Leftover Cheese

In the cheese world we tend to put a lot of emphasis on cheese by itself - pretty looking cheese, cheese plates and cheese courses. This is all well and good but if you're like me you might serve a cheese plate at a dinner party or whatever.....and then you end up with all of these leftover pieces of cheese. Generally, at least in my case, these bits tend to sit for months on end because I feel too guilty to throw them out...until I am, finally, forced to dispose of them because they've dessicated to hard unrecognizable bits. In an effort to use up what I have, throw less away and diversify, I've come up with some ideas for using up leftover cheese and I thought I'd share them with you.

1. Make Grilled Cheese  Call it a legacy from childhood, but I tend to get caught up in the idea that a grilled cheese, by definition, can only have one kind of cheese in it. Usually cheddar. But now that all of us are grown up and evolved, it's time to break the chains of severe recipe myopia and - gasp - combine cheeses in one sandwich. Seriously, combining cheeses makes for some great flavor combinations. Just the other day I combined some sharp cheddar, Juniper Grove Tumalo Tomme and La Mariposa Cinquo Esquinas and the results were outstanding. (xtra tip: grate small amounts of cheese for quicker melting).

2.  Baking Projects   Some cheese shops and restaurants deal with cheese leftovers by using them in products like crackers or pastries. This is a really easy way to do something with stray bits of cheese - plus it makes for a fun, kid-friendly project. Most comprehensive cookbooks have recipes but here's one I like here and another here.

3.  Dogs Love Cheese  I have yet to meet a dog that doesn't love little bits of extra cheese and/or cheese rinds. In moderation, of course! If you have backyard chickens, they will eat cheese too -  a favorite trick of cheesemakers is to feed the bad experiments to the chickens.

4. Fondue  Yes, the classic fondues require Emmenthaler and Gruyere - and I wouldn't necessarily stray from these base cheeses altogether because they guarantee good consistency - but go ahead and throw in some of that Mt. Townsend Trailhead or WSU Cougar Gold. Any good melting cheese will work here.

5.  Grate it and Melt it  If you usually grate cheddar on your chili dogs you'll probably really like Fontina, for example. Small amounts of grated cheese add a nice protein boost to salads as well. Grate cheese over a bit of pasta for lunch, or think bruschetta. Potatoes Au Gratin. The possibilities are as limited - oops, I mean as unlimited - as your imagination.

6.  Add Rinds to Soups  This is a classic technique of Italian cuisine - add the rinds of Parmigiano Reggiano to a soup like Minestrone for a savory flavor boost (recipe example here). Use leftover rinds of any naturally rinded aged cheese - i.e. a style of cheese not coated in plastic to protect the rind during the aging process.

7.   Fricos  Have you ever made Parmesan Crisps (aka Fricos)? These are really simple to make and deliver impressive results, and the recipe will work other styles of harder aged cheeses (i.e. low moisture cheeses) as well. Do a Google search for recipes or find one here.

8. Lunches  Think outside the sandwich box: take that small leftover hunk of Rogue River Blue with you to work, along with a pear and some good bread and call it exceptional. A nice alternative to the same ol' carrot sticks or - worse - plastic-packaged string cheese. Or if you want to go all out do a classic Ploughman's Lunch with cheese, bread, chutney and pickled vegetables.

Do you have other ideas or techniques for using up leftover cheese? Leave a comment and let us all know.