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Cheese on Seafood?

I have heard chefs on TV say to never put cheese on seafood. I have seen countless recipes with cheese and I have seen chefs on TV put cheese on seafood.

So what is your opinion? Never use cheese?

If you do use cheese, are there guidelines for what kind of cheese and what kind of seafood?

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  1. I don't go by what other people say is supposed to be the "norm". Ever the experimenter, if I pair together something and it works for me, that is what I do. I like cheese with shellfish and I like to put parmesan in a breading for fish. I don't think a strong flavored cheese like a blue or sharp cheddar would work but mild flavored cheeses like parmesan, ricotta, or a queso fresco does...JMO

    1. Agree with Cheryl. The other night I did spaghetti with pesto which has cheese in it, and served it with roasted shrimp. We always heve cheese on our spags w/ clam sauce. Lobster + mac n cheese not bad. All depends what you feel like at the time. Never say never.

      1. I do recall this rule being asserted categorically by my Italian friends, but they relish categorical assertions about food, so I take the assertions with a grain of salt. But in fact, I don't put seafood and cheese together very often at all.

        I would never say never, though, because seafood and cheese are both such varied categories. We could flip the question around: does cheese in general go with all "land-animal food," ranging from insects to polar bear?

        But what would I do to experiment? A challenge to Cherylptw: would you go for seared sea scallop with blue-cheese sauce?

        2 Replies
        1. re: Bada Bing

          I haven't been on this thread since I first posted on it, but as I said originally, I wouldn't pair a strong flavored cheese with seafood as it would make it difficult to taste the seafood. I would, however, add blue cheese to say, a risotto then top it with seared scallops, just not make a sauce with it or coat it in the blue cheese.

          1. re: Cherylptw

            I had some really good coquilles st-jacques a few years ago, and it was topped with sharp cheddar cheese and mashed potatoes, with several varieties of seafood (shrimp, scallops, etc) underneath.

        2. only italians have this as a rule, and even they honor it as much in the breach as in the following

          indian cooking has paneer w/ fish or shrimp, greeks make shrimp saganaki, etcetcetc

          11 Replies
          1. re: thew

            and two of my favorite dishes, Lobster Thermidor and Coquille St. Jacques.......

            1. re: Rubee

              I need to add - it's a pet peeve - that what I find silly is when someone who didn't grow up with this regional Italian tradition in their household, "adopt" it and proclaim it as some golden rule. I had a discussion with someone who referred to Marcella Hazan (who I also love), but didn't have a response when I reminded him that she has a recipe for Oysters alla Parmigiana in her "Classic Italian" cookbook.

              I'm sorry, but I'm a Chowhound and love food too much to never eat Lobster Thermidor or Oysters Rockefeller, go to Greece and not order Shrimp Saganaki, go to France and not order Coquilles St. Jacques, etc. because someone 'heard' this or 'read' that people don't do this in Italy. I know I've run across dishes with anchovies and Pecorino in a couple of my authentic Italian cookbooks (in Rome maybe?). Oh, and I love tuna melts!

              1. re: Rubee

                Go Rubee, go! I'm with you on this one. But have to say;

                Sometimes cheese like bacon is used like a crutch. Dump a lot of cheese on something to make it appealing to the masses (visions of episodes of DDD)

                1. re: scubadoo97

                  Yup, or hide that old starting to turn, fish smell!!!

                2. re: Rubee

                  I'm with you on this Rubee. Speaking of recipes with seafood and cheese...I happened to see Anne Burrell's show yesterday (a re-run?) She made Linguine with Clam Sauce.. and to serve she shaved Parmigiano over top.

                3. re: Rubee

                  especially when it's Lobster Thermidor a Crevette, served with a Mornay sauce...

                  1. re: FrankD

                    served in a Provencale manner with shallots and aubergines garnished with truffle pate, brandy and with a fried egg on top and...............

                    1. re: sbp

                      I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you. There were a bunch of Vikings in the corner chanting..

                4. re: thew

                  Well I hate to break it to you but not all Italians adhere this so-called rule. Granted there are certain pairings that need to be carefully made, but to say that we never use cheese with seafood is just plain fallacy.

