Parmesan Crisps

Savory Recipes, Summer • 10 Aug 2009


In the summer months, I prefer recipes that require little forethought and little time. However, there’s no need to sacrifice flavor and substance at the hands of simplicity. In August, we often feast on cold cucumber soup with aromatic lemon, ambrosial mint and tangy buttermilk, fresh pasta tossed with ripe heirloom tomatoes, spicy basil and a light splash of sweet aged balsamic or a summer salad of fresh, crisp spinach and honeyed strawberries. Some recipes are so effortless, clean and restrained that utilizing a bevy of ingredients seems excessive.

Recently I found myself in need for a little extra something to accompany bowls of chilled truffle-oil infused pea soup. I contemplated slices of toasted baguette, but have used garlicky toast points ad nauseam to accompany soups, salads and the like and was a little weary of dipping something so hearty into the light and delicate soup. I wanted to step it up, celebrate our evening with a Thomas Keller-inspired meal, and something a little more sophisticated and airy. As I flipped the pages of The French Laundry Cookbook, I remembered Italian frico, or wafer-thin cheese crisps, from my days as a cook.

Keller’s recipe for Parmigiano-Reggiano crisps is effortless. I have a hard time calling it a recipe as it only requires one ingredient: the parmesan. I have made frico many times before, sometimes throwing in herbs and spices, or a little flour for texture. Sometimes I fry them in a cast iron skillet, rather than bake them. For Keller’s parmesan crisps, all you need is a cheese grater, a silpat (or parchment paper) and a cookie sheet, and you’re in business.

The act of baking grated cheese yields an intensified nutty flavor, a crackling texture and the most beautiful, cobweb-esque structure. Like crystallized snowflakes, no two frico are exactly the same, the cheese melting artistically into fragile, edible doilies.

Frico are perfect served alongside your favorite meal or as a crunchy snack with a glass of red wine.

Parmesan Crisps

1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (from a moist piece of cheese)

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat (or parchment paper). Sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of the cheese in one corner of the Silpat. Use your fingers to spread the cheese into a 2-inch circle. Repeat with the remaining cheese; you should have about 12 rounds.

2. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until they are golden brown. Use a small spatula to transfer them to paper towels. They will be soft when they are removed but will stiffen as they cool. Store the crisps in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Yield: Makes about twelve 2-inch crisps.

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