Back to the Kitchen: The Importance of Cheese

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gwen-upper110x110BY GWEN KENNEALLY

There is a saying in my kitchen “when in doubt add more cheese.” I love to cook with cheese as it adds so much depth of flavor. Who would have thought that an appliance mogul would be responsible for one of the greatest American cheeses? Yes, Fritz Maytag, an heir to the Maytag dynasty, decided he wanted to put mark on the world and developed the great American version of bleu cheese. And then there are my Italian relatives love their ricotta.  This goat cheese is the fresh  baby of the bunch. Here are some recipes highlighting some of my favorite cheeses.


Apricot and Maytag Blue Stuffed Chicken

1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup Maytag bleu cheese, crumbled

4 chicken breasts

Preheat oven to 375. Mix apricots, parsley, garlic and cheese in a small bowl. Loosen the skin of chicken breasts and stuff cheese mixture underneath. Press the skin down.  Place breasts in a greased baking dish. Bake about 40 minutes or until done.

Pear Tart with Maytag Blue Crust


2 cups red wine

1-cup sugar

1-cup water

1 orange, halved

1 lemon, halved

1-inch ginger, peeled

3 cinnamon sticks

5 whole cloves

4 pears, peeled and cored

In a large soup pot place all ingredients except pears and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and add pears. Poach until tender about 20 minutes. Remove from stove and coo completely. Refrigerate over night.

Pastry Cream:

1/3-cup sugar

1-cup cups milk

2 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch

3 egg yolks

1/4 cup Butter

2 teaspoons vanilla

In a medium saucepan mix half the sugar to the milk and bring to a boil stirring constantly. In a medium bowl whisk together the rest of the sugar and cornstarch and yolks. Once the milk is boiling pour 1/4 of the milk mixture into the egg mixture whisking constantly. Pour the egg mixture into the rest of the milk mixture and return to the heat whisking until the cream thickens and comes to a complete boil. Remove from the heat and add the butter and vanilla whisking until the butter completely melts. Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic until it comes to room temperature.


3/4 cup all flour

1/4-teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup crumbled Maytag Blue Cheese

Up to 4 Tablespoons ice water

1/4 cup raspberry jelly, melted

Place butter cut into tiny pieces (I use a grater) and place in the freezer for 15 minutes. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the flour and salt. Using a pastry blender cut the butter into the flour until the pieces are the size of rice. Add cheese. Sprinkle 1-tablespoon water over part of the flour mixture and stir very gently with a fork, Push moistened dough to the side of the bowl. Repeat using 1 tablespoons of water at a time until all the dough is moistened. Roll dough into a ball wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Roll out to be 10 inches round. Place in a 9-inch tart pan sprayed with bakers joy. Bake in a preheated 350 oven until golden about 15 minutes. When cool spread the vanilla cream over the crust. Slice the pears and place them decoratively over the cream. Brush with raspberry jelly and refrigerate for 3 hours before serving.

Emma’s Shells

cheesericotta2 dozen large pasta shells

2 teaspoons salt

24 ounces part skim ricotta cheese

1/4-cup fine dry breadcrumbs

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

1 egg, slightly beaten

1 medium onion, halved and sliced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes, untrained

3 cans tomato sauce

1/2-teaspoon oregano

1/2-teaspoon basil

2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese

Cook shells in boiling salted water following package directions. Drain in a colander and rinse with cool water. Set aside. In large skillet heat oil over medium heat; add onion and garlic. Sauté until golden in color. In a bowl mix the ricotta, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, parsley and egg, mix until well blended. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil and oregano to the onions and garlic. Gently stuff each shell with the ricotta mixture. Place each stuffed shell in a casserole dish in a single layer. Cover with sauce. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Bake in a pre-heated 350-degree oven for 35 minutes until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly.

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

1-1/4 cups fine chocolate wafer crumbs (25 cookies, processed in food processor)

1/3-cup butter, melted

4 cups Ricotta Cheese

1-cup sugar

1/2-cup heavy cream

1/4-cup flour

1 tsp. vanilla

1/4 tsp. salt

3 eggs

1-1/2 cups mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided

Mint sprigs or berries for garnish

Spray a 9-inch spring form pan with bakers joy. Combine crust ingredients in small bowl. Press evenly over bottom of pan. Bake in preheated 350°F oven 10 minutes. Combine Ricotta cheese, sugar, heavy cream, flour, vanilla and salt in medium bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, blend with electric mixer until smooth. Fold in 1 cup chocolate chips; pour over crust.   Bake in preheated 350°F oven 1 hour or until set. Cool in oven with door propped open 30 minutes. Refrigerate 4 hours or longer. Sprinkle remaining chocolate chips over the top with mint and berries. You can also melt the chocolate and pipe or spoon drizzle over the top of the cake.

cheeseparm150Portobello Pasta

Serves 8 (great for a potluck)

6 onions

2-tablespoon butter

4 tablespoons olive oil

1-teaspoon salt

2 pounds Portobello Mushrooms

1/4-cup parsley

12 ounces crumbled goat cheese

3 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 1/2 pounds penne or ziti or fossil

Finely chop the onions. In a large skillet, melt 1-tablespoon butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onions with 1/2-teaspoon salt and 1teaspoon sugar and cook over moderate heat stirring frequently until the onions are browned. Transfer to a bowl. Meanwhile, stem Portobello’s. Halve the caps and slice them crosswise 1/4-inch thick. In the same skillet, melt 1-tablespoon butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the mushrooms and 1/2-teaspoon salt and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until tender and browned, about 8 minutes. Add the reserved onions and the chopped parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook pasta until al dente, about 13 minutes reserve 1 1/2 cups of the pasta water and drain the pasta.

In a large bowl, toss the pasta with one cup of the reserved pasta water, the mushroom mixture, goat cheese, and Parmesan and one tablespoon olive oil. If the pasta seems dry, add more of the pasta water. Serve immediately; passing additional grated Parmesan at the table.

cheesegoatGoat Cheese Creme Brulee

4 cups heavy cream

1 vanilla bean, sliced in half (4 inches long)

Pinch of kosher salt

8 egg yolks

3/4-cup sugar

3/4-cup goat cheese

1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped

8 tbsp. granulated sugar

Mint sprigs for garnish

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a saucepan heat the cream, vanilla bean and salt to scalding. Remove the vanilla bean from the hot cream and scrape the tiny seeds back into the cream. In a bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar until well mixed and light in color. Stirring constantly, slowly add the hot cream, melting the sugar and making sure not to scramble the eggs.  Gently stir in crumbled goat cheese and mint until well mixed. Divide the mixture among 8 ramekins placed in a roasting pan. Fill the pan with boiling water to reach halfway up the side of the ramekins. Cover loosely with foil and bake for 55 to 65 minutes or until the center is just beginning to set and is no longer liquid. Remove the ramekins from the oven and cool. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 5 hours or overnight. At serving time preheat a broiler and sprinkle 1 tbsp. of sugar evenly over the surface of each custard. Broil as quickly as possible until the sugar is caramelized. Garnish with mint sprigs and serve immediately.

About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.