                  1. re: Gio

                    yes that's why i said it was more honored in the breach.

                    (more honor'd in the breach than in the observance - hamlet)

                  2. re: thew

                    "Only italians have this as a rule, and even they honor it as much in the breach as in the following."

                    Well said, thew, and despite my Italophilia, the combo is as good in some instances as it is bad in others. A dish of mussels steamed in robiola broth is among my most memorable.

                  3. It depends a lot on the cheese and the quantity of it. Parmesan on a seafood pasta dish is not out of the question, bleu cheese would be an abomination as it is too strong for the delicate flavor of the seafood.

                    1. Yeah, that's Scott Conant on Chopped, who loses him mind over this. Except when the required ingredients include seafood and cheese. Guess it's OK then.

                      In any event, it doesn't bother me, but as with any other ingredient, you need to match flavors that complement each other. I make a clam pizza - no mozzarella, but I do like to sprinkle with some pecorino romano or parmesan.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: sbp

                        Mario Batali isn't thrilled about it either.

                        1. re: sbp

                          It's not just Scott. Every judge on that show turns up their noses if cheese is pair with any seafood.

                          1. re: sbp

                            Scott Conant's Scarpetta will be opening in Vegas at the Cosmpolitan when it opens in December. Do you think he'll have a Tuna Melt on the menu?

                          2. Where i am it is relatively common to serve a cheese sauce (or rarebit topping) with fish - particularly haddock. Cheddar or Lancashire would be our usual cheese but I recently had a restaurant meal where there was rarebit topping to the fish, using a strong blue cheese. I was surprised that it worked without overpowering the fish too much.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Harters

                              If you appreciate the delicate sweet aroma and flavor of really fresh fish, skip the strong cheese; on previously frozen fish of seafood of questionable age; go with the cheese

                              1. re: Harters

                                the old Wheelers restaurants used to make Sole Florentine - grilled dover sole on spinach with a cheese sauce then grilled to brown the top. OMG it was amazing. I am assuming the sauce was cheddar but it was light and fairly thin.

                              2. I think Parmesan in particular with bivalves creates a metallic flavor, but I know some people do not have that same reaction.
                                Fresher cheeses IE. Jack, Paneer, Motz pair with seafood better than aged cheeses.

                                1. With all the different flavors of cheese and seafood, a "rule of thumb" like this strikes me as even more stupid and closed-minded than most rules of thumb. And that's quite a feat.

                                  ETA that rules of thumb are oftentimes a good thing. Unless they are followed blindly and not questioned.

                                  1. NEVER on seafood pasta. It was never even placed on the table growing up and God forbid one of us asked for it. We got a half hour dissertation on not putting cheese on fish/seafood.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: itryalot

                                      itralot....., As a kid, my next door neighbor was a true classic cook, I learned to eat hot pepppers, fritatta, drink sips of red wine, and as you said NEVER ask for cheese on the "Frutti di Mare Pasta. Looking back, what a treasure "Nonna Lena", was.

                                      1. re: itryalot

                                        my italian-american family had this same rule too. best explanation i came up with, much later in life, is that regions in italy that were coastal had little access to dairy and cheese. regions with copious dairy production were not near the sea. people ate what they had access to and food didn't travel like it does now. somehow it got translated to a culinary commandment.

                                        personally i don't care for creamy sauces with fish, but enjoy oysters rockefeller or clams casino just fine.

                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                          HOTO.......And another great regional tradition is born...........

                                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                                            Well, Campagna might be an exception—it's a coastal region and known, of course, for its buffalo mozz.

                                            That said, that's one cheese I don't think I've ever seen paired with seafood.

                                        2. I would think that Cajun spiced seafood could stand up to cheese, although I can't recall a dish that qualifies.

                                          1. I'm surprised no one has ever mentioned an alfredo dish. I mean, I can't think of a better way to enjoy grilled shrimp than resting upon a soft pile of fettuccine with a blanket of a light béchamel. If that's a sacrilege then shame on the Italians for inventing that one. I do recall the topic occurring once or twice in my home when we sat down to dine. My grandfather was 100% purebred Sicilian - and he would still sprinkle grated parma upon shrimp and spaghetti. Not overdo it, just lightly.

