A few years ago when I finished graduate school, my foodie friends Meghana and Vikram gifted me a super fancy cookbook titled “The French Laundry Cookbook”. The author, Thomas Keller, is the chef/proprietor of the renowned French Laundry restaurant in Napa Valley, among other fine dining restaurants. Starting his kitchen journey as a dishwasher, he climbed his way up to be a chef and restaurateur, currently holding 7 Michelin stars between 3 restaurants, and is also a James Beard award winner. Both the food and the photography in this book are brilliant. Every dish is elegant and is beautifully plated. Vikram and Meghana themselves are artists with food, and this wonderful gift from them is simply full of food art.
One of the recipes that caught my eye was a goat cheese mousse served in parmesan crisps. The combination of delicate crispy parmesan and the goat cheese seemed like a great idea, but I thought I’d try to make it just a little bit healthier by adding some greens. I still wanted to have the goat cheese component without making the mousse, so I made a goat cheese salad dressing.
The Parmesan crisps in the original recipe are prepared by melting the Parmesan cheese in the oven, but I didn’t want to heat up the oven just for that, so I decided to try this on the stove top. It was really quick and easy, with extremely satisfying results.
Parmesan cups (for each cup)
~¼ cup (loosely packed) finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese.
Freshly grated from a block of Parmesan is best for this because it is not as dry and you can grate it finely, however pre-shredded fresh Parmesan would work. Don’t use the dry granulated “grated Parmesan” sold in the plastic canisters.
Any other ingredients of your choice!
Goat cheese salad dressing
1 Tbsp soft goat cheese
1 tsp honey
1 tsp lemon juice
Heat a nonstick pan over low-medium heat. Sprinkle the grated cheese evenly in a 6” circle. Don’t leave any big gaps. Let the cheese melt and get bubbly. Take the pan off heat after ~2 minutes (once the bubbling reduces and cheese starts to change color). Using a thin spatula, gently start peeling the Parmesan crisp from one side. Once you lift it a little, you can peel the rest of it carefully with your hands. Don’t worry if it breaks - you can use the broken pieces of the Parmesan crisp to top any salads unless you scarf them down while making the next one like I did.
Quickly place the hot Parmesan “sheet” on an inverted bowl and press on the edges gently but firmly to form the “cup”. Hold for a minute until hardened then take it off the bowl. Now step back and admire your awesome lacy edible creation!
Combine all the salad ingredients. Make the dressing by mixing the goat cheese, honey and lemon juice. Adjust the amounts to taste. Theres a lot of room to get creative with the salad ingredients as well as the dressing!
Carefully add the salad to the Parmesan cups and drizzle the goat cheese dressing on top.
This would make a perfect dinner party first course since it is not time intensive. The parmesan cups are fairly quick to make - the only time consuming step is grating the cheese. The cups can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container. The salad and the dressing can also be made ahead of time and stored separately in the refrigerator. Just put together all the components right before the meal and get ready to impress your guests.