Parmesan Crusted Goat Cheese with Basil Oil
This recipe most definitely falls under the category of “home run” in my kitchen. I first had a similar dish while at a restaurant in my hometown a few months ago. It is something I probably wouldn’t have even ordered on my own, but it is one of my dad’s favorite restaurants and he recommended the appetizer to me. A ball of goat cheese with a Parmesan coating surrounded by a pool of brilliant green basil oil. Our entire meal was wonderful but the appetizer was the thing that really stood out to me. For months afterward, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and I wanted to try making it but I was worried it wouldn’t live up to my memory. It was like an itch I couldn’t scratch. Finally I got tired of just thinking about it and decided to do something about it. I fully expected to end up making multiple renditions and tweaks but surprisingly, it came out just as I wanted on the first try. I am embarrassed to admit how much of this I enjoyed for my afternoon snack that day, but I will say that I effectively ruined my dinner :)
If you have bought goat cheese before, you may know that it can vary widely in texture and firmness. I recommend a semi-firm variety for this recipe, keeping in mind that you need to shape it into a ball. The step of blanching the basil is meant to help preserve the bright green color in the oil. Though certainly not a requirement, it makes for a stunning presentation. The smooth and tangy goat cheese pairs nicely with the subtly sweet basil oil for an appetizer that is both beautiful and tough to resist.
Yield: about 6-8 servings
For the cheese ball:
- ½ oz. Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup panko
- Freshly ground pepper
- 4 oz. semi-firm plain goat cheese
- 1 clove garlic
- ¼ tsp. coarse salt, plus more to taste
For the basil oil:
- ¼ cup fresh basil leaves
- 1 clove garlic
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Place the Parmesan in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely ground. Add the panko to the bowl and pulse a few more times so the cheese and crumbs have an even, fine texture. Season with freshly ground pepper to taste. Transfer to a shallow plate or bowl. Wipe out the bowl of the food processor.
Place the goat cheese in a small bowl. Finely mince the garlic. Sprinkle the salt over the minced garlic and smash the mixture together with a fork or the side of a chef’s knife until it forms a paste. Add the garlic paste to the bowl with the goat cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir the mixture together until smooth and well blended. Form the goat cheese mixture into a round ball. Roll the ball in the Parmesan-panko mixture until well coated. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
To make the basil oil, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Add the basil leaves to the pot and boil for 30 seconds. Drain and rinse immediately with cold water. Blot the basil leaves with a towel to remove all of the excess water. Add the basil leaves and the garlic to the bowl of the food processor. Pulse until finely minced. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the food processor running, add the oil through the feed tube in a steady stream. Continue processing until the mixture is well blended and the oil takes on a green hue. Strain the oil mixture through a fine mesh sieve onto a serving plate. Place the ball of goat cheese in the center of the basil oil. Garnish with additional fresh basil if desired. Serve with baguette slices.