"So many cheeses, so little time," exclaims author and chef, Hallie Harron in the introduction to Cheese Hors D'Oeuvres. Cheese is one of our most versatile food ingredients, and Harron extends that versatility with imagination and creativity. Forget the slabs of the tried and true cheeses sitting on a board, Harron introduces the reader to the the magic of using cheeses in a new way, even as she explores the range of cheeses that are available to us. From soft and semi-soft, semi-firm and firm, to whey cheese and pasta filata cheese, she opens unexamined vistas for the use of each type of cheese.
For canapés and marinated cheeses that will be both exciting to taste and decorative on a cheese board, try Harron's Brie with a Pâté of Olives or her Stilton Marinated in Port, perhaps a Spanish Manchego Marinated in Red Wine and Herbs. Is this the same old cheese board?
One of the most popular uses of cheese is as the basis of a dip, and Harron gives us variations that go beyond the standard without asking too much of the cook. Try a Warm and Tangy Shrimp Spread that can be served on endive leaves, or Caesar Takes a Dip, "the stand-up way to serve the famous salad." Harron suggests serving this with romaine leaves and a bowl of dippable croutons. If you want a glamorous dip the will be the center of a buffet table, find a glass bowl and make Six-Layer Southwestern Dip, a layered dip with chorizo sausage, refried black beans, avocado and cheeses such as pepper Jack cheese, sour cream and cream cheese.
Cheeses are cooked as well as served cold, and Harron suggests such recipes as Sausage and Cheese Mini Brochettes for an exciting backyard dish made with Haloumi cheese which holds up to flames without melting, or a Warm Camembert and Apple Appetizer which is made ahead and rewarmed before serving. For lovers of the Mexican, there is So-Cal Quesadillas with Queso Fresco and Avocado, while for The Best Grilled Cheese, Harron offers a Tartine, made with four types of cheese and prosciutto.
Cheese is a faithful friend when baking. There are recipes such as Parmesan Biscotti, a savory way of serving an old-time treat, White Cheddar Gougères, or Cheese Straws made with Gouda cheese. Harron tells us that the latter is a fine do-ahead recipe as the unbaked dough will keep for two months in the freezer and are ready to be baked when a "crowd knocks at the door." Surprise the chip-lover in your life with a Cheddar-Pecorino Crisp flavored with Rosemary, an exciting replacement on that same-old, same-old table of packaged chips.
Harron includes a chapter about cheese basics and a table of measurement equivalents for easy conversion. Her recipes are clearly written for ease of preparation. There are photographs throughout by Jerry Errico to guide the cook and suggest elegant presentation.