Do you invite people to your home for dinner, or do you break into a January-in-Minnesota sweat at the thought? I love eating in restaurants, but the nights spent with friends and family in our home, or in theirs, are the best of all. When I was a newlywed, I was so excited to be a grown up that I almost killed myself preparing elaborate dinner parties in tiny kitchens. I don’t regret those experiences one bit, but these busy days, I prefer to keep it simple. I think my guests have more fun and I know that I do.
Especially when the dinner party is spontaneous! I just love a last-minute dinner party, when guests pitch in with the chopping, and setting the table, and we all sit around chatting and relaxed. Hear this Minnesotans: There is no need for fancy appetizers before dinner! Sometimes I think the pressure of fussy appetizers kills a party more than the dinner itself. Pop some bubbles and set out some salty nuts, raw vegetables, and a slab of good butter. Delicious. Done.
Or make frico! If you keep a block of Parmesan cheese in your fridge, you’re ready to impress in mere minutes. Frico is basically fried grated cheese, toasted in a pan to a crisp wafer of whoa, ready in five minutes or less. Slide the golden crunchy cheese onto a plate and let your guests break off pieces to devour between sips of wine.
It’s lovely to fry a bit of sage in the pan before sprinkling in the cheese. Ditto stirring around a bit of garlic. This Melissa Clark version from the New York Times jumped right out at me a couple of weeks ago. Isn’t the scorched zucchini pretty? It’s also a nice foil for the richness of all that toasted cheese. Clark’s introduction didn’t put me off either: WHY there is no cult devoted to crunchy fried cheese is beyond me. It’s as rich as bacon or pork belly, as crisp as chicken wings, and as tempting as a foie gras doughnut.
I couldn’t agree more!
Melissa Clark, New York Times
olive oil, for brushing
1 medium Romanesco zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
4 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated medium-fine (about 1 cup)
fresh basil leaves
cracked black pepper
Brush a large nonstick skillet with oil and heat over medium-high until hot. Arrange half the zucchini rounds in a single layer, allowing about an inch of space between them. Cook, without moving them, until undersides are dark golden, about 2 minutes. Carefully slip and cook until golden, about 2 minutes more.
Sprinkle half the cheese evenly over zucchini and into the spaces between it. Cook, without moving, until cheese looks lacy and translucent, and no longer sticks to the pan, about 5 minutes. Tip the skillet and using a spatula, gently help slide the frico in one piece onto a large plate. Sprinkle with torn basil and finish with pepper. Repeat with remaining zucchini and cheese. Break into pieces to serve.