Anyone who's visited the dairy department of a local supermarket, eaten at a white-linen restaurant, or gone to a farmers' market recently has noticed this country's most exciting food trend: cheese. From Hispanic cheeses to handcrafted goat cheeses, Americans have more choices now than ever before.
Here, you'll find guidelines for cooking with cheese, how to buy and store it, and more. Our goal is to answer common questions so that you can move from novice to knowledgeable in no time.
The Popular Cheeses
From the vast world of cheese, here is a rundown of widely available favorites. We selected cheeses with different flavors and textures to demonstrate their best uses in recipes. All provide big payback in taste from a small investment.
Blue cheese―The distinctive flavor of blue cheese drives people to love it or hate it. Whether its source is goat's, cow's, or sheep's milk, a little blue packs a potent punch.
Brie―Traditionally a French cheese, Brie is earthy and slightly musty or mushroomy. Brie's buttery flavor is great paired with sharp, tangy foods.
Feta―Greek feta is popular and best known for its salty, tangy flavor and versatility, but we also like French feta packed in brine for its smooth texture and flavor.
Fontina―One of Italy's great cheeses, fontina has a mildly nutty flavor and a creamy texture; it melts easily.
Goat―Loved for its characteristic acidic flavor, goat cheese ranges from soft and spreadable to dry and crumbly.
Gruyère―An assertive, nutty Swiss cheese, Gruyère pairs well with sweet and savory dishes alike.
Mascarpone―A traditional dessert cheese, mascarpone has a silky texture and a rich, creamy flavor.
Monterey Jack―This delicate, buttery cheese is a good medium to carry or enhance flavors. It's a natural complement to spicy foods and therefore a good choice for Mexican dishes.
Parmesan―For unrivaled flavor, this is our favorite and Italy's preeminent and most versatile cheese. As we've said many times, seek out the real thing―look for the words Parmigiano-Reggiano imprinted on the rind.
Sharp cheddar―This has always been America's favorite cheese. Look for the many wonderful white cheddars made domestically. The sharper the cheese, the better, because you can use less of it for the same amount of flavor.