He who says au gratin says Parmesan. Thomas Gray, the English poet, saluted it two centuries ago with:
On September 4, 1666, Pepys recorded the burying of his pet Parmesan, "as well as my wine and some other things," in a pit in Sir W. Batten's garden. And on the selfsame fourth of September, more than a century later, in 1784, Woodforde in his Diary of a Country Parson wrote:
I sent Mr. Custance about 3 doz. more of apricots, and he sent me back another large piece of fine Parmesan cheese. It was very kind of him.
The second most popular cheese for au gratin is Italian Romano, and, for an entirely different flavor, Swiss Sapsago. The French, who gave us this cookery term, use it in its original meaning for any dish with a browned topping, usually of bread crumbs, or crumbs and cheese. In America we think of au gratin as grated cheese only, although Webster says, "with a browned covering, often mixed with butter or cheese; as, potatoes au gratin." So let us begin with that.
2 cups diced cooked potatoes
2 tablespoons grated onion
½ cup grated American Cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup milk
More grated cheese for covering
In a buttered baking dish put a layer of diced potatoes, sprinkle with onion and bits of butter. Next, scatter on a thin layer of cheese and alternate with potatoes, onions and butter. Stir milk, egg, salt and pepper together and pour it on the mixture. Top everything with plenty of grated cheese to make it authentically American au gratin. Bake until firm in moderate oven, about ½ hour.
Make a white sauce flavored with minced onion to pour over any desired number of eggs broken into a buttered baking dish. Begin by using half of the sauce and sprinkling on a lot of grated cheese. After the eggs are in, pour on the rest of the sauce, cover it with grated cheese and bread crumbs, drop in bits of butter, and cook until brown in oven (or about 12 minutes).
Cover bottom of shallow baking pan with slices of tomato and sprinkle liberally with bread crumbs and grated cheese, season with salt, pepper and dots of butter, add another layer of tomato slices, season as before and continue this, alternating with cheese, until pan is full. Add a generous topping of crumbs, cheese and butter. Bake 50 minutes in moderate oven.
4 or 5 onions, sliced
4 or 5 tablespoons butter
1 quart stock or canned consommé
1 quart bouillon made from dissolving 4 or 5 cubes
Rounds of toasted French bread
1½ cups grated Parmesan cheese
Sauté onions in butter in a roomy saucepan until light golden, and pour the stock over. When heated put in a larger casserole, add the bouillon, season to taste and heat to boiling point. Let simmer 15 minutes and serve in deep well-heated soup plates, the bottoms covered with rounds of toasted French bread which have been heaped with freshly grated Parmesan and browned under the broiler. More cheese is served for guests to sprinkle on as desired.
At gala parties, where wine flows, a couple of glasses of champagne are often added to the bouillon.
In the famed onion soup au gratin at Les Halles in Paris, grated Gruyère is used in place of Parmesan. They are interchangeable in this recipe.
In this era of fine canned soups a quick cheese soup is made by heating cream of tomato soup, ready made, and adding finely grated Swiss or Parmesan to taste. French bread toasted and topped with more cheese and broiled golden makes the best base to pour this over, as is done with the French onion soup above.
The same cheese toasts are the basis of a simple milk-cheese soup, with heated milk poured over and a seasoning of salt, pepper, chopped chives, or a dash of nutmeg.
Heat together 1 cup milk, 1 cup water in which 2 chicken bouillon cubes have been dissolved, and 1 can of condensed cream of chicken soup. Stir in ¼ cup grated American Cheddar cheese and season with salt, pepper, and plenty of paprika until cheese melts.
Other popular American recipes simply add grated cheese to lima bean or split bean soup, peanut butter soup, or plain cheese soup with rice.
Imported French marmites are de rigueur for a real onion soup au gratin, and an imported Parmesan grinder might be used for freshly ground cheese. In preparing, it is well to remember that they are basically only melted cheese, melted from the top down.
Take endive, water cress and as many different kinds of crisp lettuce as you can find and mix well with Provolone cheese cut in thin julienne strips and marinated 3 to 4 hours in French dressing. Crumble over the salad some Blue cheese and toss everything thoroughly, with plenty of French dressing.
Slice a sweet ripe pineapple thin and sprinkle with shredded American Cheddar. Serve on lettuce dipped in French dressing.
