I held my first "real" dinner party this last weekend. I've had people over for drinks and dinner before but never had I had to plan to cook for 9 people.
When friends know you write a food blog, the pressure is on to deliver something not only tasty, but interesting as well. I've had a few ideas brewing in my head that I've saved up for the dinner party. I'll post one or two of these recipes each day this week so you can join the party virtually.
The opener was a dish I'd thought of after combining the idea of tuilles, those little "bent" almond cookies that you curl by hanging over a rolling pin as they cool, with the idea of parmesan crackers, bits of parmesan melted down and allowed to cool into a flat cracker that's used in other dishes. "If man can bend a cookie, he can make a cone of 100% cheese," I always say. Well, now I do.
Big caution here - this is NOT a recipe for kids. You very well may burn yourself trying to create the cones. I got a hot finger reaction a few times, but came through relatively unscathed. I'm not advising you try making these cones, but I will tell you how to make them if you wish to try.
Try other fillings for these cones. There's plenty of good salads or mousses that would fill a cone made entirely from parmesan cheese. I topped mine with a garlic and herb creme fraiche to give the appearance of ice cream cones.
Parmesan Cones serves 10
1 pound good Parmesan, not ground or shredded
1 red onion
5-6 plum tomatoes
3/4 can chickpeas
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup olive oil or to taste
1/4 cup lemon juice or to taste
1 cup chopped parsley
1 cup creme fraiche
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
12-15 basil leaves, chopped fine
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
sheets of heavy paper and some non-toxic tape
Do the cones the night before or when you have time to fix mistakes.
My wife has these handy Girl Scout pads around that are about 1/4 the size of an ordinary 8.5" x 11" or A4-ish sheet of paper - (about 8.5" x 2.75"). A sheet of paper from one of these rolls up very easily into a cone which can be secured with a piece of tape. Make two or four of these. You should expect these to be destroyed during the forming process by the oil from the Parmesan cheese, so it's always good to have more on hand.
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Shred your Parmesan with a box grater while the oven preheats.
You could make the cone directly on a SilPat or a cookie sheet, but putting parchment down lets you lift the cooling parmesan away from the still hot metal to cool it more quickly.
On a baking sheet covered with parchment, spread about 1/2 cup of the shredded Parmesan on a circle leaving no uncovered gaps in the circle. Don't spread it too thick or it won't melt evenly, but don't leave big gaps because the cones will not hold together. I got two circles per large cookie sheet.
Put the sheet in the oven for three-5 minutes until the Parmesan has melted and the cheese is just starting to take on color. Remove the sheet from the oven.
Let the cheese cool until it starts to cohese. Test the edges with a thin spatula to see if the Parmesan is too gooey to move or if it is solid, yet pliable. When it is solid, lift the cheese circle off the sheet with a spatula and hold it in the air for a few seconds to let it cool further.
Here's wher you must be careful and be prepared to back out if you've misjudged the temperature of the cheese - Put your hand into the paper cone you've prepared and wrap the cheese circle into a cone around it. Hold in this position for twenty to thirty seconds until it cools even more. Then, hold the cheese itself in your hand, and remove the paper. Place the Parmesan cone inside the paper cone and set the lot into a cup or mug to cool.
Repeat until you have ten cones. You may destroy the cones during the process and the tape will certainly not hold forever, but the paper should develop "memory" during the process so the tape will be less necessary.
If you mess up a cone, don't worry about it. Remelt the cheese from the cone and start over. Make a couple extra cones for backup.
Once the cones are formed make the salad.
Dice the tomatoes, and onions into small 1/2" - 3/4" pieces. Add the chickpeas and parsley to the tomatoes and onions and toss to mix.
In a cup, mix the olicve oil and lemon together to make a dressing. I use a cup with a lid and shake well to combine the two. Taste and adjust the oil and lemon to suit.
Pour the dressing on the salad and toss. Salt and peper to taste.
Next the creme fraiche. If you are unable to find creme fraiche, you can use a 50/50 mix of plain yogurt and sour cream. Mix the garlic and basil into the creme fraiche.
To assemble the dish, place the Parmesan cone into a cup. Use a slotted spoon to add salad to fill the cone, and place some salad in the cup itself. Top with a good teaspoon of the creme fraiche and serve.