Say Cheese Transcript

Good Eats Editing Studio

GUESTS: Good Eats Editors

GEE: [all are asleep]

    Oh. Hi. Um, Alton Brown here. You know, ever since our first cheese episode aired a few years ago, I've been amassing footage for an epic homage du fromage that I like to call "Say Cheese". We have been working around the clock and I'm happy to announce that we have just finished it. And it's, uh ... [checks his notes] ... it's 30 hours long. So you know what? I think we're going to follow after Quentin Tarantino and air our master work in installments.
    Now tonight's episode is going to be a collection of short films that I hope will shed some seriously bright light on my very favorite food in the world. Cheese. Which isn't just good, it's, uh ... Well, excuse me. [turns around and hits the space bar on a key board, the GE theme music begins]

The Birth of  Cheese

The Dessert

    [voice over] The Birth of Cheese! One day a lone Bedouin set across the desert sands to sell his chicken at the nearest Oasis-mart. Knowing that he would get thirsty and hungry along the way, he was careful to pack a freshly tanned calf's stomach chock full of milk. After several hours, he finally did get a little on the parched side so he reached for his treat. But boy, was he in for a big surprise. A combination of the movement of the camel, the heat of the sun, and the rennet in the stomach lining had coagulated the milk into curds and whey. Luckily, after a moment of tasting, the Bedouin realized it was a lucky mistake, and cheese was born!

A Beautiful Rind

Whole Foods

GUEST: Cheese Hunter

[the CH is frozen as she stares as a whole bunch of cheese]
    Looks like a case of cheese-lock. A sad yet common sight around American cheese counters. See, it happens whenever novice cheese-hunters just freeze up in the face of too many choices. You know, this is a daunting place. It's almost like walking into a really well-stocked wine shop, only, well, in a wine you can at least look for the name of a grape on a bottle and you can't really do that here.
    But you know what you can do? You can look at the rind. Learn your rinds well and 90 percent of the time, you'll know what kind of cheese you're getting yourself into.

Rind #1-Hard

Whole Foods: Atlanta, GA - 9:45 am

    Hard cheese possess thick, dense rinds that are often waxed or even oiled. Cheddar, parmesan, gruyere, and my favorite, manchego, are all examples. They're hard because the curd is cut and pressed before molding, so most of the moisture has been squeezed out. Aging further dries and firms these cheeses, which are usually salty, complex, rich, meaty and very grate-able.


Cook's Warehouse: Atlanta, GA - 11:30 am

    Well, I do believe I have managed to amass every single piece of hardware available in this store, which was designed specifically with the grating or slicing of cheese in mind. As you can see, it is quite a collection. Do you need all this stuff? No. Do you need half of it? No. What do you really need? About 3 pieces.
    A 4-sided grater with a nice wide stance and a sturdy handle will make quick work of about, oh, I'd say about 90 percent of the cheeses it comes in contact with. I particularly like this one because the face is slightly curved and that'll cut down on surface tension. I also really dig this bonus container on the bottom. It can turn over and snap right on for easy containment of the grated products. It even can measure them.
    Although a multitude of specialty cheese knives are available on the market, the ones you really need are probably already in your kitchen. I speak, of course, of the 8 to 10-inch chef's knife, which will go through just about any cheese you'll ever buy. And the butter knife. I put out one of these for every cheese that's on a cheese board. It's perfect for serving. Oh. For really soft cheeses I often use dental floss. It's especially good for logs of goat cheese. And for super-hard cheeses like parmesan, crack them open with a nice, clean flathead screwdriver. That explains why my tool box smells like that. Huh.

Great Cheese Trick #1

The Kitchen

    This is a block of parmesan cheese. I'm talking real parmesan: Parmigiano-Reggiano, from the area around Parma in Italy. It takes 17 pounds of milk to make one pound of this stuff. And then once the cheese is made, it's left to age for at least a year. The result is a hard cheese with a unique, granular structure that makes it perfect for grating which is the way most Americans know it.
    Now you can certainly sprinkle this stuff on your salad, your pizza, your spaghetti, your ice cream, but because parmesan has such a unique protein structure, there are some more interesting things that you can do. Now since protein is pretty sticky stuff, you're going to need a silicone baking mat or a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan. You're also going to need a tablespoon. Watch this. It's my favorite trick.

[he scoops out one tablespoon of the parm cheese, dumps it out on a section of the silicone mat and spreads it out for an even layer. he gets about 6 scoops per mat]

    Now there is plenty of flavor here already, but that doesn't mean there is anything wrong with adding more. For instance, a little paprika would be very nice which he sprinkles on only 2 of the parm spreads] as would some black Pepper [which only goes on two of the spreads]. Ah. I think I'll leave the others plain.

