Monday, November 26, 2007

Ask Mary: Parmesan

Is Parmesan better shredded or grated?
Thanks! Allison

For those of you who don’t know, shredded parmesan is when the cheese comes in long strands. Grated parmesan looks more like dust. I grew up believing that shredded was the way to go, even though both can be used as a substitute for the other. But, as my mother says, “They just don’t taste the same.”

Strangely, even if the cheese comes from the same original piece, this is actually true. Do a taste test and you’ll see what I mean. As I’ve grown as a chef, I’ve found that I personally like the grated better – mother’s teachings aside. The flavor is more appealing and delicate than the shredded variety, and the texture is perfect for sprinkling on just about anything.

The reality, however, is that you can’t go wrong with either method. Parmesan is delicious any way you eat it. It’s important to remember that the kind of parmesan you get in a shaker at the grocery store is not the same as authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano – a hard, granular cheese made from raw cow’s milk and named for the producing areas of Parma and Reggio Emilia.

Made on age-old artisan farms, Parmigiano-Reggiano is more expensive than the store processed variety, but worth the extra pennies. It’s a true taste of Italy.

Have a Happy Adventure! Mary

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Ask Mary: Egg Separation

Hi Mary,
How do I separate an egg without breaking the yolk?

Have you ever read a recipe that asks you to separate the egg white from the egg yolk and panicked? You’re not alone. Clean egg separation is a task that takes patience and practice. Are you up to the challenge?

I think it is always best to crack the egg on a solid surface with a single, hard firm hit. Repeated strikes against the surface will increase your chances of breaking the yolk, making a mess of your whites. Skillful separation is an important skill because many recipes will ask you to whip the whites. And, if there is any yolk residue in the whites, the eggs will not whip (fat from the yolk prevents proper whipping).

There are a lot of expensive gadgets designed to assist you in this task, but honestly, they are not worth the price tag. Simply relax and let your hands do job. My favorite way to ensure perfect egg separation is to let the whites drip slowly through my fingers, all the while keeping the yolk in the shell. Sure, it’s sticky. But getting messy is part of the fun!

Happy Cooking, Mary

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