Frico, or fried cheese is an Italian delicacy that has been around for centuries. Montasio cheese is the traditional Italian cheese used for frico. Montasio cheese comes from the northeastern part of Italy in what is known as the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. Montasio cheese originated around the seventeenth century by an order of monks.
Sometimes referred to as frico crisps, frico can indeed take on a crispy characteristic that when broken into pieces makes an excellent appetizer or snack. Yet frico can also be cooked in a manner that results in more of an omelette flair. The locals of Friuli often add whatever ingredients are on hand into their frico. Diced potatoes are commonly added to the frico creating frico con patate.
The age of the Montasio cheese used will determine the end result of your frico. A young Montasio cheese, or montasio fresco makes the frico more omelette-like, while aged Montasio cheese or montasio stagionato produces a crisp frico.
Cooking times also come into play when making frico. Frico requires constant monitoring if you’re to achieve your preferred results. Frico comes together rather quickly and is very easily burned at this point. Frico has a fine line between the omelette stage, the crisp stage and rubbish.
Although Montasio cheese is traditionally used for frico, Parmigiano-Reggiano may be substituted. Personally, I have used Asiago instead of Montasio cheese with excellent results.
Making frico is not so much a science with precise methods or ingredients, but rather an understanding. An understanding of how you prefer your frico, an understanding of the end results based on the age of the Montasio cheese, cooking times and an understanding of ingredients added.
Frico may also be formed while still warm. Creating and filling small cheese “baskets” or frico shells opens up another world of frico creativity.
Of course, such experimentation with frico requires several fun and tasty sessions and my suggestion is to enjoy a nice wine from the region while doing so. Invite some friends or round up the family. An interactive appetizer course, if you will.
In a non-stick frying pan, heat several drops of olive oil over a medium heat. Depending upon the age of your Montasio cheese, shred or cut in small strips about 12 ounces of Montasio cheese and sprinkle evenly into the pan. Brown slowly while spooning off the excess fat if you desire. When the edges start to brown, flip the frico and cook the other side. Remember… pancakes! Remove from the pan and let cool until it is able to be handled. Break into pieces and open your wine of choice. That’s all there is to it.
Frico con Patate-Frico with Potatoes
In a non-stick frying pan, heat several drops of olive oil over a medium heat. Add 1 diced onion and 4 medium potatoes, slivered and briefly saute. Add a cup of chicken broth and reduce heat to low. Cook until potatoes are done and the broth has been absorbed. Shred 14 oz. of montasio cheese and evenly sprinkle on top. The frico is done when the edges turn crispy brown. Remember…omelette!
Bacon or sausage can be fried in the pan as a substitute for the olive oil. Drain excess grease and dice meat. Add to the frico.
You’re on your own. If all went well, your basic frico recipe is ready for your personal signature. As you can imagine, a wide variety of ingredients can be added to frico. One of my favorite experiments produced an excellent seafood frico using shrimp, scallops and diced clams. I’ve even taken montasio frico into Cajun country with spicy sausage and a bit of Tabasco.
Explore frico cups filled with millions of possibilities. Have fun experimenting and…buon appetito!