The French (Non!) Diet Part II: Be Choosier About Cheese

The French (Non!) Diet Part II: Be Choosier About Cheese

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As I mentioned in last week’s article on the French (Non!) Diet, an obvious secret to staying thin is simply not to overeat.

And one way not to overeat is to eat things that give you more flavor bang for your calorie buck. The more you love what you eat, the less of it you’ll need to feel satisfied—even indulged.

Cheese is a number-one case in point—a small amount of a rich, bold, and intense artisanal cheese brings so much more to a recipe than windfalls of bland mass-produced cheeses (especially reduced-fat cheeses, which often have little flavor at all).

In fact, when I was researching and testing recipes for The Bonne Femme Cookbook, I was inspired to see just how far a small amount of just-the-right cheeses could take a recipe.

Next time you’re adding cheese to something you cook, do like a French cook:

Choose a quality cheese. You’ll use less, and you’ll get infinitely more pleasure from the dish. Here are a few examples of how to switch in some great cheeses for not-so-great ones—for better-tasting (and better-for-you) recipes.

1. Use Comté or a Cave-Aged Gruyère rather than a domestic “Swiss” cheese.

Picture the ubiquitous Chef Salad in America, and how it often comes showered—no, thunder-stormed—with thick, wide planks of bland Swiss and American cheeses.

Now, take a look at my Chicken-Comté Salad, which calls on a delicate sprinkling of thin strips. A little Comté (or cave- aged Gruyère) adds a deep, rich, complex flavor that domestic industrial Swiss cheese just can’t match.

2. Use an Aged Goat Cheese Instead of a Fresh Goat Cheese

Forget the chalk-white stuff that comes in tubes in the supermarket. Those unaged goat cheeses deliver tang—but not much else. If you really want great taste from your goat cheese, reach for a semi-ripened (also called semi-aged) goat cheese.  Aging adds complexity to the cheese, heightening the flavor. Semi-ripened goat cheese also melts into an oozy lusciousness that fresh goat cheese get nowhere near.

How can you tell if your goat cheese is semi-ripened (or semi-aged?). It will have developed a rind (as opposed to fresh, unaged goat cheeses, which are rindless).  Also keep in mind that you don’t have to buy a French import for this treat. There are lots of wonderful domestic goat cheeses—Cypress Grove’s Humboldt Fog is one of my favorites.

3. Finish with a Great Grating Cheese

By now, most serious cooks have veered away from sprinkling Parmesan out of that metallic green can, and moved onto freshly grating a great hard cheese. Bold fruit-snappy Parmigiano-Reggiano is, of course, the undisputed king of grating cheeses.

But don’t stop there. Try a delightfully peppery Pecorino Romano, a caramely aged Gouda, or a nutty aged Manchegio— all can be used in small amounts to add fascinating flavor and a finishing touch to your recipes.

Photograph credits:
Chicken-Comté Salad by Richard Swearinger
Humboldt Fog Cheeses by T. Depaepe
Melted Goat Cheese Salad by Kristof de Loof via Flickr

Wini Moranville is the author of The Bonne Femme Cookbook and the Braiser Cookbook. Follow her on her blog, Chez Bonne Femme or on Facebook at Chez Bonne Femme.

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