Thursday, September 8, 2005
Salad in Parmesan Cups & My Kitchenaid Grater
Months ago I purchase a shiny red KitchenAid mixer. It was a really good deal too - $100 off plus a slicer and grater attachment worth $90 thrown in for free. I must say that it looked so intimidating that I’ve left it in the box until today. Given that I've recently been writing about some of my kitchen tools, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to try it out to coarsely grate a large block of parmesan cheese I needed to test out a recipe for parmesan cups (check out the recipe at the bottom of this post) that I'm planning to include in one of my upcoming Cooking Class Parties. I had seen a couple of chefs prepare some on FoodTV Canada. It is unbelievably simple but makes a very “WOW” presentation.
For those of you unfamiliar with the KitchenAid mixer, there is a portal on the front of the mixer that the attachment fits into. First you have to figure out which blade basket to use - there are four blades - two for slicing, two for shredding/grating. Once you choose, and I had trouble trying to decide which grater did what, you fit it in this unwieldy, heavy frame and then plug it into the mixer.
I’m not sure exactly why, but the whole thing reminded me of my mother's heavy gun metal meat grinder that she clamped on to the side of the kitchen counter when she made her fabulous chopped liver, the filling for kreplach (meat filled dumplings, great in soup) and the ground brisket filling for the mashed potato patties that I want RIGHT NOW. It was quite a production when she used her meat grinder too – choosing the right blades, finding the exact spot to clamp the meat grinder on the counter, getting out the perfect bowl that fit under the grinder ready to catch all that delectable meat… and I would watch the drama unfold with excitement. I can still see the long strands descending into the bowl while she turned the handle and forced the meat down the opening with a wooden spoon. Sometimes, she would let me turn the handle (I felt sooooo grown up). In order not to lose one speck of the ground liver, beef brisket or chicken, she would force some bread down the feeding tube once all the meat was done and my eyes would be glued to the opening, breath held until I saw the first bit of bread peaking through the holes. That’s when I knew the fun was over. Now it was clean up time, carefully washing and drying each little part well so it wouldn’t rust and packing it all away until the next time. But I digress….
Although it took awhile for me to figure out how to assemble, it was quite simple to use. In fact, it took much longer to set up and clean than it did to grate the cheese. I don’t think I’d bring out the big guns unless I was planning on grating vast quantities. For grating cheese to top my salad, pasta, veggies etc., my hand grater does the job just fine, thanks. But for big jobs, I might just take it out of the box again.
Unfortunately the photo doesn’t really show how beautifully the cheese was grated. You’ll just have to take my word for it.
Here’s my version. Enjoy the fun factor!!!
Parmesan Cheese Cups
2-4 tbsp coarsely grated Parmesan cheese/cup (depends on the size of the cup you want to shape.
The most important thing to remember is that the cheese should look lacy when you spread it on the parchment. If you can't see through the cheese a little, it will end up rubbery instead of crisp.
1. On a non - stick cookie sheet, lined with parchment paper or silpat, arrange mounds of the grated Parmesan cheese, each thinly spread out to create a 6- 8 inch diameter circle that looks quite lacy. The mounds must not touch each other unless, of course, you want to create some free form art piece.
2. Bake in a preheated hot oven - 400°F/ 200°C degrees for 3 to 4 minutes. As soon as the cheese melts and starts to run together remove from the oven and as soon as possible, lift each disk gently using a spatula and drape over an upturned cup, bowl or glass. You need to do this step quickly while the cheese is still malleable to get a lovely fluted shape.
3. Allow them to cool for a few minutes for the shape to set. This should resemble a bowl in which to serve your salad. Remove from mold and reserve.
Another option is to just break up the parmesan discs once they cool into fun shards to sprinkle over the salad or over some roasted vegetables.