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How cheese can take your grilling from average to amazing

(ARA) - The sun is shining and the smell of charcoal is in the air – it’s officially grilling season. Eighty-five percent of consumers will take to the tongs for some outdoor grilling this summer, according to the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association. So what’s on the menu? 

The California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) has developed a host of smokin’ tips and juicy recipes that will make you say “cheese please” at your next backyard feast.

Savor the real California Cheese flavor

Did you know certain varieties of cheese can be grilled alone for a tasty treat? For optimal grilling results, avoid having the cheese on direct heat or for the grill to be too hot. Wrap the cheese in edible leaves that have been soaked in liquid (fruit juice, olive oil, wine) or put in a ramekin and place over indirect flames and on the cooler parts of the grill. If the temperature is too hot, the moisture from the cheese will evaporate, leaving you with a grainy texture.

Different textures of Real California Cheeses  will respond differently to the dry heat of a grill. For example:

* Soft/fresh and semi-soft/mold-ripened – A category of cheeses that are typically cream in texture, such as Brie, Ricotta and Mascarpone, are best contained in a ramekin or wrapped up in an edible leaf.

* Semi-hard /cooking, melting – These include cheeses such as Monterey Jack and Cheddar and are best incorporated into a dish, in or on a burger.

* Hard/grating – Generally describes any cheese aged sufficiently to become firm enough to grate, such as Dry Jack and several Hispanic-style cheeses, such as Cotija Añejo and Enchilado, which are dry, crumble easily and are used as a grating cheese in many Mexican dishes. These cheeses should only be used as an ingredient.

* Blue – Best incorporated into a dish, in or on a burger.

Avoid the burn

To check if the cheese is done and warmed through, it should have a pillowy or supple texture depending on the type of cheese. Higher moisture cheeses will be softer and firmer cheeses will have a more supple texture. Cook 10 to 15 minutes depending on cheese variety, size and how hot your grill is.

Perfectly grilled meals using real California Cheese

The grill isn’t only for preparing burgers, chicken and fish. Expand your grilling horizons and next time you are firing up the barbecue try:

1. Pizza - Prepare dough and grill both sides until toasted but not entirely cooked – take off of grill and build your own pizza from a buffet of Real California Cheeses and other favorite pizza toppings.

2. Quesadillas - Make quesadillas on the grill using large tortillas and your favorite Real California Queso. Place shredded Queso on half the tortilla and fold. You can add anything from chicken and salsa to grilled vegetables.

3. Grilled cheese sandwich - Prepare your sandwiches on the grill by using hearty artisan bread that has a dense texture – you don’t want to lose any cheese into the fire. Brush the exterior of bread with butter and fill with a favorite cheddar (or any other semi-hard cheese) that has been shredded and mixed with chopped green onions and thinly sliced shallots.

With these simple tips, you are ready to impress family and friends with tasty flavors and pairings for any occasion. Just look for the Real California Cheese seal to guarantee you're getting products made with 100 percent California milk. For more delicious ideas, recipes, and information visit RealCaliforniaMilk.com, like us on Facebook at Facebook.com/RealCaliforniaMilk or follow us on Twitter at Twitter.com/RealCalifMilk and Pinterest at Pinterest.com/RealCalifMilk.

Porter Beer Burger with Real California Gouda Cheese, Crispy Bacon and Caramelized Onions

Yield: Serves four

Ingredients:

1 pound ground beef chuck

4 ounces bacon, cooked until crisp, crumbled

1 cup yellow onion, diced

4 ounces porter beer

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 ounces Real California Gouda cheese, sliced

4 potato buns, toasted, for serving

Stone ground mustard

Red leaf lettuce

Directions:

1. Place a large frying pan over medium-high heat and add bacon, cook until crisp then remove from pan. Add the onion to the bacon drippings in the pan and season with salt, cook until golden brown and caramelized. Add the porter to the pan and cook until the liquid has evaporated, remove from the pan and cool. Combine the beef, onions, crumbled bacon, and salt and pepper in a bowl, and mix to combine. Form the mixture into 4 patties, each about 3 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick.

2. Preheat the grill and brush the grill grate with oil. Add the burgers and grill for about 3 minutes for rare, 4 minutes for medium-rare meat. Turn them over and grill for another 3 or 4 minutes, topping the burgers with the cheese in the last minute of cooking. (Or panfry the burgers in the pan you cooked the bacon in, over medium heat for 3 minutes per side for rare meat, adding the cheese as described above.)

3. Place the burgers on the toasted bread, and top with the red leaf lettuce, mustard. Serve immediately.