By Angela Denstad Stigeler
When I recently stumbled upon this recipe, I was amused by its recommendation, which proclaimed, “Never underestimate the power of hot cheese.” While cheese in all its glorious diversity is certainly a culinary bigwig, it doesn’t often get to take center stage. While this recipe is oftentimes grilled as an appetizer to enjoy while the steaks are cooking, promoting it to the main dish can easily yield a hot and satisfying meal ready in minutes. Similar to the Swiss dish known as raclette, this version of crusty melted cheese hails from South America, where it’s known as provoleta. As its namesake suggests, it’s made from provolone, which is milder and easier to find than its Swiss cousin. Served with bread or potatoes and a salad, it’s a nice meat-free menu for a mid-week meal. Of course, if you’re just looking for a snack to share, you can always let this big cheese stand alone.
½ pound semi-hard cheese, such as provolone, in one large square or round chunk*
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 lemon wedge
Crusty bread or boiled potatoes, for serving
Preheat the broiler and place a cast-iron skillet on the stove over medium-high heat. Lightly coat the pan with oil and place the cheese in the hot skillet. Cook the cheese until a golden crust forms on the bottom, 3-4 minutes. If you’re able to easily flip the cheese over without disturbing the crust, you can finish the dish by cooking the cheese on the stove a couple minutes on the other side, just until melted. If the cheese seems to stick or is too melted to flip, finish cooking it under the broiler for a minute or two, until the top is spotty golden.
Sprinkle the hot cheese with oregano, salt and red pepper flakes. Drizzle with a little olive oil and a big squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Cut in wedges and serve hot atop crusty bread or thick slices of boiled potato.
*Deli cheese works well for this. Ask at the counter to have them slice a ½-pound slab.