I use an inordinate amount of parmesan cheese. Sprinkled on pasta, stirred into soups and sliced on top of crusty bread.
Perhaps it’s a family thing. And by that I don’t mean I learned to love it from my family. I mean maybe each family is alloted a certain amount of parmesan cheese by some fromage deity, and I have to pick up the slack. For my father, parmesan cheese is like kryptonite. He creeps around bowls of it with his nostrils flared, nervously sniffing for a stinky whiff and eyes us suspiciously when he’s eating something we made. “There’s no pah-masan in this right?”
When you go through a lot of parmesan, you end up with a lot of parmesan rinds. Until a few years ago I always scraped off as much as I could, cutting my knuckles on the grater in the process, and tossed the rind into the trash. Then, I discovered the rind is almost as useful as the block. When stirred into soups, stews, stocks, risottos and broths, it imparts an unctuous umami richness that gently warms the back of your dish’s flavor profile, lending depth and complexity.
I got the idea for a blog post on parmesan rinds walking through Whole Foods last weekend. They were selling a little plastic tub of four rinds for $6.
Rinds that usually come for free, attached to your parmesan.
I love Whole Foods; If I was rich I’d cruise through the aisles carefree, swatting organic shampoo and pencil-thin asparagus into my cart without a second thought. But even if I was rich, I’d still save my own parmesan rinds. Because frankly, it’s too easy not to. You’ve already forked over the dough for a block of cheese, they store well in the freezer and can be used without any fuss. Just designate a plastic bag in your freezer as your rind bag, whenever you come to the end of your parmesan wedge, carefully scrape off the plastic or wax (if there is any), and toss it into your bag. Pull out and use at will.
Here are a few uses for parmesan rinds. Be sure to gently scrape off any plastic or wax on the rind before using it, a sharp paring knife works well.
- Crostini: The parmesan rind, once stripped of its plastic, is entirely edible but often too hard to chew. Toast in the oven/toaster oven or over an open flame (like a cheesy s’more) and serve on crusty bread with a drizzle of olive oil.
- Infused oil: Wedge rind into a little jar, cover with olive oil, let rest over night. Remove the rind and reserve the liquid as an infused oil for pasta, dipping bread or salad dressing.
- Soups, stews and stocks: Stir into any soup or stew you could picture eating with a sprinkle of parmesan on top. Vegetable, mushroom, minestrone, Italian meatball, tomato, potato leek and kale and white bean soups are all excellent with parmesan rind. Fish out the rind before serving with a slotted spoon.
- Tomato sauce: Toss a rind into tomato sauce while it’s simmering on the stove, fish it out before serving with a slotted spoon.
- Risotto: Toss a rind into risotto while you are in the broth-adding phase, fish it out before serving with a slotted spoon.
- Broths and stocks: Parmesan can enhance stock and broths, or make its own. Gently simmer a rind for 30 minutes and remove with a slotted spoon, use the liquid for soups, stews or braising. Or just toss into whatever homemade stock you’ve got bubbling, remove with a slotted spoon when finished.
- For Fido: Cut up chunks of the cheese rind to use as dog treats.