Can you speak Italian? Sure you can. Say Parmigiano-Reggiano.
You’ve just named the “King of Cheeses”. Parmesan, as we call it in the USA, is a prohibited name in trading in the European Economic Area under European law. Outside the EU, the name “Parmesan” can legally be used for cheeses similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Parmigiano-Reggiano is a hard, granular cheese made from unpasteurized cow’s milk. The whole milk of the morning milking is mixed with the naturally skimmed milk (that’s made by keeping milk in large shallow tanks to allow the cream to separate) of the previous evening’s milking, resulting in a part skim mixture. Traditionally, cows have to be fed only on grass or hay.
When the curds are pressed into wheels put into a brine bath to absorb Mediterranean Sea salt for 20–25 days. After brining, the wheels and are then transferred to shelves in an aging room where each wheel is cleaned every week and flipped to the other side. The Italian product is aged from one to three years. A true Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is hard with a sharp, complex fruity/nutty taste with a strong savory flavor.
Parmigiano-Reggiano is commonly grated over pasta dishes, stirred into soups and even eaten alone or roasted as a snack. Slivers and chunks of the hardest parts of the crust are sometimes simmered in soup. It is often shaved or grated over other dishes like salads. Cheeses imitating Parmigiano Reggiano, those not made in approved Italian provinces are called Parmesan or Italian hard cheese by producers to avoid legal issues.
Four of our recipes this month contain Parmesan cheese to be fried or baked with crappie fillets.
4 crappie fillets
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Dash onion powder
Dash garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
2/3 cup cornmeal
Combine the buttermilk and Parmesan cheese in a small bowl. In another bowl mix flour, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Spread the dry cornmeal onto a plate. Preheat skillet with a tablespoon of canola oil. Coat each fillet with the flour mixture, dip into the buttermilk mixture and then coat with the cornmeal. Cook until both sides are golden brown.
Oven Baked Parmesan Fillets
10-12 slab fillets
Butter (or oil spray)
1 cup milk
3/4 cup Garlic and Herb Panko Bread Crumbs
1/4 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cover cookie sheet with aluminum foil, shiny side up, coat with butter or cooking spray. Dip fillets in milk, dredge fillets in breading mixture coating both sides of fillets. Place on foil and bake for 18-20 minutes, until the fish is flaky.
Thyme Grilled Crappie (no Parmesan;>)
4 crappie fillets
2 minced garlic clove
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
2 teaspoon chopped thyme
Dash crushed red pepper flakes to taste
Salt to taste
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
In a small bowl, mix together olive oil, the garlic, lemon zest, thyme, red pepper flakes and salt. Rub both sides of the fillets with mixture and set to marinade in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. Place double thickness pieces of aluminum foil just larger than fillets. Place the foil on a medium hot charcoal or gas grill. Drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil on the foil and lay fillets on top of foil. Cover the grill and cook about 8 minutes or until flaky.
To pave the way to your tummy – since you have the parmesan cheese handy – try one of these salads.
Rocket Salad or Arugula
Eruca sativa, is a widely popular salad vegetable native to the Mediterranean Sea area and my garden. It’s got a “whang” of a taste and spikes a salad’s potency. Depending on the country, it’s called “garden rocket” or simply “rocket”, the diminutive of the Latin word eruca is derived from the French roquette.
Arugula, the common name now widespread in the United States and Canada, entered American English from the standard Italian word rucola, a diminutive of the Latin “eruca”. The first appearance of “arugula” in American English appeared in a 1960 New York Times article by food editor and cookbook writer Craig Claiborne.
Arugula Salad with Parmesan Cheese
2 bunches arugula
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano
Wash, dry and tear arugula into a serving bowl. Drizzle the arugula with the oil, squeeze in lemon juice and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss until well mixed and taste for seasoning. Use a vegetable peeler to shave thin pieces of Parmigiano over the top.
Parmesan Vinaigrette over Romaine Lettuce
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 hearts romaine lettuce, chopped