Mix American Cheddar with an equal amount of nut meats and enough mayonnaise to make a paste. Roll these in little balls and serve with fruit salads, dusting lightly with finely grated Sapsago.
Fill ripe pear-or peach-halves with creamy imported Brie or Camembert, sprinkle with honey, serve on lettuce drenched with French dressing and scatter shredded almonds over. (Cream cheese will do in a pinch. If the Camembert isn't creamy enough, mash it with some sweet cream.)
¾ cup cream cheese
½ cup grated American Cheddar cheese
½ cup Roquefort cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons gelatin, dissolved and stirred into
½ cup boiling water
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cups cream, beaten stiff
½ cup minced chives
Mash the cheeses together, season gelatin liquid with lemon, salt and pepper and stir into cheese with the whipped cream. Add chives last Put in ring mold or any mold you fancy, chill well and slice at table to serve on lettuce with a little mayonnaise, or plain.
Dice ½ pound of cheese into ½-inch cubes. Slice one onion very thin. Mix well in a soup plate. Dash with German mustard, olive oil, wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce. Salt lightly and grind in plenty of black pepper. Then stir, preferably with a wooden spoon so you won't mash the cheese, until every hole is drenched with the dressing.
Often Emmentaler is cubed in a salad for breakfast, relished specially by males on the morning after. We quote the original recipe brought over by Rosie from the Swiss Tyrol to thrill the writers' and artists' colony of Ridgefield, New Jersey, in her brother Emil's White House Inn:
First Rosie cut a thick slice of prime imported Emmentaler into half-inch cubes. Then she mixed imported French olive oil, German mustard and Swiss white wine vinegar with salt and freshly ground pepper in a deep soup plate, sprinkled on a few drops of pepper sauce scattered in the chunks of Schweizer and stirred the cubes with a light hand, using a wooden fork and spoon to prevent bruising.
The salad was ready to eat only when each and every tiny, shiny cell of the Swiss from the homeland had been washed, oiled and polished with the soothing mixture.
"Drink down the juice, too, when you have finished mine Breakfast Cheese Salad," Rosie advised the customers. "It is the best cure in the world for the worst hangover."
Slice bananas lengthwise, as for a banana split. Sprinkle with lemon juice and spread with creamy Gorgonzola. Sluice with French dressing made with lemon juice in place of vinegar, to help bring out the natural banana flavor of ripe Gorgonzola.
Cube ½ pound of American Cheddar and mix with a can of peas, 1 cup of diced celery, 1 cup of mayonnaise, ½ cup of sour cream, and 2 tablespoons each of minced pimientos and sweet pickles. Serve in lettuce cups with a sprinkling of parsley and chopped radishes.
½ cup cream cheese
1 cup chopped pecans
Salt and pepper
Apples, sliced ½-inch thick
Creamy salad dressing
Make tiny seasoned cheese balls, center on the apple slices standing on lettuce leaves, and sluice with creamy salad dressing.
No cheese sauce is easier to make than the American favorite of Roquefort cheese mashed with a fork and mixed with French dressing. It is often made in a pint Mason jar and kept in the refrigerator to shake up on occasion and toss over lettuce or other salads.
Unfortunately, even when the Roquefort is the French import, complete with the picture of the sheep in red, and garanti véritable, the dressing is often ruined by bad vinegar and cottonseed oil (of all things). When bottled to sell in stores, all sorts of extraneous spice, oils and mustard flour are used where nothing more is necessary than the manipulation of a fork, fine olive oil and good vinegar—white wine, tarragon or malt. Some ardent amateurs must have their splash of Worcestershire sauce or lemon juice with salt and pepper. This Roquefort dressing is good on all green salads, but on endive it's something special.
Sauce Mornay has been hailed internationally as "the greatest culinary achievement in cheese."
Nothing is simpler to make. All you do is prepare a white sauce (the French Sauce Béchamel) and add grated Parmesan to your liking, stirring it in until melted and the sauce is creamy. This can be snapped up with cayenne or minced parsley, and when used with fish a little of the cooking broth is added.
