Cheddar has myriad uses in everyday American cooking. That’s a no-brainer.
Why wouldn’t you put cheddar into the 1,0001 things we put cheddar in, like macaroni and cheese, casseroles, baked potatoes, stuffed bell peppers, Americanized Mexican food, grilled cheese sandwiches, and apple pie?
In much of our cooking, shredded or sliced cheddar is an ingredient—one you dare not leave out. But what about when we use cheddar not just for its cheesy, melty goodness, but for its ability to enhance the flavor of whatever it is we’re eating it with, on, or in?
That’s where these five little recipe ideas come in handy. Think of them as tips for taking the thing that is already good on its own, and taking it up a notch. (That notch just happens to be cheddar in all of its glory.)
Cheddar can of course mean that bright orange stuff you get from the grocery store—NOT American cheese, which is an imposter and not really even cheese; I’m talking about actual cheddar cheese, probably made in Wisconsin, that is colored with annatto. But you can also use a sharp white cheddar or a medium white cheddar; an earthy English cheddar or a faintly salty coastal cheddar; a goat’s milk cheddar; a cheddar-and-Gruyere mélange; the cheddar you made in your basement.
You see, cheddar is such a big category of cheeses that there are oodles of possibilities within the realm of just using different kinds of cheddar.
So go wild, my friends. Cheddar it up.
You might be thinking, “duh, everyone already knows that!”
But it’s one thing to shred or grate cheese over your breakfast eggs. It’s yet another to shave curls of English cheddar over soft eggs, to stir herb-and-garlic cheddar cheese curds in with piping hot scrambled eggs, or to shave a slab of aged cheddar right into the middle of an omelet.
The sharper the cheddar, the deeper the contrast you will have with the natural flavor of the eggs. Plus, annatto-colored cheddars provide a splash of color to the yellow-and-white palette of the plate.
The possibilities for eggs and cheddar are boundless. Seriously, there’s room to be creative; we haven’t eaten everything yet!
Cheddar can be used to enhance polenta in much the same way as in cheesy grits. They are essentially the same thing, anyway.
When it is cooked like hot porridge, all you have to do is stir cheddar in with the gooey polenta. Eating this once will make you passionate about polenta–something you probably never imagined would be a thing.
When it is served as a loaf, you can shave cheddar over the top of each slice of polenta, or grate the cheese over the top. Serve the slices with a drizzle of truffle- or chile-infused olive oil, and maybe a sprinkle of finishing salt and a pinch of cracked pepper.
You might think I’m crazy for this one, but I don’t even care. A nice slice of lightly toasted bread, slathered with your favorite raspberry, blackberry, strawberry, or fig jam: it sounds good, but you know how to make it better?
Get out your cheese planer and shave coastal cheddar over the top of the jam—just a few shavings, no need to get heavy-handed. The cheddar adds an interesting counter-balance to the sweet-and-wheat flavors to which we are so used.
Maybe even try something funky like Farmer’s Five or that cheddar-and-blue miracle of pressed cheese known as Huntsman. Huntsman and Farmer’s Five are softer than your typical coastal cheddar, and so will do better shredded with the large grating hole of a cheese grater.
This idea also includes toast with peanut butter and jam. Or just toast with peanut butter. Cheddar is a natural ally for both and for all!
You’ll thank me after you try it.
- Roasted Root Vegetables
It’s February-going-on-March, which means it’s still technically root-vegetable season. Roasting your roots is a great way to eat them, and covering them in cheddar is an ever better way to get the job done.
Now don’t let potatoes get all the love; there are other roots out there, like parsnips, turnips, sweet potatoes, rutabagas, carrots, beets, and kohlrabi. All of the above do well roasted whole or roasted in slices, drizzled with olive oil, salt, pepper, and maybe some Italian seasoning or herb de Provence.
Once the roots are cooked so that they are easily pierced by the tines of a fork, dust them a fine grating of hard cheddar or a snow of shredded, softer cheddar. Whatever variety of cheddar you pick to paint your palette of pretty little roots, the salty, milky, creamy, nutty, earthy or sharp notes of the cheese will strike a balance with the earthy, nutty, green, spicy, or dusky flavors of the roasted roots.
And hey, it’s healthy!
- Mashed or Riced Cauliflower
You know what else is healthy? Cauliflower.
And apparently cauliflower is all the rage right now as a substitute for rice, pasta, and potatoes. Trader Joe’s is even selling both riced cauliflower and riced broccoli for a variety of cruciferous grain wannabes.
So then it follows that you would treat these healthy substitutes the same way you would treat their “lesser” counterparts, right?
Instead of macaroni and cheese, why not cheesy riced cauliflower? Shred the cheddar, stir it in; season with the spices you enjoy.
After all, you shouldn’t have to curb your cheddar intake just because you’re consuming alternative foods. And honestly, you shouldn’t need to be gluten-free to need an excuse to eat more cauliflower. (Cheesemonger-diet stamp of approval!)
These are a few options, but we all know there are many more. What else would you put cheddar on? Breakfast waffles? Oatmeal? Pan-seared tuna steaks?
The more unconventional the idea, the better!