This week I’m cooking Friulian food, which meant that I had to make a Frico. As I read in a blog (which I can’t find now), “frico” is what you made in the dead of winter, when nothing was growing and all you had was old cheese and old potatoes. At its simplest, frico is just Montasio cheese, shredded and fried with some flour into a thin wafer. It can be eaten as a snack or with soups. Montasio is a cowmilk cheese, eaten at different stages of its development, somewhat similar to Parmesan.
More complicated versions of frico will include thinly sliced potatoes, as well as chopped onions and pancetta (if you’re rich!).
I found a recipe that looked great and incorporated all those elements and wanted to make it. But then I lost it. Rather than go with one of the other recipes, I tried to remember the steps on that one but made a HUGE mess of it. First I fried the onions and chopped bacon together (didn’t have pancetta), then added slices of potatoes I’d previously boiled and topped with a lot of grated cheese. I didn’t have Montasio, so I used a mixture of Parmesan and San Joaquin Gold, a cheese from the Cowgirl Creamery, which despite the cheesemakers claims that it’s a Fontina-turned-Cheddar, is actually very similar to Parmesan.
The cheese was supposed to melt, caramelize and harden, so that I could then flip the whole thing and cooked in the other side. Of course, that didn’t happen. Instead the onions started to burn before the cheese melted and when I tried to flip it, I just messed the whole thing up. It was still very tasty, but not what it was intended to be.
I may try again, actually following a recipe.
I found this packaged cheese at Grocery Outlet yesterday, and I went back today to pick up four more packages. My haste was due to the fact that at 50-cents a package (regular retails is $5!), they will disappear soon, plus they expired on Dec. 16th – two days ago. I don’t know for how much longer it’ll stay good, but surely a few more days.
This soft cheese is made in Germany, and is specifically made to be heated before serving. It doesn’t have a crust, per se, though the outer layer becomes harder, while protecting a semi-melted middle. It’s very good. While officially a camembert, it reminded me more of a brie, though it’s milder and less bitter than most of those. It had a slightly nutty flavor, which I liked.
It was also very easy to prepare. You can either put it on the grill or on a lightly oiled pan on the stove. Cook for six minutes, flipping from time to time. That’s it. The 3.2 oz portion is definitely dainty, and I wouldn’t buy it at its regular $25-lb price, but for $5-lb, it’s well worth it, even if I have to hurry and eat it all this week 🙂
During the 1970’s the fondue sensation reached Argentina and it quickly became one of our biggest “special occasion” treats. My parents would make it from time to time using the recipe below. Instead of the traditional havarti and emmental cheeses, which I assume were not available in Argentina (or at least in our town), it uses the Argentine cheese Talhuet, which melts nicely. Otherwise it’s rather traditional
My parent’s cheese fondue recipe
- 1 tsp. corn starch
- 1/2 liter white wine
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 cup kirsch
- 1 lb. Gruyere cheese, grated
- 1 lb. Talhuet cheese (an Argentine cheese), grated
- White pepper to taste
Dissolve corn starch in 1/4 cup of white wine, set aside.
Rub garlic on pot. Put on the burner and add the rest of the wine and kirsch. When it boils, add the grated cheeses bit by bit, mixing with a wooden spoon until they melt, then add the white pepper. If it cools down, add more wine. Once it’s ready, add the corn starch. Mix well and serve.
During the 1970s fondue became a craze not only in America, but in Argentina as well. My parents got a beautiful fondue set and on rare and special occasions they’d go to the expensive cheese shop and create this wonderful dish that we all could share. As a kid I LOVED it – and I still do. As a kid we always ate it with toasted bread crumbs. In Geneva, I discovered that fresh bread was even more authentic – and as a grown up I experimented on different things I could dip in it.
The following is the recipe that I use now. The traditional liqueur for fondue is kirsch. That’s not always easy to find and you may hesitate at buying a whole bottle when you only need a little bit for this dish. I’ve substituted it with Calvados or just plain cognac or brandy with great results. BTW, in America all these cheeses are usually available at Trader Joe’s.
As a kid, and for many years, I used a regular fondue set with an alcohol burner. A few years ago I bought an electric fondue set and I LOVE it! It’s so much easier to keep the temperature at the right setting! I highly recommend getting one.
Traditional Cheese Fondue
- 1/2 lb Havarti cheese
- 1/2 lb Gruyere cheese
- 1/2 lb Emmental cheese
- 2 tbsp. cornstarch
- 2 cloves garlic, cut in two
- 1 glass white wine
- 3 tbsp. kirsch or another brandy
Shread the cheeses, put in a bowl, add the cornstarch and mix together. Set aside.
Rub the garlic on the interior of the fondue pot and leave in. Add wine and heat until boiling. Add the cheese, a handful at the time, stirring until it melts. When all the cheese melts down, turn down the temperature and add the brandy. Take to the table. Maintain temperature to just bubbling while you eat.
Serve with: French or sourdough bread, raw broccoli, apple and/or pear slices, sausage slices, mini-meatballs, cooked tortellini and anything else you can think of.
Oftentimes when I ask Mike what he wants for dinner, he tells me “chicken cordon blue”. He had no idea what chicken cordon blue was, but it sounded French and complicated and he figured I wouldn’t make it. That way, he didn’t have to actually think of something I could make for dinner.
Every time he mentions it, I call his bluff, tell him what chicken cordon blue is (for some reason he keeps forgetting) and he backs off from it. Finally, I figured that the best way to finish this routine was to actually make some chicken cordon blue so he could decide for himself whether he wanted it or not. I’m not sure now if that was such a great idea.
Chicken cordon blue (fried chicken breasts stuffed with ham & cheese) has never sounded that appealing to me, it made me think of ’50s housewives, but I was determined to find a good recipe. I couldn’t find any on epicurious.com, but allrecipes.com had plenty of well-rated cordon blue recipes. I decided on this one not only because it got great reviews, but because it was very simple and it came with a sauce. It was a great choice. The chicken was quite good and the sauce worthy of its many calories.
I diverged from the original recipe in a few ways. I used prosciutto instead of ham, Provolone cheese instead of Swiss, and beef bouillon instead of chicken bouillon. I also cooked it for only 20 minutes instead of the required 30 as several reviewers had complained that the chicken was too dry. The chicken was fully cooked after 20 minutes so it didn’t require any extra time.
This dish is actually good enough that you could serve to company.
Chicken Cordon Bleu
- 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
- 4 slices Provolone or Swiss cheese
- 4 slices prosciutto or ham
- 3 tbsp. flour
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 6 tbsp. butter
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 tsp. chicken or beef bouillon granules
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 tbsp. cornstarch
Pound the chicken breasts until they are very thin. Place a slice of cheese and prosciutto on each breast. Fold over and fasten with toothpicks. Mix the flour with the paprika. Dust the breasts with the flour mixture.
In a large skillet melt the butter. Brown the chicken breasts on all sides. Add the wine and bouillon. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until done.
Remove the chicken from the pot and keep warm. Mix the whipping cream with the cornstarch. Whisk gradually into the simmering sauce. Simmer uncovered until the sauce thickens. Serve the chicken with the sauce.