I went to a cracking event the other day – cracking as in good, but also as in the traditional method of opening a Parmigiano Reggiano cheese wheel. I’d never heard of such a thing before going so was very keen to see what it involved. In Parma by Food Roots – a lovely, intimate Italian restaurant in Charlotte Place, London, was the setting for the evening where a small group of bloggers and journos were in attendance.
So, what is Parmigiano Reggiano? Well, it’s a Protected Designation of Origin (POD) product, meaning that its place of origin is guaranteed under a system of EU rules that it must confine to. It’s rich in calcium, phosphorous, vitamins and highly digestible.
A trained expert demonstrated the opening of the cheese. He used a special set of small stubby knives, known as swords, to robustly and methodically twist and cut around the wheel until about 5 minutes later ‘crack’ – wheel open. I was sort of expecting a mini explosion – it wasn’t quite as dramatic as that, but a fun spectacle to watch all the same.
After the ‘cracking’ we were introduced to the different ages and qualities of Parmigiano Reggiano. I sampled the 18,24 and 36 months old cheeses. The 18 month cheese had a light straw colour, sweet, and very cheddar-like. The 24 month was savoury in taste, crystalised, and had a grandular texture. And the 36 month was even harder and richer in flavour. The cheeses were paired with a selection of fruits, a sweet almost syrupy, balsamic vinegar and matching fine wines.
Inspired by the demo and tasting I came up with a mushroom risotto recipe using a 36 month old Parmigiano Reggiano, that really brought the dish together.
Food I Fancy was a guest of the event.