1 part of any grated cheese to 4 parts of white sauce
This is a mild sauce that is nice with creamed or hard-cooked eggs. When the cheese content is doubled, 2 parts of cheese to 4 of white sauce, it is delicious on boiled cauliflower, baked potatoes, macaroni and crackers soaked in milk.
The sauce may be made richer by mixing melted butter with the flour in making the white sauce, or by beating egg yolk in with the cheese.
From thin to medium to thick it serves divers purposes:
Thin: it may be used instead of milk to make a tasty milk toast, sometimes spiced with curry.
Medium: for baking by pouring over crackers soaked in milk.
Thick: serves as a sort of Welsh Rabbit when poured generously over bread toasted on one side only, with the untoasted side up, to let the sauce sink in.
This makes a mild, pleasantly pungent sauce, to enliven the cabbage family—hot cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. Croutons help when sprinkled over.
Since this is the Complete Book of Cheese we will fill a bounteous cornucopia here with more or less essential, if not indispensable, recipes and dishes not so easy to classify, or overlooked or crowded out of the main sections devoted to the classic Fondues, Rabbits, Soufflés, etc.
Stuffed Celery, Endive, Anise and Other Suitable Stalks
Use any soft cheese you like, or firm cheese softened by pressing through a sieve; at room temperature, of course, with any seasoning or relish.
Cream cheese and chopped chives, pimientos, olives, or all three, with or without a touch of Worcestershire.
Cottage cheese and piccalilli or chili sauce.
Sharp Cheddar mixed with mayonnaise, mustard, cream, minced capers, pickles, or minced ham.
Roquefort and other Blues are excellent fillings for your favorite vegetable stalk, or scooped-out dill pickle. This last is specially nice when filled with snappy cheese creamed with sweet butter.
All canapé butters are ideally suited to stuffing stalks. Pineapple cheese, especially that part close to the pineapple-flavored rind, is perfect when creamed.
A masterpiece in the line of filled stalks: Cut the leafy tops off an entire head of celery, endive, anise or anything similarly suitable. Wash and separate stalks, but keep them in order, to reassemble in the head after each is stuffed with a different mixture, using any of the above, or a tangy mix of your own concoction.
After all stalks are filled, beginning with the baby center ones, press them together in the form of the original head, tie tight, and chill. When ready, slice in rolls about 8-inch thick and arrange as a salad on a bed of water cress or lettuce, moistened with French dressing.
Besides hot dunking in Swiss Fondue, cold dunking may be had by moistening plenty of cream cheese with cream or lemon in a dunking bowl. When the cheese is sufficiently liquefied, it is liberally seasoned with chopped parsley, chives, onions, pimiento and/or other relish. Then a couple of tins of anchovies are macerated and stirred in, oil and all.
Line a baking dish from bottom to top with decrusted slices of bread dipped in milk. Cream 1 tablespoon of sweet butter with 2 eggs and season before stirring in 2 cups of grated cheese. Bake until golden brown in slow oven.
Roll pastry dough thin and cover with grated Cheddar, fold and roll at least twice more, sprinkling with cheese each time. Chill dough in refrigerator and cut in straw-size strips. Stiffly salt a beaten egg yolk and glaze with that to give a salty taste. Bake for several minutes until crisp.
This is the famous cheese soup of the Engadine and little known in this country. One of its seasonings is nutmeg and until one has used it in cheese dishes, it is hard to describe how perfectly it gives that extra something. The recipe, as given, is for each plate, but there is no reason why the old-fashioned tureen could not be used and the quantities simply increased.
Put a slice of stale French bread, toasted or not, into a soup plate and cover it with 4 tablespoons of grated or shredded Swiss cheese. Place another slice of bread on top of this and pour over it some boiling milk. Cover the plate and let it stand for several minutes. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Serve topped with browned, hot butter. Use whole nutmeg and grate it freshly.
[B] (from Cheese Cookery, by Helmut Ripperger)
Italians are so dependent on cheese to enrich all their dishes, from soups to spaghetti—and indeed any vegetable—that a shaker of grated Parmesan, Romano or reasonable substitute stands ready at every table, or is served freshly grated on a side dish. Thus any Italian soup might be called a cheese soup, but we know of only one, the great minestrone, in which cheese is listed as an indispensable ingredient along with the pasta, peas, onion, tomatoes, kidney beans, celery, olive oil, garlic, oregano, potatoes, carrots, and so forth.
