There are those things we eat, make, read, and gush over that are just too good to keep to ourselves. Here, we resist the urge to use too many exclamation points and let you in on our latest crushes.
Today: Test Kitchen Manager Erin McDowell explains her love affair with crispy cheese and bread.
So here’s the thing. I love cheese, and I love bread, and I love all the ways you can put them together. Grilled cheese sandwiches? I’m all over that. Rarebit? Yeah, that’s my kind of snack. But few things changed my life like the first time I tasted the magic of crusty bread, toasted to perfection with a crispy outer layer of Parmesan cheese.
Let’s start with the texture. Sure, your bread may already be crusty and toasty, but the Parmesan takes it to the next level. The first bite produces an amazing crackle of crisp cheese before yielding to the softer toast underneath.
Then, there’s the flavor. I do so much baking that I rarely have salted butter in the house, so whether I’m just buttering my morning toast or dipping it in olive oil and frying it, I’m always finishing it with a generous sprinkle of salt. But Parmesan changes everything. Suddenly, there’s a richness and a saltiness to my toast that just butter or oil alone cannot accomplish.
And before I go completely off on a tangent that results in an ode of adoration to the wondrous Parmesan-crusted toast, there’s one more (major) plus: the convenience. I’m assuming you have a big chunk of Parmesan in your fridge (and if you don’t, add it to your list of can’t-live-without staples and stick to it). There are so many things to do with Parmesan—and if all else fails, it’s an amazing snack entirely on its own.
So, back to the toast: How do you do it? There are two ways, and they both work well, so it really comes down to preference.
1. Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Spread a piece of sliced bread with butter or brush it with olive oil (get both sides). Grate a layer of Parmesan into the center of the skillet. As the cheese begins to turn lightly golden, press the bread into the cheese and continue to toast until the cheese is golden brown. Flip the bread and toast on the other side.
2. Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Spread a piece of sliced bread with butter or brush it with olive oil. Grate cheese directly onto the bread—be generous; some will fall off when you transfer it to the pan. Flip the bread into the hot pan and toast until golden brown on both sides.
Now that you’re armed with classic Parmesan toast, how do you riff on it (and eat it at every possible chance)? Here are 8 ideas (and then some) to get you started:
- For breakfast, top it with peppery arugula and a fried egg.
- Use it as the base for the ultimate grilled cheese of all time—Parm outside with regular grilled cheese insides.
- Grilled cheese isn’t the only sandwich that can benefit from a Parmesan crust: kick your BLT or favorite egg sandwich up a notch. You won’t regret it.
- It’s the perfect vessel for any number of condiments: Think your favorite pickles or hot pepper jelly and pretty much any kind of pesto.
- Make savory French toast.
- Use it as the base of any assembled toast you already love, like this one or this one.
- Dunk it in tomato soup. ‘Nuff said.
- Apply the concept to your favorite crostinis for an especially happy happy hour.
Photos by Mark Weinberg and James Ransom