My Recipe Box

From Rinds to Riches

Why adding a stock made from cheese “scraps” to risotto, braises, and more is an easy, economical way to boost flavor.

by Melissa Pellegrino

fromFine Cooking
Issue 145

Almost everything I know about cooking came from working at small farm restaurants throughout Italy. Each of the restaurants differed greatly—some were mom-and-pop places while others offered a more formal white-linen tablecloth experience—but all shared the belief of not wasting food. As an Italian saying goes: “The only part of the pig that is not used is its squeal.”

When my husband and I opened our own restaurant six years ago in Connecticut, we carried this philosophy with us. That’s why when we had copious amounts of cheese rinds left over thanks to a popular salad featuring shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, we decided to do like they do in Italy and make a stock out of the rinds.

I had already been in the habit of using leftover cheese rind, tucking it into a pot of minestrone to add savory flavor, but making a full-on broth is a great way to use up even more rind. After all, aside from the flavor from the bit of cheese that’s still attached to the rind, the rind itself, which is formed as the result of a weeks’ long bath in a sea-salt brine, imbues the broth with a full savory flavor.

Making such a broth couldn’t be easier: You simply simmer the rinds in water. I like to add a little fresh thyme, black pepper, and bay leaves, too, but just enough so that the resulting thin, light-gold broth still tastes almost entirely of the cheese. I’m not a huge fan of the broth on its own (though some are), but I love how it adds umami flavor and depth to dishes like butternut squash risotto,along with some of my other favorite dishes that benefit from the broth, like braised chicken, pasta, and soup.

Where to find rinds

Luckily, you don’t have to invest in a huge wheel of cheese to make this broth. For the recipe’s full yield (about 4 quarts), you need a pound of rinds, but you can make smaller batches of the broth using fewer rinds, too. Many grocery stores and cheese shops sell rinds on the cheap; you can sometimes find them wrapped for sale near the cheeses, but likely you will need to ask someone at the counter about them. Otherwise, just collect cheese rinds as you use up your cheese. Freeze them airtight, and before you know it, you’ll have enough to make a batch of broth. If you’re too impatient for that, you can make the broth using a big chunk of cheese. It’s not frugal to make it that way, but it’s still delicious.

A few ways to use cheese rind broth
Butternut Squash Risotto Recipe Braised Chicken Recipe Pork and Chestnut Pasta Recipe Parsnip Soup Recipe
In this Butternut Squash Risotto, the cheese rind broth gets added little by little, imbuing each grain of rice with flavor as the risotto cooks. The broth makes a delicious but subtle sauce for braised chicken legs. Add it after browning the bird. Cheese rind broth does double duty in this Pork and Chestnut Pasta: It‘s used to cook the pork and to loosen the sauce just before serving. Using broth in a soup is an obvious move, but cheese rind broth adds a different kind of richness that’s most welcome, especially in vegetarian soups like this parsnip one.

Photos: Scott Phillips


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