Likewise, a chunk of melting or toasting cheese is essential in the Fritto Misto, the finest mixed grill we know, and it's served up as a separate tidbit with the meats.
Italians grate on more cheese for seasoning than any other people, as the French are wont to use more wine in cooking.
The gingery little "pepper nuts," pfeffernüsse, imported from Germany in barrels at Christmastime, make one of the best accompaniments to almost any kind of cheese. For contrast try a dish of caraway.
Small rounds of buttered bread or toast heaped with a mound of grated cheese and browned in the oven is a French contribution.
Make a plain omelet your own way. When the mixture has
just begun to cook, dust over it evenly ½ cup grated
(a) Use young Cheddar if you want a mild, bland omelet.
(b) Use sharp, aged Cheddar for a full-flavored one.
(c) Sprinkle (b) with Worcestershire sauce to make what might be called a Wild Omelet.
Cook as usual. Fold and serve.
Cook as above, but use ¼ cup only of Parmesan, grated fine, in place of the ½ cup Cheddar.
As above, but use ½ cup Parmesan, finely grated, as follows: Sift ¼ cup of the Parmesan into your egg mixture at the beginning and dust on the second ¼ cup evenly, just as the omelet begins to set.
Fry ½ dozen bacon slices crisp and keep hot while frying a cup of diced, boiled potatoes in the bacon fat, to equal crispness. Meanwhile make your omelet mixture of 3 eggs, beaten, and 1½ tablespoons of shredded Emmentaler (or domestic Swiss) with 1 tablespoon of chopped chives and salt and pepper to taste.
Make plain omelet, cover with thin rounds of fresh tomato and dust well with any grated cheese you like. Put under broiler until cheese melts to a golden brown.
Make a plain French, fluffy or puffy omelet and when finished, cover with a hot, seasoned, reinforced white sauce in which ¼ pound of shredded cheese has been melted, and mixed well with ½ cup cooked, diced celery and 1 tablespoon of pimiento, minced.
The French use grated Gruyère for this with all sorts of sauces, such as the Savoyar de Savoie, with potatoes, chervil, tarragon and cream. A delicious appearance and added flavor can be had by browning with a salamander.
FOR THE CARAMEL:
½ cup sugar
4 tablespoons water
FOR THE FLAN:
4 eggs, beaten separately
2 cups hot milk
½ cup sugar
Brown sugar and mix with water to make the caramel. Pour it into a baking mold.
Make Flan by mixing together all the ingredients. Add to carameled mold and bake in pan of water in moderate oven about ¾ hour.
The distinctive Italian Mixed Fry, Fritto Misto, is made with whatever fish, sweetbreads, brains, kidneys, or tidbits of meat are at hand, say a half dozen different cubes of meat and giblets, with as many hearts of artichokes, finocchi, tomato, and different vegetables as you can find, but always with a hunk of melting cheese, to fork out in golden threads with each mouthful of the mixture.
Make noodle dough with 2 eggs and 2 cups of flour, roll out very thin and cut in 2-inch squares.
Cream a cupful of cottage cheese with a tablespoon of melted butter, flavor with cinnamon and toss in a handful of seedless currents.
Fill pastry squares with this and pinch edges tight together to make little pockets.
Drop into a lot of fast-boiling water, lightly salted, and boil steadily 30 minutes, lowering the heat so the pockets won't burst open.
Drain and serve on a piping hot platter with melted butter and a sprinkling of bread crumbs.
This is a cross between ravioli and blintzes.
Whip into a steaming hot dish of creamily mashed potatoes some old Cheddar with melted butter and a crumbling of crisp, cooked bacon.
If there's a chafing dish handy, a first-rate nightcap can be made via a
Tuck a slice of Swiss cheese between two pieces of thickly buttered bread, trim crusts, cut sandwich in two, surround it with one well-beaten egg, slide it into sizzling butter and fry on both sides. A chef at the New York Athletic Club once improved on this by first sandwiching the Swiss between a slice of ham and a slice of chicken breast, then beating up a brace of eggs with a jigger of heavy sweet cream and soaking his sandwich in this until it sopped up every drop. A final frying in sweet butter made strong men cry for it.