It doesn’t matter if you’re at home making your family a spaghetti and meatball dinner or are sharing a pot of traditional fondue in Switzerland— cheese makes almost any meal so much better. As a staple in nearly every culinary culture globally, it’s also the versatility of cheese that makes it so unique. “There’s a lot of hard work that goes into making cheese,” says maître fromager (AKA cheese master) and Cheese: A Love Story host, Afrim Pristine.
For this reason, no matter what type of cheese you’re working with, it’s important to respect the ingredient, he explains. And with more than 25 years of experience, Afrim still thinks that the art of cheese making is all pretty magical. “We sell a ten-year-old cheddar in our store (Cheese Boutique),” he says. “What other foods can you see that are ten years old, and still unbelievably tasty?”
Whether you’re grating a sharp cheddar or are baking a block of feta for an oh-so-trendy pasta dish, cheese has the transformative power to elevate a recipe from simply memorable to unforgettably delicious. Pristine shares how home chefs can set themselves up for culinary success by incorporating these cheeses into everyday meals.
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French Comte is a big, bold, nutty sharp cheese. It can be purchased in most grocery stores, but that wasn’t always the case 20 years ago. Now it’s everywhere, Afrim says, which makes it easier for any cheese enthusiast to enjoy. For a beautiful pairing, serve a French Comte with slices of prosciutto and a glass of red wine.
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A cheese that needs no introduction, Afrim says that even just the tiniest bite of Parmigiano Reggiano is something that he can’t help but savour. “A good, aged Parmigiano Reggiano that’s three or four years old is possibly one of the best cheeses ever made,” he says. In fact, he believes it’s one of the most important cheeses that’s ever been made. “It’s just so complex and versatile. And I love that. It’s something that’s always so easy to snack on.”
If you’re looking for a cheese that can elevate almost any meal, turn to manchego. This salty and tangy Spanish cheese is made from sheep’s milk, and Afrim says it’s the best bang for your buck. Manchego goes well with so many different types of food, he explains, adding that it can be served in a cheese wedge as a separate side dish that guests can munch on throughout the meal.
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Aside from cilantro, few foods are quite as divisive as blue cheese: you either love it or hate it. For Afrim, blue cheese is his absolute favourite. “I love blue cheese because it grabs my taste buds and takes me for a ride,” he says, adding that the saltiness and creaminess are what makes it so great. If you’re hesitant about blue cheese, his advice is simple: keep experimenting.
Since there’s so much variety within mild and strong blue cheeses, it can take some time to experiment and find which type of blue you prefer. For a crowd-pleasing blue cheese dish, try these caramelized onion & blue cheese crostinis.
Photos courtesy of Getty Images.
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