Anyone with a love for Italian food will know the importance of great parmesan cheese. Whether added on top of freshly cooked pasta or added to a tomato sauce, this Italian speciality is essential.
What a lot of cooks neglect or rather forget is the discarded rinds contain the same delicious umami taste. In the same way as adding leftover stalks of various vegetables (carrots, celery etc) to a soup can elevate the flavour profile of the final result, parmesan rinds can do the same.
In basic terms umami is known for being a flavour enhancer. Tomatoes, mushrooms, soy sauce and parmesan cheese are all ingredients that do this.
When adding the rinds they can be thrown in whole because they just get softer and do not disintegrate. Once ready to serve they can be plucked out without a problem. It is the flavour inside we want and not the rubbery to hard slightly unpleasant texture.
Each time you use a slice of parmesan you can collect the rinds to use sometime in the future. They keep for months in the fridge and years in the freezer. If you are lucky enough some cheese shops will sell you the rinds at a much lower price.
The key to use parmesan rinds is to extract as much flavour as possible. This can be done by grilling or applying heat but it will release far less than submerging them in water and heating. Soups and stews are the way to go with the rinds. Not only will the dish incorporate the much loved intensity of parmesan cheese it will also act as an enhancer to the other ingredients you have included.
A lot chefs also like to make a broth from the rinds then add it to risottos. This has the added benefit of already having an element of creaminess, a quality that is essential to a great risotto.
Creating ice cream or gelato involves the fine balance of fat content, the amount of air and temperature. The vast majority of ice cream is actually water which form ice crystals as the temperature of the mixture drops. We have all tried low quality ice cream where the ice crystals have not been minimised leaving an unpleasant crunchy cold surprise. What sets the best ice cream from the mediocre is a rich blend of fat and ice crystals that are as small as possible.
Essentially ice cream is the mix of emulsifying fats that surround and stick to water molecules preventing the formation of large ice crystals. Combined with this the addition of sugar also hinders crystallisation.
A water/sugar solution forms a syrup that has a lower freezing point than water on its own.
This base forms the initial part of the process. The incorporation of air during the churning process creates a final product that is well aerated, light and creamy.
Ice cream stored at a lower temperature will be more solid. Ever opened an ice cream tub to find it a soft unappetising mess? Just take of the lid and leave it in the freezer to harden up.
The fundamental difference between ice cream and gelato is that the former has a higher fat content and more aeration during the freezing process.
Gelato is actually the italian word for ice cream. This does lead to some confusion how to separate it from what we consider ice cream. Gelato often has milk rather than cream added as well as a lesser amount of egg yolks. To get the familiar and much loved ‘lightness’ of ice cream the churning process is pretty fast compared to that of making gelato. In contrast, Gelato is churned slowly creating a denser result than ice cream. Rather than being served a brick of gelato, temperature control allows for an elastic soft texture. Gelato is stored at a warmer temperature than ice cream. Usually around -12c while ice cream is stored as low as -20c.
So Ice cream or gelato?
The reality is that both can give as much pleasure as the other. Sugar content varies in both, some ice creams are richer than gelato, while others are the total opposite. Gelato has the reputation to be fresher, greater attention to its ingredients and usually more artesanal but excellent ice cream is readily available just as much as gelato.