American cooking has generally become matched with certain types of cheeses with a high rate of availability. That’s the economic reality. Although a vast number of cheeses commonly exist, such as the wonderfully subtle Asiago variety, new cheeses tend to be slow to catch on despite being well worth incorporating into kitchen meals. Quite a lot of effort would have to be directed to get the American diet to incorporate more cheesy goodness onto its dinner plate, and so the old favorites prevail for their own defining set of versatile reasons.
Literally, “mountain king common,” Monterey Jack was originally marketed by David Jacks, a 19th century businessperson whom helped bring fame to this California cheese by exporting it from Monterey Co., California. The idea came from queso del país, artisan-made by Franciscan monks who brought the recipe to the state in the 1700s.
A popular and favorite mild, white cheese, Monterey Jack makes a great platter item served all by itself or with snack crackers.
Its certain favor for imparting Mexican cuisine with luxurious cheesy flavor generally suits any but not every need for mild cheese, and Monterey Jack makes an ideal choice to melt or toast. It can often be used as an effective substitute for cheddar but not the other way around, proving its versatility.
Something about canned black olives and Monterey Jack just naturally seem to complement each other. It also works exceptionally well browned on sandwiches, going well with Swiss, Colby, or even American cheese. Monterey Jack also treats pickles right.
Dry Jack has been aged at least six more months than Monterey Jack and has a fuller flavor with more notable accents.
Not to be ignored, cottage cheese supplies both a delicate and tasty processed cheese for stuffing many dishes. Salads, gelatins, lasagnas and layered dishes, … and Italian Casserole. Eating Well suggests spinach cakes, pierogis, deviled eggs, and cheesecakes.
Also try cottage cheese in baking as a milk substitute.
Of all the cheeses, nothing quite prevails like orange-yellow American processed cheese. Perhaps it’s not due to the whimsical, salty flavor that tastes so separate from accouterments of any meal it has been served with.
American cheese comes in large block form — American processed cheese — but can also be enjoyed from individually-wrapped slices and individually-sliced stacks packaged in convenient sizes. A flavorful cream-colored version can also be found.
It makes a good sandwich and has an acceptable following for cheese sauce dishes, but it’s not distinctive enough to draw an all-purpose epicurean following for use with specialty platters.
The great favorite that says “cheese” to most, Cheddar may be the most popular cheese in America veritably alongside popular blends of pizza cheeses.
Of all cheeses, soft orange Cheddar expresses itself with delightful tang in a host of varieties that include mild, medium, sharp, and extra-sharp. And if cheddar ever gets dull and boring, specialty Cheddar can also be bought in white varieties that also delight gastronomic regard.
Cheddar graces our salads, tops our casseroles, spritzes up our snack platters, spices up our snack chips, flavors otherwise bland soups, and readily makes a snappy toasted cheese sandwich. When mixing cheese with vegetables or macaroni cheese, it’s usually Cheddar cheese — unless it’s American.
Thought to have originated from an old 10th century Irish scroll and now popular world-wide, Muenster cheese offers a mild cheese with a distinctive mellow flavor like some vague something out of a brewery. So it serves well as a snack food alone or with crackers and incidentally goes well with beer.
Considered a versatile cheese, it can be used to top meat casseroles, meat, or just plain grilled on a bread of choice.
Its Mexican counterpart (which can be substituted) is queso criollo.
Mozzarella and provolone
Beloved both served on pizza and for many a casserole, these cheeses have gained adoration for how well they complement a zesty pizza sauce, meats, and certain vegetable or mushroom ingredients. They also get high marks for their gooey flavor, spiked with a subtle pungent flavor that picks up some flavor from herbs used in the sauce component of the dish.
Provolone makes a good sandwich unheated, and if melted, both provide a sandwich or a sub with their own unique savory sloppy stringiness.
Holy cow, but this cheese has its own personality!
A fetid or slightly sour/off-flavor cheese in its own right, it has the barest of commonalities with Limburger, Munster, and Feta that veer off into distinctive pungence.
Also try Swiss cheese in French Onion Soup with garlic or garlicky cheese bread browned under the oven broiler.
Swiss also performs wonderfully as a sandwich cheese. Try it on Pumpernickle rye with sauerkraut and corned beef on a Reuben sandwich.
Named after a town in Wisconsin where it originated, Colby cheese offers a delicately mild, unusually textured flavor of cheese without the certain tang of cheddar.
In terms of texture, it could precisely be called the polystyrene of cheeses, which is to say nothing about its smooth flavor, except to say that a milder cheese comes few and far between.
Colby cheese serves well cubed on a platter or served on sandwiches. Its mild disposition doesn’t interfere with pickled toppings nor does it alter them. In effect, the cheese pairs much better with pungent toppings such as prepared horseradish or served with hot-peppered relish by helping dilute the flavor most discreetly.
Feta and Telemes cheeses
Genuine Feta cheese, pailed from goats-milk, should really be distinguished from Telemes cheese pailed from cows-milk, whether or not trade rules make that distinction.
Feta goes great with cooked food from pastries to pasta, meat dishes, and salads raw or with ad-hoc cooked meats and/or hard boiled eggs. Its versatility has been hailed to be good for baking as well. For example, it can be added to cornbread batter prior to cooking.
Feta has a sour, salty disposition instead of a tang complete with hidden creaminess just subtle enough to question wanting any.
A visual inspection basically identifies Feta cheese to be the tofu of cheeses, often packed as a cheesecloth-impressioned cake in waterproof rectangular containers.
Used often with pasta sauces both in combination and sprinkled as a topping, Parmesan has earned fame for being a hard cheese used in grating applications to add more flavor. As a hard cheese, its range of uses becomes necessarily limiting.
For example, though Parmesan cheese can be sprinkled on a sandwich, it would be much more likely to be sprinkled over a sauced dish such as pizza, Alfredo pasta, or carbohydrate-bludgeoned carbonara sauce, where it serves as a thickening agent.
Parmesan doesn’t have to be an expensive cheese, at least according to Reader’s Digest. At an economical $12 per pound, it can still fit the budget because it’s not used in large quantity. That’s still cheaper than a number of common household spices.
As an indication of quality, some Parmesan cheeses are saltier than others, which distinguishes a natural creaminess from the case of preservative filler (you’ll use a whole lot more on foods in search of reconnecting with the missing flavor of yore). Not to name names or anything, but differences in Parmesan quality are nothing short of stunning.
The best use of cream cheese as it concerns cooking would certainly be as a substitute for cream or a substitute for sauce cheese. Or otherwise, it would be a preferred dessert cheese with applications both baked and uncooked.
For example, use cream cheese if you only have the greater portion of a sharp cheese — or use it if you only have the lesser portion of a mild cheese — toward completing a sauce-portion of a recipe, but because it doesn’t brown up tasty like other cheeses. So if putting it in lasagna, it would be better blended in with ricotta and Parmesan than it would be used to top the dish with the remaining bag of an Italian cheese blend.
Many chefs find the most available of cheeses to be the ones worth cooking with. And cost is not much of an obstacle to using these cheeses regularly. A rather impressive number of dishes are popularly served with cheese, and the cheeses described above can serve and substitute all but the most savory of authentic gourmet intentions. Try something new and take your palate to explore one of the top delicious ingredients on any shopping list. Check out the cheeses.