated or broken into bits, but as it is difficult to treat the moist ones in this way, they must be brought to a liquid state by means of heat before they can be added to other foods. The cooking of cheese, however, has an effect on this food that should be thoroughly understood.
It will be well to note, therefore, that the application of heat to the form of protein found in cheese causes this food substance to coagulate and harden, as in the case of the albumen of eggs. In the process of coagulation, the first effect is the melting of the cheese, and when it has been brought to this semiliquid state it can be easily combined with other foods, such as milk, eggs, soups, and sauces. In forming such combinations, the addition of a small amount of bicarbonate of soda helps to blend the foods. Another characteristic of cheese that influences the cooking of it is that the fat it contains melts only at a low temperature, so that, on the whole, the methods of preparation that require a low temperature are the best for cooking these foods. However, a precaution that should be taken whenever cheese is heated is not to cook it too long, for long cooking makes it hard and leathery in consistency, and cheese in this state is difficult to digest.

Uninspiring they may be, but there is one treasure amongst the recipes for the collector (me) of variations on the theme of Welsh Rabbit (NOT Rarebit!)

ENGLISH MONKEY. - Another cheese dish that is frequently made in a chafing dish and served from it is English monkey, but this may likewise be made with ordinary kitchen utensils and served directly on plates from the kitchen or from a bowl on the table. A dish of this kind is most satisfactory if it is served as soon as the sauce is poured over toast or wafers and before they have had time to become soaked. English monkey may be made according to the following recipe and served for the same purposes as Welsh rarebit.

English Monkey
(Sufficient to Serve Six)
1 c. bread crumbs
1 c. milk
1 Tb. butter
1/2 c. soft cheese cut into small pieces
1 egg
1/2 tsp. salt
6 buttered wafers
Soak the bread crumbs in the milk. Melt the butter and add to it the cheese, stirring until the cheese is melted. Then add the soaked crumbs, the slightly beaten egg, and the salt. Cook for a few minutes and pour over wafers and serve. If desired, toast may be used in place of the wafers.

P.S You can find Welsh Rabbit HERE and HERE.

Quotation for the Day.

“What a friend we have in cheeses!
For no food more subtly pleases,
Nor plays so grand a gastronomic part;
Cheese imported - not domestic -
For we all get indigestic
From all the pasteurizer's Kraft and sodden art.”
William Cole, 'What a Friend We Have in Cheeses!'

1 comment:

Bit of Butter said...

I love it -- English Monkey! There's a good band name in there somewhere! :-)