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~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (1/4/13) ~

Culinary Q & A #2Happy New Year!  I hope you all enjoyed a joyous Christmas and festive New Year.  In case you don't know, we got a lot of snow here in Central PA over the holidays. Presently, we are battling frigid temperatures that will take your breath away.  It is so cold, even my poodles do not want to go outside!

Thanks to a reader, who submitted a question on Tuesday, I have a feeling things are about to heat up very quickly around here!

The great cheese with fish debate!

Don't haul off and call the food police on me just yet!

IMG_8845Q. Leon says and asks:  Melanie,  I loved your New Year's Eve post for butter-poached lobster.  I am going to ask my girlfriend of 6 years to marry me on Valentine's Day and I am going to make it, along with the lemon-tarragon and corn orzotto.  In your recipe for the orzotto you write, "it does however, contain Parmigianno-Reggiano cheese, which, can be a hot topic if you are amongst the foodies that believe fish and cheese are NEVER to be served together... ever"!  Would you please explain, in detail, the philosophy behind this thinking?  My mom put cheese on seafood all the time and I thought it was great!  Is this going to offend my girlfriend?

(Note to readers:  My recipe for ~ Elegant & Exquisite: Butter-Poached Lobster Tails ~ can be found in Categories 3, 11 or 14.  My recipe for ~ Creamy Lemon-Tarragon & Shaved Corn Orzotto ~ can be found in Categories 4, 14, or 21!)

6a0120a8551282970b015432779207970c-320wiA.  Kitchen Encounters:  Wow! This is a loaded question Leon! Let's start with your second question first.  I do not know your girlfriend or how she feels about cheese with her fish.  I highly-suggest you drop a few hints the next time you two order dinner in a restaurant, to see if she has any deep-seated, puritanical, emotional, problems concerning this combo. Why?  Read on.

For many Italians, and a lot of French folks too, garnishing or finishing off a fish dish with a light grating of Parmigiano-Reggiano is a "hanging offense".  If you have ever watched an episode of Chopped, Iron Chef or Top Chef, snobby, Celebrity-Chef judges criticize and chastise contestants who stray from this archaic "no cheese with fish" rule.  Sometimes, I agree with them, sometimes I do not.  Besides the "there is an exception to every rule" as my defense, here's why:

IMG_7207Meet my recipe for ~ Festive Seafood Gratinee (Gratin de Fruit de Mer) ~, which can be found in Categories 3, 11, 14, 19 or 20. Much like present day recipes for lobster mac 'n cheese, or seafood lasagna, this dish, which is topped with grated Parm-Regg, is decadently delicious.  I triple-dog-dare any food snob to criticize my addition of cheese to any of the above named dishes!

6a0120a8551282970b014e895c7d70970d-320wiOn the other hand, if I were to substitute any type of white fish fillet in my gratinee, I would convulse at the thought of topping it with cheese.  Why?  While seafood like lobster, shrimp, scallops, and even crabmeat, are structured with a flavor and texture that can handle a bit of cheese, white fish fillets are not.  They are so mild-flavored, that anything other than a simple flavor enhancer (like butter and lemon) will overwhelm their flavor (cheese being the biggest offender).  Furthermore, who doesn't just love a grating of cheese on their linguini with clam sauce?  And, what about anchovies on an ooey-gooey cheese-covered pizza?

Where did this "rule" come from, and, what is the "bottom line"?

Orthodox Easter Paska #3I'm a realist.  I believe its origin is, without a doubt, religious-based, followed by centuries of tradition.   For centuries, religious leaders prohibited the consumption of meat and dairy (which includes cheese) every Friday (which I also believe were instituted for purely economic reasons which benefitted the impoverished fishermen of the time).  Fish became the protein of choice on that day.  Therefore, it seems logical to me that fish dishes naturally evolved during this time period, WITHOUT cheese!  

The bottom line:  Know your ingredients and follow your tastebuds.  A savvy cook who knows what they are doing can indeed pair seafood with cheese.  SHHHSH!  Don't tell the food police!!!

Enjoy your weekend everyone, and once again:  To leave a comment or ask a question, simply click on the blue title of any post, scroll to the end of it and type away... or e-mail me directly!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipes, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)


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Wow! This may come full circle! I think I remember where they lived.
Is Susan, Candy Hartz's something - daughter? If so, they are friends of my "Walton" cousins - still in town!
I REALLY appreciate your efforts. We may have been making these a block from each other - way back when! Well I'll be damned!!

Marilyn! I know exactly what you are talking about. My mom never made them, but my godfather's wife Eleanor SIdoriak did, and, I made them with her a few times when I was 11 or 12 years old (at the time she/they lived on Dutch Hill a block or so down from you!) I have messaged her daughter-in-law Susan to see if she has the recipes, or, if she can get the recipes from Eleanor. I have high hopes for this to happen!!!

Good Morining Mel! As Easter is fast approaching, I am longing for my Mom's home made coconut Easter eggs.She used to crack open fresh coconuts on our back porch steps! She drained the milk and then ground up the meat from the coconut. She made peanut butter, maraschino cherry, and plain coconut cream.
I remember helping her dip them in chocolate ,with pieces of paraffin?
She used confectioners sugar, vanilla, and the above ingredients, depending on which kind she was making. The problem is, the recipe was in her head, and I never asked her about it! I was not quite a foodie when she died in 1996.
I have a cookbook from a Catholic church in Hazleton (1974) - that has something close to what I remember, but I thought perhaps you might have a recipe or technique to try these? You're my last hope to re-create this fond food memory!!!

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