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Peeved about Parmesan Cheese

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A pet peeve,
I get periodic recipes from various sources & it seems that EVERYTHING I'm getting for baked chicken or fish nowadays ALWAYS incorporates PARMESAN CHEESE. What's this fixation on Parmesan Cheese? There have to be at least 40,000 different cheeses out in the world & all I see is Parmesan. What gives? Secondly, why use cheese at all for such mildly flavored foods? Why mask the natural flavor of the dish?

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  1. A clever conspiracy by parmesan cheese makers: it's a way to get people to spend more on a product that, as you point out, doesn't add much flavor (actually, it does it you use fresh, real Parmesan but I suspect the recipes are pushed by some corporation like Kraft).

    Why this cheese? I suspect that since it's a dry cheese it keeps well and therefore can be more easily packaged and sold.

    2 Replies
    1. re: tardigrade

      Actually, willypete said chicken and fish are mild tasting, not Parmesan.

      1. re: tardigrade

        And when you live in non-urban areas, Parm may be the only hard cheese in your stores.

      2. Parm has a great nutty flavor and adds a lot to say a breaded and fried piece of chic, veal or pork. You should sub and experiement with other hard dry cheeses but, never never the stuff in the green can.

        1. Why not leave it out or substitute with the cheese of your choice? Surely nobody is making you use it.

          I hardly ever use Parmesan much preferring Pecorino Romano for it's stronger flavor.

          2 Replies
          1. re: kengk

            Agreed - I prefer Pecorino.

            1. re: kengk

              I like peccorino better as well.

            2. I guess I'm what you might call a "minimalist", when it comes to using individual fresh ingredients, I want to taste the flavor of the item, use only the minimum of spices, etc., to accentuate the flavor & not mask it with extraneous stuff, which I was peeving about. The recipes of which I was citing are a waste of time to me, irritating & wasting space. Just venting. Parm is good for a lot of things, but so are other cheeses, which don't seem to be on the "PC menus".

              1. I'm a huge fan of genuine parmigiano, but I do agree that the couple of times I tried it in baked chicken or fish dishes, I wasn't eager to repeat. Actually, I think there was one chicken dish where the writer insisted that the recipe needs that parmesan that comes pre-grated in the green shaker can (something I never have around and cannot remember the name, but it's iconic in America). Anyway, I really didn't like that--seemed too salty and just too bold in an uninteresting way.

                But your other point about chicken flavor almost seems contradictory: especially as regards breast meat, chicken is mild to the point of near-flavorlessness. That stuff needs something!

                Another idea: I know Cook's Illustrated recently took up the task of creating a less sweet version of the 80s-craze chicken marbella, which got rolling from the silver palate cookbook and seemed very novel in its time. No parmesan!

                1. Parmesan cheese is fairly high in glutamate so it adds umami to the finished dish.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: kmcarr

                    Exactly what I was going to say. It adds umami to many mild tasting things like fish & chicken, and also a welcome dose of saltiness that, IMHO, many bland dishes need.

                    1. re: kmcarr

                      Hey, good to know! So that's specific to Parmesan?

                      1. re: c oliver

                        Other cheeses will contain varying amounts of free glutamates but parmesan is probably the highest among commonly available cheeses. Higher levels of free glutamate are generally associated with aged or fermented high protein foods. The aging required for Parmigiano-Reggiano allows time for release of free glutamate by breakdown of the milk proteins.

                        1. re: kmcarr

                          That's such interesting info. Thanks for sharing.