Spicy Baked Cheese
SERVES 4 TO 6 AS AN APPETIZER
½ pound semihard cheese with ﬂat sides, such as provolone, in a square or round1 tablespoon olive oil1 teaspoon dried oregano½ teaspoon kosher salt⅛ teaspoon red pepper ﬂakes2 tablespoons best-quality extra-virgin olive oil1 lemon wedge
Heat the oven to 450ºF. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly coat the cheese with the olive oil and put it in the hot skillet (it is not necessary to oil the skillet because the cheese is coated with oil). Cook until a golden crust forms on the bottom, 3 to 4 minutes. Carefully ﬂip the cheese over (try to lift the cheese up with the spatula as you slide it underneath, so you don’t mess up the nice crust you just created). At this point the cheese should still be slightly ﬁrm. Put the skillet in the oven until the cheese softens and begins to melt but doesn’t completely lose its shape, about 1 minute. (Note: If the cheese is already good and melted after you sear it on one side, you can skip this step entirely.)Put the cheese on a serving platter and sprinkle the oregano, salt, and red pepper ﬂakes over the top. Just before serving, drizzle with the extra-virgin olive oil and some fresh lemon juice.
WHEN IT COMES
to cocktail party fare, never underestimate the power of hot cheese.The menus I saw in Uruguay listed this dish as simply “Provolone,” but I knew what that meant: a hot, melty, salty, gooey mess of cheese. A square or round of provolone yields great results, but I’ve also made this recipe with local farmer Bill Ryal’s goat cheddar; it’s a delicious option. This is a great dish to pull out of the oven before dinner, while everyone is standing around the kitchen counter watching you cook. It gets a lot of “Wow!” and “Oh my god!” to which you reply, “Yeah, I know, right?” You can serve the warm cheese with slices of good bread, although honestly you don’t need anything but a fork.