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December 15, 2021
Chill Your Cheddar. Your Salad Will Thank You.
Artical-Cheddar and Frisee

A quick stop in the freezer will make sure your ribbons of cheese stay crisp by the time the salad hits the table.

A skilled cheesemonger will tell you without flinching that eating cold cheese right out the fridge is a very bad idea. We’re so often advised to remove those wedges from the refrigerator an hour before serving them because, when cold, the texture of Stilton or Manchego is too firm and the flavor too subdued for our hardworking little flavor buds. I believe in all that, especially when it comes to putting together a good cheese plate for a crowd, or even solo enjoyment.

When cheese gets closer to our body’s temperature, its unique aromas bloom, and its texture can soften and become spreadable, not only on a cracker but also on our palate. A Gruyère can smell deeply savory, like bone marrow, and a washed-rind cheese can be super yeasty (and funky, even rude) and spreadable, like butter. But serving chilled cheese can also be delicious, specifically when it’s really, really cold—like straight from the freezer.

I’m not suggesting serving a whole frozen wheel of ultrarich Fromager d’Affinois brie. C’mon! But in small, thin shavings, cheeses like aged cheddar or even a creamy blue cheese can lift up a salad with ease. Even a simple smattering of dressed frisée can become enriched with a few well-placed curls of chilled cheddar.

Cheddar and Frisee

Chilled, thin shavings of cheddar keep things light and fresh while cutting the cheese’s typical sharp tang and nuttiness into smaller, more excitable bursts in this salad. That first bite is going to be fun, cooling, and light against the tangle of unruly mustard-dressed frisée. Chilled cheddar has a firm texture that gives way to a fleetingly cool body, but as it warms and melts, it’s like tasting the cheddar’s evolution, its spectrum of textures and flavors—going from light and brisk to soft and melty.

The chilled cheddar’s cooling bite is also a fresh juxtaposition against the bitter greens in this salad. Each forkful is a mixture of tangy mustard vinaigrette–dressed leaves and cooling, brisk, and eventually soft cheese bites.

My main recipe advice here is that, because we live in a warm world (and kitchens tend to be warm rooms), you’re going to want to serve this salad immediately—at least the cheese portion. You can dress the salad up to 20 minutes ahead of time. But once the cheese shavings come out of the freezer, get that salad to the table ASAP, because that chilling effect is fleeting.

Some of my best friends are cheesemongers, but the next time you ask one for salad advice, remember that they have the monopoly on cheese, not salads.

RECIPE: Chilled Cheddar and Frisée Salad

Christian Reynoso

Christian is a California based chef, writer, and freelance recipe developer. He spent the last five years cooking as sous chef at Zuni Café. He has a bi-monthly cooking column in the San Francisco Chronicle and has words in Edible Magazine, Food52, and Epicurious. When he's not at home he's traveling to Mexico, exploring its cuisine and his heritage.