Sunday, January 23, 2011

parmigiano reggiano

A couple of years ago I was given one of the best gifts I have ever received, a barrel of 36 month aged organic parmigiano reggiano from a boutique farmer in the region. Well, it was brought to me by a relative who lives in Italy and understands how fundamentally important it is to me. 
To this day, I remember the mature creaminess and flavour. What they say about this cheese is true: it imparts a sensibility of umami, the other sense of taste; it just lifts everything it touches with a beautiful aroma that seems to work with almost everything. When I am given 5 kilos of this delicacy, at first I think of how I could lavishly splurge with the ingredient. I could eat it raw, shaved and dispersed over a dish, or eat a dish in which it is a key ingredient in the cooking. I elected to, of course, eat the pieces that broke off as I was chiseling the barrel into portions for storing, but then I made one of my favourite dishes, parmesan risotto. So plain - rice, the aroma of the stock in the background and the parmesan and butter that are used to finish off the dish. To achieve this simplicity, you need two tools in your arsenal: proper cooking technique and perfect ingredients. Thankfully, this barrel provided me with the latter. 

Biological = organic.

This particular cheese reminded me of some kind of geological formation. With beautiful shards and crystalline-seeming arrangements, this cheese certainly didn't disappoint. It may have been slightly stronger than the "parmesan" we get in Kuwait (which is usually gran padano sold as parmesan). Gran padano is made in pretty much the same was as parmigiano reggiano, but because it's made outside of the designated zone it can't be called parmesan - however, it is more commonly available and seems to me slightly more mellow in flavour and aroma than this cheese.

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