                                            He stated that it is uncommon to have cheese on seafood, but, some dishes it can be considered acceptable. I agree. I mean I wouldn't go melting cheddar on a gorgeous filet of grilled salmon. I wouldn't because simplicity is perfection on its own. Now, enjoying a fresh uncanned version of a tuna melt is a totally different experience. Swiss cheese on top of juicy fresh tuna..yum.

                                            2 Replies
                                              1. re: Chinon00

                                                Technically, you're correct, but since Bechamal is considered a "mother" sauce, many cooks will whisk in some type of cheese, and still call it a bechamel. I would suspect SG is talking about a variation on Mornay, with just parmesan, instead of parm and gruyere, but he/she could correct me.

                                            1. four words: cream cheese and lox. No way you are prying this pairing from my list of favorites!

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: smtucker

                                                Lox and schmear.... non e cibo Italiano...........lol

                                                1. re: smtucker

                                                  If only they could do an episode of Chopped with lox and someone pulled cream cheese from the pantry. "Who's the punk now, Conant? Huh? Huh?"

                                                2. Cheddar cheese grits with shrimp and andouille sausage gravy finished with green onions chopped and sprinkled on top. Looks great tastes better. Seafood and cheese can work.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. I grew up eating pasta with clam sauce with Parmesan passed at the table. I like it that way.

                                                    1. Let's not forget that Epicenter of gastronomy...McDonalds. Does no-one remember the Filet-O-Fish? Topped with a slice of injection molded AC.

                                                      1. I'm picking this up late, God I love Chowhound People, you're all right. I currently have a Chef in Training, Daughter, living and training in Orvietto, Italy. She has eaten in most of the various regions and both coasts. The enjoyment of micro-regional foods, prepared simply, can not be overstated. Coastal regions, lots of seafood, dairy not so much but is available/ use of Parm' Regg' not typical but Ricotta and Mozz' sometimes used. Interior regions, south, Pork/Wild boar plenty of Sheep and Goats milk cheese. North has most of the Beef and therefore the bulk of the Cows milk Cheese. Because super fresh seafood is not there the people just don't think to eat it, except Lent and Christmas. Foodnetwork guys just take the,"don't have it don't use it credo" WAY to far, not to mention the, "sauce as a condimento" thing! In AMERICA we get everthing from everywhere all year long so we CAN eat whatever we want, whenever we want and are Fat, Ignorant and Happy! Go USA! Crab and Shrimp Gnocci with Gorganzolla Cream Sauce and a bottle of Col De Sasso (Cab'/San Geov' blend) served Chilled, YUMMM, burrrp. JJ

                                                        1. Certain cheeses combined with certain fish either overwhelm the fish or replicate the flavor of vomit. It's just a prudent caution against the usual American "Everything tastes better doused with tons of cheese" approach to flavoring things. Try toasted, buttered/oiled bread crumbs for a change instead.

                                                          1. Generally I like cheese on seafood from a Filet of fish to linguine with clam sauce with parmesan.

                                                            However, the dish needs to be of a cheese-friendly ilk such as Italian. Cheese on sushi...I don't think so.

                                                            6 Replies
                                                            1. re: toomuchfat

                                                              Generally cheese on seafood is a no-no in Italy.

                                                              1. re: Chinon00

                                                                I'm third generation Italian, 100%, and I love grated cheese on Linguini and Clam Sauce, white or red.

                                                                1. re: Babyducks

                                                                  Maybe if you were first generation you'd get it. Again generally cheese on seafood in Italy is a no-no; despite any personal preference you might have.
                                                                  I worked in Pavia, Italy with an Italian who didn't drink wine. He didn't like it. Can we make any broad cultural conclusions based on that about Italian dining habits?

                                                                  1. re: Chinon00

                                                                    the flip is perhaps if one is 1st generation they cannot get it as they are hidebound by old traditions that may not actually make sense

                                                                    1. re: Chinon00

                                                                      One Italian doesn't drink wine and you want to draw conclusions? You're point is taken (over and over again).
                                                                      In some areas, some Italian dishes are made with cheese, ergo, cheese, in some cases, is acceptable with seafood.
                                                                      To make it a hard and fast no-no is being stubborn for stubborn-sake.
                                                                      I hooked my husband on our second or third date after making a kick-ass seafood alfredo! I can still taste it...