    Into a 375 degree oven for 10 minutes. 375° Degrees

Two pounds of Parmigiano-Reggiano contains
the nutritional equivalent of four gallons of milk.

    Now you could just let these set and then enjoy them as crackers or while they're hot, you could take advantage of their temporarily plastic state. [scoops them off places them on small containers so they droop over the sides] Now these little guys may look floppy now, but believe me, they set up fast. So work quickly. They're also very hot, so work safely.
    Let these set for about 10 minutes, and you'll be able to load them up with things. Like what? Well, like, say a meatball. Meatball shooter. Sounds good to me. Or maybe you could build a little salad. Eh? It's cute, isn't it? Or you could just stick them right in the top of a bowl of mashed potatoes. Always a hit at my house. Of course, you don't have to do any of that. You could just eat one. Mmm mmm! Good cracker!

In 1837, Queen Victoria was presented with a
1,100 pound wheel of cheese for her coronation.

Rind #2-Semi-Hard

Whole Foods

    The rinds of semi-hard cheeses are almost always brown-orange or brown-gray. But this is a challenging family to identify otherwise because it's really two families in one. Rubbery, meaty cheeses, like edam, are semi-soft and represent some of this country's favorite cheeses because they're so gosh-darned user friendly. Then, there are washed-rind semi-softs like epoisses and langres which are washed in a special kind of brine that sets the inner texture and encourages specific bacteria to grow. Now these are some of the strongest cheeses around, and can usually be identified by that sticky, orange rind. They're good, but stinky-good.

Pasteurization Proclamation

The Kitchen


    Great though many American cheeses are, when it comes to young, runny cheeses like brie and camembert, the Europeans have the edge because they use high quality raw milk, which can only be used in this country to make ...

FA: ... cheeses that have been aged at least 60 days before sale.
AB: That's because the Federal Government figures that after 60 days, any potentially dangerous bacteria ...
FA: ... will have been eliminated.
AB: Cheeses aged less than 60 days ...
FA: ... must be made from pasteurized milk.
AB: Pasteurization is named after the scientist, Louis Pasteur. He's the guy who figured out that living critters, albeit small ones, are usually to blame when good food goes bad.
FA: Pasteurization utilizes heat to destroy the problematic entities.

AB: That's ... that's ... that's true. But different times and temperatures can be used to pasteurize milk. For instance, holding the milk at 145 degrees for 30 minutes, nukes the nasties while preserving some of the body, the character, the flavor of the milk.

Pasteurization =
145° for 30 minutes

FA: Heating milk to 161 degrees for 15 seconds kills everything, good, bad and indifferent.

Ultra - Pasteurization =
161° for 15 seconds

AB: Yes. It also shuts down enzymes, and knocks off a bunch of nutrients. In other words, it kills the milk. But since that method is a hundred times faster than that method, it's the one most often employed by the dairy industry. Which is why most American milk tastes like his shirt. And it's why young American cheeses never quite reach their potential. Of course, you can always drive up to Canada and score you some young, raw cheese ...
FA: Just know that when you come back across the border, I'll be waiting for you.
AB: Oh, bother.
FA: [takes raw milk] I'll just get rid of this contraband.

Great Cheese Trick #2

The Kitchen

    And now, Ladies and Gentlemen! My honest-to-goodness favorite cheese trick of all time. [tries to get a wedge of cheese to jump through a hoop] Come on, boy! You can do it! Fine. If you won't jump through the hoop, I'll have to make soup out of you. That's right. A serious cheese soup for serious cheese people. What are we going to need? We're going to need a pot: soup pot, Dutch oven, or a large saucepan. We will require the services of a spatula or wooden spoon, a medium-size hand sieve, an immersion stick blender, and an electric kettle.

    You don't actually have to have an electric kettle, but it will make heating up this 32-ounce—that's one quart container of chicken broth—a little bit easier. And yes, this is packaged chicken broth. And yes, I'm okay with that.

Heat 1 quart chicken broth to a simmer.

