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Great 28: Cheese + Rice


cheese and rice

Available in multiple varieties, this seed of the grass species Oryza sativa (from Asia) or Oryza glaberrima (from Africa) is one of the world’s most consumed cereal grains and the third most cultivated crop overall. Yet the cuisines in which rice plays a central role often don’t feature much dairy. No matter: Rice and cheese are perfect partners in many instances.

In addition, rice is so far away from wheat on the spectrum of grasses that most diners who have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity can enjoy it with no inflammatory reaction. That makes rice—which comes in a range of hues and shapes—an excellent substitute for wheat in pasta, crackers, and more.

Rice Crackers

Whether you prefer seeded Asian-style rice crackers or those that mimic tortilla chips, there’s no denying that a crisp wafer is an excellent base for all kinds of cheese. That said, rice crackers are fragile, so ideal pairings are soft, ripe bloomy rinds like St. Stephen from New York’s Four Fat Fowl. Washed rinds also work beautifully here, as the mild crackers don’t compete with the intense flavor.

However, these wedges can sometimes be sticky, and if the cracker is too delicate, you can wind up with broken bits clinging to the exterior. That’s why we prefer Stinking Bishop, which has an extra-runny interior.

Recommended Pairings 
Four Fat Fowl St. Stephen + rice cracker
Charles Martell & Son Stinking Bishop + rice cracker

Croquettes

Leftover cooked rice can be transformed into a number of other dishes: rice pudding, fried rice, rice salad, and more. One of the tastiest ways to enjoy it with cheese, however, is in the form of croquettes. Also known as rice balls or arancini, they’re frequently stuffed with mozzarella, ground meat, and peas before being coated with breadcrumbs and fried. But feel free to get creative and mix up the fillings used for a new take on this classic comfort food. Smoked cheeses like Polish Kurpianka add an extra punch of flavor (try it with ham and asparagus), while aged sheep’s milk wedges like Ossau-Iraty offer a luxurious silkiness (use ground lamb to echo the cheese’s flavor).

Recommended Pairings
Celebrity Smoked Kurpianka + rice croquettes
Ossau-Iraty PDO + rice croquettes

Risotto

One of the most famous rice preparations in the world, risotto is a signature Italian dish, featuring the slow-cooked Arborio variety of the grain. It almost always utilizes one of the country’s most famous cheeses, too: Parmigiano Reggiano (though any savory grating cheese would be effective). Giancarlo “Wendy” Cacciatori, chef-owner of Via Emilia 9 (with locations in Miami and New York City), employs it in his unique version, which he makes as a dessert topped with strawberry tartare. Looking for an extra dollop of yin-yang salty sweetness? Garnish with a snowfall of the eloquent White Stilton with Strawberries and Cream, which blooms on the palate with opulence.

Recommended Pairings
Flor del Cadí + risotto
Shirevale White Stilton with Strawberries and Cream + risotto

Photography by Svetlana Lukienk/shutterstock.com

The Great 28 is featured in our annual Cheese Pairings issue

Jen Karetnick

Based in Miami, Jen Karetnick is the author, co-author, or editor of 15 books, including the award-winning cookbook Mango (University Press of Florida, 2014). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Atlantic, Guernica, Southern Living, and more.

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