I’ll be honest: cheese gets me more than a little hot under the collar.
And I feel incredibly lucky that cheese guru Tia Keenan feels the same way.
Keenan calls her new book, Melt, Stretch, & Sizzle: The Art of Cooking Cheese, “my love letter to hot cheese” and her feelings come through loud and clear on each page.
Keenan has already extolled the wonders of unaltered cheese in her first cookbook, The Art of the Cheese Plate.
Now she turns her adoring gaze to cheese in all its warm, stretchable, oozable forms—and gets my pulse quickening with every recipe.
One of the nicest things about Melt, Stretch, & Sizzle is that you don’t have to go hunting down very specific, small-batch cheeses to make the recipes.
Keenan believes—and I agree wholeheartedly—that you shouldn’t be wasting that handmade $30/pound raw-milk cheese in a casserole of baked pasta, where you won’t be able to savor the complexity.
Instead, each recipe includes trusted recommendations for her favorite dependable, affordable supermarket brands, from Mt. Vikos feta to Calabro ricotta to Belgioso burrata.
Nothing to scoff at here; just reliable and flavorful cheeses you won’t have to travel the world to find.
Now, think of all the things you could do with hot cheese, and Keenan will give you an irresistibly over-the-top take on each of them.
The chapter headings—like Saucy, Dip In, Pasta Lovers, and Live and Let Fry—allude to the inventively off-kilter and fun, but still comforting, dishes therein.
Why make regular cheese sauce when you could do a beer-and-Worcestershire rarebit? How can regular artichoke dip compete with tangy baked feta folded generously with pickled peppers and dill?
The recipe for “little Dutch eggs” is reason enough to get over any reservations you might have about deep frying at home.
Instead of a traditional sausage-wrapped Scotch egg, these are enrobed in a salty, herb-flecked Gouda paste and are destined to be the most memorable party appetizer you’ll serve this holiday season.
And when it comes to pasta, there’s nothing better than macaroni and cheese, am I right? Unless, that is… if you make a mac and cheese gratin with an entire burrata hidden inside.
Yes, an entire ball of burrata. I’ll just let you think about that one for a while.
Despite the heights of imagination to which these recipes soar, the execution of the dishes in Melt, Stretch, & Sizzle aren’t beyond the reach of home cooks.
Like the bacon and cheese Dutch baby made with smoked Gouda, for which the recipe follows.
As the love child between a popover and pancake, a Dutch baby likewise straddles the line between impressive brunch dish and simple weekend comfort food.
It’s a one-pot wonder in that it’s cooked up easily in a cast iron pan, and can adapt to almost any flavor profile you throw at it.
Keenan’s bacon and cheese Dutch baby is mostly savory with its double whammy smokiness, yet light and airy enough that you won’t have to take a nap after eating it.
Give it a go and don’t skimp on the cheese—after all, that’s the Melt, Stretch, & Sizzle way.
- 2 pieces thick-cut bacon, chopped
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup milk
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 2 ounces smoked Gouda, shredded (about 1/3 cup)
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
- Maple syrup, for finishing (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Cook the bacon in a 10-inch cast-iron pan over medium heat until crisp and the fat has rendered, about 6 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour the fat into a small bowl and set it aside.
- Wipe out the hot pan with a wad of paper towels and place the pan in the oven to preheat.
- In a food processor, add the flour, milk, eggs, and salt and process for 2 minutes. Drizzle in the melted butter with the processor running.
- Keep the batter in the bowl of the food processor and place it in the refrigerator to rest for 10 minutes.
- After the batter has rested, remove the cast-iron pan from the oven and pour in the reserved bacon fat, swirling it to coat.
- Pour the batter into the pan, return it to the oven, and bake for 18 minutes, until puffed and just golden brown on top.
- Remove the Dutch baby from the oven, sprinkle it with the cooked bacon and the shredded cheese, and return it to the oven until the cheese is melted, another 2 to 3 minutes.
- Garnish with the chives and serve immediately. A wee drizzle of maple syrup never hurt anyone.
Reprinted with permission from Melt, Stretch, & Sizzle by Tia Keenan, Rizzoli, 2018
Keenan's trusted brands of Gouda: Maple Leaf, Marieke
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