Provolone Five Ways
January friends, the days are full of gray light. Chez Madame Fromage, I have been writing from dawn to dusk on a new project, finding solace in Provolone. Today, as I cut myself a slice and fished some Castelvetrano olives out of a jar, I fell into a little reverie. This Provolone was cracked open back in October. It was the centerpiece for the giant cheese board at the Cheese Ball! What a happy memory.
After the party, this giant Provolone — called a Mandorino due to its bulbous shape (think: Madarin orange) — was divided. And gifted. Three months have passed, and I am still gnawing. Surely, this gives you an idea of just how sturdy and enduring Provolone can be. It’s become a family pet. Did anyone let the Provolone out the fridge today?
If you are looking for a house-cat cheese — one you can keep for the next month and reach to for comfort — lean on this sturdy Italian. There are a thousand ways to enjoy sharp Provolone. I’ll tell you my fave five:
Aged Provolone, Red Wine, and Olives
So many people love to pair red wine with cheese, but it’s not easy. Bold reds often run rampant over subtle flavors in cheese. Aged (Piccante) Provolone has a sharp hook on the finish, making it a good pal for red wine, charcuterie, and olives. This week, I’ve enjoyed it with an Argentinian Malbec.
Provolone & Pepperoni Pizza
My neighbor Larry makes pizza every Friday, and about once a month I bring him a cheese from my stash. We’ve loaded his pies with everything from fresh burrata to herbed goat cheeses to funky slabs of Taleggio. One of my favorite combinations yet: this past weekend grated aged Prove over a red pie studded with spicy pepperoni and sweet onion. Divine. Try a mix of aged Prov, mozzarella, and a little Parm.
Ham, Provolone, and Pickle Melts
Since Prov melts so well, it’s terrific under the broiler on a sandwich. I like to load it onto sliced ham (or better yet, speck), some bread & butter pickles, and a swoosh of grainy mustard. It’s also terrific with smoked turkey and and onion jam.
Au Gratin Potatoes with Provolone
Provolone likes onions and herbs. It’s not a blank canvas, but it melds well with strong flavors, and curls up nicely against starches. I’ve got Honest Cooking’s recipe for Simple Herbed Potatoes Au Gratin with Provolone Cheese flagged for later this week.
Provolone, Grapes, and Smoked Almonds
Finally, for an easy desk snack at work: Cube that Provolone and toss it into a container with some green or red grapes, then pack in some smoked almonds. This combination of sweet, salty, and smoky travels with me everywhere — on airplanes, on trains, and most recently to the movie theater. Gool ol’ Prov even pairs well with popcorn, and it’s not bad with Milk Duds either.
How to Purchase Provolone: Go to a cheese shop and ask to sample it. If you live near an Italian specialty foods store, look for Provolone on a rope hanging from the ceiling. (In Philadelphia, you’ll find these at Di Bruno Bros. in the Italian Market.) Be sure to ask for Piccante Provolone, which has the most flavor. Store your Provolone in cheese paper (or wrap it in waxed paper, then tinfoil) so it can breathe but won’t dry out.
Interesting Fact: Provolone is essentially aged mozzarella. It’s a “stretched” cheese that is hung to dry and develop flavor. That’s why you’ll notices that the paste of this cheese pulls apart in thread-like clusters.