    As with so many soups, we begin with a sweat. Melt two tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Then toss in five ounces by weight of diced onions, five ounces of diced carrots, and five ounces of diced celery, along with a healthy pinch of salt. Now stir this off and on for 5 to 10 minutes, until the veggies are nice and soft. 2 Tbs. Unsalted Butter
5 Ounces Diced Onion
5 Ounces Diced Carrots
5 Ounces Diced Celery
1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt
    Now use your hand sieve to evenly distribute 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour, just right on top of the vegetables. Why flour? Well, we're basically making a roux here. Okay? We're going to coat these flour granules with the fat that's in the pan. Then when we add the hot liquid, it will thicken very quickly without forming any lumps. Now once all the flour is in, just stir and cook for a few more moments until you don't see any flour really left in the pan. Perfect. 3 Tbs. All Purpose Flour
    Now we pour in the broth. Nice and slow, stirring all the time. Now one bay leaf and one tablespoon of garlic, minced fine. Cover that, turn down the heat to a simmer, and set our timer for about half an hour. Stir Constantly While Gradually Adding Broth

1 Bay Leaf
1 Tbs. Minced Garlic

    And now the fun part. But first you've got to fish that Bay Leaf out of there. Even when they're cooked, they're never really good eats, you know. Okay, add one cup of heavy cream. Yes, that's right, heavy cream, and then buzz it up with your stick blender until it is smooth and creamy. 1 Cup Heavy Cream
    Now we add the cheese, 10 Ounces of shredded fontina. Like most semi-firm cheeses, fontina is known for its smooth melting nature. But it will help if we add it slowly, stirring in just a handful at a time. Gentle melting is the key to a smooth Cheese Soup. 10 Ounces Grated Fontina
    Time for a few finishing flavors. I like a teaspoon each of Marsala wine and Worcestershire sauce, and half a teaspoon of hot sauce and white pepper. Why white? Well, you wouldn't want to mar the pastoral creaminess of this, now would you? 1 tsp. Marsala Wine
1 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 tsp. Hot Sauce
1/2 tsp. White Pepper

    [takes a bite]Mmm mmm! Now that is cheesy. As far as service suggestions go, I don't know, open a beer and pour it in a glass. It's about all you have to do.
    If you're going to hold this soup for service, however, I don't suggest you keep it over heat. You should stash it in a Thermos. That way it won't get grainy. If you do have to reheat it after cooling, I definitely suggest using a double boiler. Remember, gentle heat's the way to go. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'd like to finish my soup.

More sheep are milked than any other type of animal in the world.

Rind #3-Soft Ripened

Whole Foods

    Funky and aromatic. Soft ripened cheeses usually come in disks, loaded with a light, fuzzy mold called Penicillium candidum. So much of the milk's original moisture is locked inside these jewels that that cheese literally oozes at room temperature. Brie and camembert are the most famous of this, my other favorite category. Although they're always white in this country, due to the use of pasteurized milk, in Europe, the raw milk that's usually used, creates a reddish or brown rind.

Who Stashed My Cheese?

The Kitchen

    Let's take a moment and review our cheese storage procedures. Above all, we must remember it's alive. And, like anything that's alive, cheese has likes and dislikes, okay?

it's ALIVE!

    It likes to be kept cool but not cold, so the top shelf of your refrigerator is the best space. It likes to be moist but not wet, and it likes to breathe, so packaging is very important. When it comes to soft, crumbly or excessively stinky cheeses, I like to go with a plastic container, and I slide a little piece of moist paper towel or slice of apple in there to provide some moisture. The plastic is also good because it prevents the funkiness from spreading around, if you get my drift. Harder cheeses I do like to wrap, but never with plastic. I go with wax paper, loosely wrapped, and just secure it with a little rubber band, okay.
    Now whenever you're contemplating the service of cheese, always allow it to come to room temperature before you dine upon it, okay? Because cold hardens the fat. That will just trap aroma and flavor.
    Now if you decide to have a cheese tasting party, or to serve a cheese course with your next dinner, and I certainly hope that you will, remember that there are no rules. But I am going to make a couple of suggestions that have helped me in the past. Two of them, okay? One: Never serve more than 3 cheeses. As far as I'm concerned, you get past 3 and everything pretty much ... well, just smells like a gym sock, okay? And number two: Try to find a theme, okay? A way of tying the three cheeses together. Here are just a few examples.

    Here we have one type of milk. In this case, goat's milk, that's been made into three very, very different types of cheese. Same Type of Milk

    Over here, we have three very different members of the same cheese family, okay? These are all washed-rind cheeses but they are very different from each other. Different Members Of The Same Cheese Family

    Here we've got the very same cheese, three times. The only difference is age. I think this is like this week, that's last week, and that's two weeks ago. The runny one. Probably my favorite, okay? But they're all the same. Same Cheese Style
Different Ages

    And here we have the exact same style of cheese, in this case blue cheese, but made by three very different creameries. Same Cheese Style
Different Makers

    Last but not least, you can just serve one great cheese like this. One nice big block of cheese but with several different contrasting accompaniments, okay, so that you can get an idea of the full range involved. One Blockbuster Cheese With Contrasting Accompaniments

    As far as amounts, you want to look for about a quarter pound of cheese, total, for each diner. Oh, and make sure that every cheese has its own clean knife. We don't want to, you know, cross the beams. Now if you excuse me, I think I've got some cheese to eat.

