Manchego (if you haven't heard of it before like me) is a cheese from the La Mancha region in Spain. It's made from the milk of the Manchega sheep, and is aged from 2 months up to 2 years. It has a firm and compact consistency and a buttery texture, and the cheese has a distinctive flavour: well developed but not too strong, creamy with a slight piquancy, and leaves an aftertaste that is characteristic of sheep’s milk. Be sure to cut off and discard the rind, as it is not edible or usable.
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (aka. Parmesan or "Parm") is a hard granular cheese - cooked but not pressed. It's named after the producing areas near Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna, and Mantova. Real parmesan cheese is made from raw cow's milk and is aged from 12 months up to 3 years. However, the American version of Parm cheese is quite different from the real version (ie. pasturized milk, shorter aging time, different salt saturation). The rind can be used to enhance flavors of stews; but again, it isn't edible.
Give it a try, if not as the side to the meal I'll post about next, then just make it as a quick afternoon snack or a party appetizer. It takes only about half an hour to create these rich and satisfying cheese puffs.
Asparagus Parm-Manchego Puffs
Adapted from Bobby Flay
Yield: 15-18 puffs
1/3 lb fresh asparagus
1/2 cup milk
8 tsp unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/8 cup AP flour
1/8 tsp curry powder
Pinch of cayenne
2 large eggs
1/2 cup coarsely grated Manchego
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1. Trim asparagus and cut into 1/4-inch pieces. Blanch them and set aside.
2. Coarsely grate Manchego and Parm-Reggiano cheeses in a bowl, set aside.
3. In another bowl, combine flour, salt, curry powder, and cayenne.
4. In a medium saucepan, bring milk and butter to a boil. Remove from heat immediately and stir in flour mixture with a wooden spoon. When mixture thickens and pulls away from the sides, put it on the warm stove again for about 30 seconds to dry up the mixture a bit.
5. Transfer dough into a separate bowl. Let it cool for about 2 minutes and then stir in eggs, one at a time, until thoroughly combined.
6. Finally, mix in the cheeses and asparagus. Season with salt and pepper.
7. Your cheese puff dough will be a bit sticky. Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
8. Bake at 400 F for about 18 minutes, or until tops are golden brown. Serve immediately.