                                                                      1. re: monavano

                                                                        Not at all. I was making the opposite point. Moreover I've made no hard and fast rule but have stated repeatedly that "generally" cheese on seafood in Italy is a no-no. There are surely exceptions which I do acknowledge.

                                                              2. Absolutely yes. At Marea they pair lobster with a creamy stinky cheese, i cannot remeber the name of it though.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. My sister-in-law makes a crabmeat au gratin dish, and lets just say that I hope more people will refuse to eat cheese with seafood- because that will leave more for me!

                                                                  1. I gave a strawberry grouper I caught to a chef in Belize, and said use your imagination. He delivered 2 plated filets with pockets filled with runny gouda (I think) in a light tempura batter that were extraordinary.

                                                                    1. I agree with everyone who says "never say never." My husband puts cheese on seafood, I don't. We are both happy. Just do what tastes good.

                                                                      9 Replies
                                                                      1. re: silkenpaw

                                                                        That's the problem. Cheese makes things taste "good" just like frying does. Doesn't mean though that they didn't taste good beforehand.

                                                                        1. re: Chinon00

                                                                          why the quotation marks around good? is it not really tasting good? and if it does yaste good, isn't that the point? the question isn't if cheese is needed on seafood, but if it should never be used.

                                                                          1. re: thew

                                                                            I posted a seafood dish that uses cheese in this string. It can work but I understand and appreciate the argument against using it for some dishes; that it might mask the delicate oceany taste and aroma.

                                                                            1. re: Chinon00

                                                                              To my mind there are plenty of fish that have more assertive flavors than the beef, chicken, and pork that the average person eats.

                                                                              1. re: tommy

                                                                                Might be true, but I still understand and appreciate the argument against using it for SOME dishes; that it might mask the delicate oceany taste and aroma.

                                                                                1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                  Yup. Not debating your assertion. But rather the blanket statement and blanket argument, an argument that clearly fails with even a cursory review.

                                                                                  1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                    that's exactly the point. it is good, not "good" and a blanket proscription of cheese on seafood is pretty idiotic

                                                                                    1. re: thew

                                                                                      I used quotation marks because some people out there don't like cheese so I didn't want to make the broad statement.

                                                                                      1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                        then those quotation marks ought to go around all matters of taste. if it tastes good to you it tastes good, not "good"

                                                                        2. Does anyone know if Shrimp Parmigiana/Parmesan exists or originated in Italy?

                                                                          7 Replies
                                                                          1. re: fourunder

                                                                            I've never seen it. But I suspect somewhere during Italy's several thousand year history, someone applied cheese to seafood, and actually liked it. That person was no doubt adventurous, open-minded, intelligent, progressive, a bit of a maverick, and didn't subscribe to pointless paradigms.

                                                                              1. re: tommy

                                                                                It is more of a cultural/regional thing. In Puglia, a very poor region of Italy, they had very little dairy, but plenty of seafood and grew excellent wheat. So, what do you think happened? Bread crumbs on pasta, seafood, vegetables, etc. etc. In the North, Emilia Romagna, has scant seafood but, dairy is plentiful....result... butter, cheese, especially Parmigiano Reggiano, pigs, and fowl and beef were also abundant. I guess tradition resulted from "make do with what you have", and thus the old saying no cheese on seafood, no milk on the stomach in the afternoon, etc. Maybe "molecular gastronomy" will change all the years of regional traditional beliefs.....lol...

                                                                                1. re: ospreycove

                                                                                  Breadcrumbs as a topping for pasta still often eludes us here in the States—wheat on wheat?—but can be SO GOOD....

                                                                                  1. re: ospreycove

                                                                                    Ospreycove (now there's a name),

                                                                                    Thank you for the simple explanation. It explains why things have been so, not why they must be so.



                                                                                  2. re: tommy

                                                                                    Why is the fact that in certain seafood dishes cheese will mask flavors a "pointless paradigm"?

                                                                                    1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                      the pointless paradigm isn;t that "some seafood doesn't go with fish" it's that "one never ever puts cheese on seafood"