Cheese and wine produced in the same geographical area tend to pair well.

Rind #4-Veined Cheese

Whole Foods

    The easiest cheeses to recognize by sight are mold-veined cheeses like Roquefort, gorgonzola and stilton. Now the mold you see here requires air to grow, so the compressed curd is punched with needles, creating micro-tunnels for the fungi. If you've never tried these cheeses, well, they've got a very wide range of flavor and texture. They can be creamy, they can be hard, they can be grainy, they can be just mildly funky, or they can be tongue-numbingly funky. You know what I mean? I'm talking like Detroit funky. You know? Yeah.

Fromage Fort, 'strong cheese' in French, was traditionally made
by combining leftover cheese with milk and allowing it to ferment.

Rind #5-Fresh Cheese

Whole Foods

    Fresh cheeses like cream cheese, feta, cottage cheese and chevre are generally under two weeks old when they're sold so they haven't had time to develop any kind of rind. Now with the exception of the brined feta, which is usually crumbly, these cheeses are easy spreaders. And they are often rolled in ash, seeds or leaves before they're sold. Flavors range from grassy fields to hints of citrus.

Great Cheese Trick #3

The Kitchen

    You know, every couple of weeks I like to clear out the old chill chest. Just clean things up and I gather up the little hunks and chunks and bits and pieces of cheese that have accumulated in here. And of course, I can't really throw another cheese party with this stuff. It's a little too old for that, but that doesn't mean that I have to get rid of it. In fact, this is just right for my favorite cheese trick of all time.

Allow the cheese to come to room temperature before making Fromage Fort.

    Any cheese will do. You just need about a pound of it. Cheddar, provolone, Fontina, camembert, St. Andre, edam, gruyere, it just doesn't matter. What does matter is that you remove any hard rinds that might be hanging around and that you cut everything down to about a, I don't know, three-quarter-inch cube. Be approximate. Really hard cheeses like parmesan should be grated coarsely. 1 Pound Leftover Cheese
    Now everything goes into the food processor along with a quarter of a cup of dry white wine which, if you've had a cheese party, you probably have left over. Three tablespoons, that's one-and-a-half ounces, of unsalted butter, at room temperature, one clove of garlic, and a small handful of parsley. If you force me, I'd say that's about two tablespoons. And now, we'll take everything for a spin. Let this go for two full minutes in order to break things down and make this nice and creamy. 1/4 Cup White Wine
3 Tbs. Unsalted Butter Room
1 Clove Garlic
2 Tbs. Fresh Parsley

    Mmm. Would you look at that? Homemade cheese spread. And believe me, this is better than anything you could ever think of buying in a store. If you like a firmer texture, just stash it in the refrigerator for a little while. Oh, and in the refrigerator, it'll last ... Well, I don't know how long it lasts because I've never had it last more than about a day. Mmm.

A cheese course can be served as either a prelude to or substitute for dessert.

Lactose Man Returns

The Kitchen

GUEST: Lactose Man

    Most of the folks walking around on this planet are lactose intolerant. That means that they lack the enzyme necessary to break down lactose, a sugar that occurs naturally in milk. Now when these people drink milk, or eat young cheeses, they get a painful punch from ...

LM: I'm Lactose Man!
AB: Yes, from Lactose Man. You know what, Lactose Man? I'm not afraid of you.
LM: Oh, you will be. You will be.
AB: Oh yeah? Take your best shot!
LM: [punches AB in the stomach, the next shot has his fist soaking in ice]

    You see, cheeses that have a little age on them have had their lactose, or milk sugar, consumed by the bacteria in the cheese. So there's little, if any, lactose still present.

AB: How's your hand, Lactose Man?
LM: Uh, it hurts.
AB: How's the cheese, Lactose Man?
LM: It's good.

Good Eats Editing Studio

AB: [to his sleeping editors] Hey, pretty good. You guys should be proud.

    Well, I hope that you enjoyed this collection of shorts, Part 1 of what will probably be a 60-part course, cheese course. Ha ha. You know, that may seem like a lot of programs, but heck, I can't think of any food, mmm, that deserves the attention more than cheese. So see you next time on Good Eats.

AB: Hey! You going to eat that brie?

Transcribed by Mike DiRuscio

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010