Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Parmesan Crisps Galore!

It's Hors D'Ouervre Day at work tomorrow! Okay, today. So today - er, yesterday - I wracked my brain for something savory to make after the super-sweet fudge of the recent Cookie Swap. My savior: Giada De Laurentiis, or as I sometimes refer to her, that skinny Italian ***** (the expletive comes from the fact that Signorina De Laurentiis makes and eats all this great food, and is still the size of a toothpick). But she's fun to watch - certainly less irritating than Rachael "Yum-O!" Ray. And Giada had this awesome recipe for Parmesan Crisps, so I said, why the hell not?

I had to do a search for it, though. And when you search for "Parmesan Crisps" you get 175 freakin' recipes! One of the first I saw came from Food Network's resident goof Alton Brown. His recipe suggested using spices of your choice: paprika, cayenne, etc. An opportunity to experiment and get all fayncy! Even fayncier still when you try Giada's recipe for lemon basil parmesan crisps. I headed to Whole Foods after work - yes, I searched for the recipes at work - and got my supplies.

The chefs recommend you use a silicone baking sheet, and I must concur. I started out with one and found it so easy to get the crisps off after they cooled that I couldn't imagine doing it any other way.

Now here's what I did. I took about 1 1/2 lbs of granulated parmesan cheese. I didn't use the shredded stuff, and as for buying a block of the stuff and hand-grating it? Uh, no. To this I added, well, nothing. Not at first, but I had to have some plain ones. I found it easy to just spoon it right out of the plastic container. I fit 7 to 8 mounds of parmesan cheese, each about 1 heaping tablespoon, onto my silicone baking sheet, and set in the oven at 400°F for about 5 minutes. Truly, the most difficult part about this whole process was the waiting for the sheet to cool down, which takes another 5 to 7 minutes. Seriously.

Next I took the opportunity to diddle around with the recipe. I started with Giada's lemon basil crisps shredding basil and grating a lime for its zest (okay, so the lime was cheaper than any lemon). These hardened more slowly but tasted fabulous. I was getting creative so I pulled half the spices off the shelves and went to cookin'. Here's what I got:

Cajun - Looks burnt when it comes out of the oven, but doesn't taste burnt at all.

Oregano - I love oregano, man.

Paprika - Okay. The paprika is more for color in this dish.

Basil-Lime - Already said how I felt about it.

Phillip's Seafood Seasoning - Because I couldn't find the Old Bay. I know, I know, I should be horse-whipped. But it tasted pretty good.

Garam Masala - Not very good, but I've never been a big fan of garam masala anyway. I thought it was just me!

I also got truly experimental, and made some adventurous flavors that I doubted many people would eat.

Mexican Mole (MOE-lay, not MOLE) - Just a few sprinkles of unsweetened cocoa and some hot pepper. Pretty damn bland, surprisingly. The cocoa actually dulled the flavor!

Ginger-Garlic-Onion - This was absolutely wonderful. Next I will just have to make a batch of this and this alone.

So the crisps turned out pretty well for the most part. Part of that was to get the spatula, in order to shovel them off. Instead I found that using both the spatula and just your fingers to bend the cookie sheet with the iron, gets the pix right off. An even better idea, and I may email Giada or Alton just to tell 'em, is to use a silicone muffin tin. Each crisp is divided from all the others.