I’m a broth head. A mug filled with smoky hot tasty liquid satisfies me no matter the time of day. I can only drink it out of a mug in the morning. I like a cup of broth with a sandwich or with a salad. One of my all-time favorite pairings is a cold steel bowl of Korean naengmyeon and a mug filled with beef broth served from a thermos. I use broth as a flavor enhancer: a little bit of vegetable stock in a pasta primavera, chicken stock risotto or some beef broth topped with some sautéed vegetables. I store broth in my freezer and in the fridge so I can use them in an instant. “It’s the magic juice,” a chef once told me about chicken stock. Meat and vegetable broth changes everything. But can you make a broth of cheese? Is it crazy? The answer to both questions, my friends, is a hell of a yes.
Parmesan broth is made from parmesan cheese peel. Like beef bones or chicken carcasses, when the rinds are soaked and simmered in water, they add a delicious, concentrated flavor to the liquid. The crust on a wheel of parmesan is essentially a protective layer of hardened cheese that develops during the air drying process. A rind is perfectly edible, even if it is hard and uncomfortable – but they pack a wealth of flavor. You can toss a parmesan crust in almost anything and it will enhance the taste of the finished dish: Risotto, ragu, sauces and the like all benefit from tossing a little bit of the dried layer of parmesan cheese in. Its condensed, hardened flavors ask to be extracted.
So, where do you get parmesan cheese peel? Well, they are certainly not available everywhere. I often have trouble finding them in Los Angeles. A number of Italian delicacies do not keep them because they simply do not sell shaved parmesan. I have not seen them in the local grocery stores either, but a place like Whole Foods should have them on hand. It’s my usual go-to when I need a quick pound. You can, of course, accumulate your own parmesan shells as you shave through chunks of them; stored in an airtight storage container, they should keep for several months. Alternatively, you can put them in a zippered storage bag and freeze them. I can not see a definitive answer as to how long parmesan should last. Some people seem to think they are holding on indefinitely, but I’m not so sure. I will say I have kept them for six months and noticed no further degradation or odor.
As I write this, I enjoy a mug filled with parmesan cheese broth. It’s certainly strange in itself, like drinking a smoky hot Italian cheese Americano. But it hits the spot and gives a different experience. The salty, nutty, aromatic nature of Parmesan shines and is highlighted by the addition of herbs. In the cold, chilly winter months, you will probably seek out classics like chicken noodle soup, pho and ramen. But while making soups at home, I ask you to try making some parmesan cheese broth. I recently made a pasta fagioli made exclusively of Parmesan broth and it was delicious. Get a little more cheese in your life. Let it warm your bones and stick to your sides. You will be grateful that you did.
- 1 lb. peel of parmesan cheese
- 4 leek leaves
- 5 sprigs of thyme
- 5 sprigs of parsley
- 2 tsp. black peppercorns
I like to treat parmesan broth almost like one cheese and black pepper. The main flavors I am looking for here are pepper and cheese. There is no garlic, but if you add it, it would definitely taste good.
In a thick-bottomed saucepan, combine rind, leek leaves, thyme sprigs, parsley sprigs and peppercorns. Fill with 10 cups of water and bring to a boil. When it boils, it is reduced to a simmer. Stir occasionally, definitely more than you would in a traditional fund. I suggest using a rubber spatula. The parmesan shells tend to get stuck in the bottom of the pan and / or whatever utensil you use to stir the broth in, so try not to leave it too sedentary. Cook for 2-3 hours. The broth should be cloudy, aromatic and taste deeply of cheese.
Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve. Let it cool at room temperature. It stays in the fridge for up to a week and it also freezes well.