June 25, 2018
This is about...
Parmesan Crisps---FRICO!
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        PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO CHEESE IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE FOODS ON THE PLANET. Just snacking on small nuggets of it--- perfection! I LIKE TO MAKE THESE THIN, LACEY CHEESE CRISPS with it too. In Italy, they’re CALLED FRICO. They’re the perfect jewel to set atop any spring salad. And they couldn’t be easier. You just finely grate the cheese, spoon mounds onto a baking sheet or dry frying pan, spread it into a thin circle, and bake or fry until lightly toasted and crisp. YOU CAN EVEN MOLD THEM INTO CUPS OR CURLS FOR A PRETTY PRESENTATION. They go well with almost anything savory, or even just a fruity glass of wine.
        Traditionally, these crisps are made with another Italian cheese, Montasio. But, other cheeses like Asiago, aged Gouda, Manchego and MY BELOVED PARMEGIANO REGGIANO CAN HAPPILY STAND IN. I’ve even seen recipes with cheddar.
        I thought it might be fun to pass on some interesting facts about this “King of Cheeses.”
1. Parmigiano Reggiano has been made almost exactly the same way for over 8 centuries---that’s 800 years! And the milk comes from cows that must live in designated production areas around Parma and Reggio, Italy.
2. Each 86 pound wheel is worth $1500, takes 550 liters/145 gallons of cow’s milk to produce.
3. Only 3 ages are allowed --18, 22, and 30 months. And, only one size wheel can be produced to guarantee the same exact texture.
4. The milk must be used within a very short window of time--never older than a day, and in a majority cases, it must be used right away. 5. By law, the color must be a light straw yellow.
6. The aging warehouses are visited at the one year mark by inspectors who check each wheel for that color, as well as smell and sound. A special acoustic hammer is actually used to thump all over them the wheel to reveal air pockets which might expose imperfect internal structure.
8. Each wheel will not be branded with the official seal until a very long list of very strict standards are met. All producers are expected to yield exactly the same result, guaranteeing it’s distinctive umani/savory flavor and crumbly texture every time. No less than perfection is expected. And, when some wheels are rejected—at $1500 a pop—that’s a big loss.
9. Phew! and I’ve left out most of it!
        BASICALLY, WE HAVE A LOT OF ITALIAN PEOPLE with their high quality standards TO THANK for this delicious cheese!

LESSONS Learned:
1. Make sure to evenly and thinly spread the grated cheese into a circle so that they brown and crisp with equally.
2. Consider adding a ½ teaspoon toasted and crushed cumin or fennel seeds as well as other spices for variety—but I will admit I’m a purist.
3. Shaping the crisps is a pretty way to serve them. To form them, you must move quickly, only letting the crisps cool for a minute or 2 on the pan.
4. I like them larger in size, but you can make these any size you like. Smaller ones can be made with 1 Tablespoon of the grated cheese, 12 to a pan. Bake at a slightly lower temperature, 350 degrees F for 6 minutes.
5. Since this cheese is as expensive as it is delicious, you want to make sure that you store it properly. Cut off the piece you want for now, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store in the fridge. Wrap the rest the same way, place in a freezer Ziploc with all of the air squeezed out and store in the freezer. (Don’t forget to date it!)

Parmigiano Reggiano Crisps—FRICO!
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, about 4 ounces.

Make the crisps:
        Place one of the racks in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment or silpats. Evenly space 2 Tablespoon mounds, 3 to a pan. Spread the cheese evenly with your fingers, with a fork or both. Leave about 2 inches between each round. Bake one sheet at time in the center of the oven until the crisps just begin to color, 6 to 8 minutes. Don’t let them fully brown or the cheese will turn bitter. Repeat with the rest of the cheese.
        Alternatively, these cheese crisps can be made in a nonstick sauté pan one at a time, but it’s way more efficient to make them in batches on baking sheets in the oven.
        For flat frico, let them cool on the pan before gently removing and placing on paper towels. For curls or cups, let the frico cool for a minute or 2, no longer. Then, with a thin spatula, gently lift and lay each over a rolling pin, bottle, or the back of muffin cups to shape. Store the crisps in an airtight container for up to a week.

Makes 8 crisps.      YUM!
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