Frico. Think of it as a cross between a crouton and a cracker. In 100% cheese form. What could be bad about that?
Frico is an Italian thing. It's basically a crispy wafer of cheese, or a cheese crisp. Leave it to those genius Italians to come up with something that makes everything taste better, with such little effort.
But what you don't typically see is frico as a garnish, as seen here, for mac n' cheese. Try it on other pastas, as you would freshly grated parmigiano, or atop risotto, soups, salads, and vegetable sides. Simply crumble, and sprinkle.
Think of it as a crispy, toasty cheese topper. Treat it as any other finishing touch, like fresh herbs or a drizzle of really nice olive oil: it's a great, easy way to complete a dish and bring it to an even better place. The ultimate garnish.
Making frico is as easy as it gets. Start by grating some Parmigiano Reggiano (other cheeses that work: domestic parmesan, montasio, and piave) on the smallest holes of a box grater or with a microplane. Sprinkle the cheese in an even layer on a slipat-lined baking sheet. The silpat is great for this, but if you don't have one, parchment paper works, too. Bake at 375 until golden around the edges and set, about 10 minutes. You can also heat the cheese in an even layer in a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat, but I think the oven-plus-silpat method works best.
Let cool, and carefully slide an offset spatula beneath the crisp to release. Traditionally, it's served as a standalone crisp. You can also mold the frico to form a small cup by draping it over the back of a small bowl while still warm and maleable, and then use it as an edible vessel for risotto or gnocchi.
Making frico is a great way to get rid of extra parm that might be getting old or dried out in your fridge. It tastes toasty and nutty, with a mellowed saltiness in comparison to the cheese in its raw form.
Nora Singley used to be a cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop in New York City, where she continues to teach cheese classes for the public. She is currently a TV Chef on The Martha Stewart Show.
(Image: Martha Stewart)