I think there’s a mouse in my house. The hunk of Parmegiano-Reggiano in my refrigerator shrinks steadily. The grated Parmegiano mysteriously disappears. Come to think of it, it seems like Parmegiano is always on the shopping list, even when we don’t eat pasta. Slices of cheddar cheese go missing, and so do slices of Swiss and provolone. And the Pecorino, which was supposed to be used for dinner, is no more. It’s time to catch my little mouse, and I know just how to lure him in—there’s no way he can resist. Where will the trail of shreds lead? Well, I have my suspicions…My husband did ask for his very own wheel of Parmegiano for his birthday.
6 ¼ ounces all-purpose flour
4 ounces (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
8 ounces shredded sharp cheddar
1 teaspoon nigella seeds
¼ teaspoon powdered mustard
Generous pinch cayenne pepper
Several drops Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons water
Combine all of the ingredients in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low for about 3 minutes, or until the dough comes together. Transfer the dough to a sheet of parchment paper and roll into a 2-inch log. Refrigerate for about 45 minutes, or until firm.
Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Unwrap the dough and cut into 3/16-inch slices. Arrange the slices about an inch apart on parchment-lined baking trays. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, or until lightly browned. Transfer crackers to a rack to cool.
Makes 4 to 5 dozen crackers. This is an extremely versatile recipe; try experimenting with different cheeses and flavorings. For example, instead of nigella, try freshly cracked black pepper—a very coarse grind is best. Or substitute Parmegiano-Reggiano and 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary for the cheddar and nigella, omitting the mustard, cayenne, and Worcestershire.
Nigella, which can also be known as kalonji or charnushka, tastes very much like thyme and is available at Indian markets and at Penzeys Spices. Crackers keep for several days in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dry place. The log of dough, or portions of it, may be frozen for up to 1 month tightly wrapped in plastic wrap.