Chef's Choice: Celebrating Parmigiano Reggiano with chef Kreg Graham 

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Graham's Risotto Chef Kreg Graham's multi-grain risotto is available this week at the Fairmont's Wildflower restaurant.
  • Photo submitted
  • Graham's Risotto Chef Kreg Graham's multi-grain risotto is available this week at the Fairmont's Wildflower restaurant.

Just as the festivities of Cornucopia subsided, Kreg Graham, chef de cuisine at the Fairmont Chateau, was already diving into a different culinary celebration.

The first ever Parmigiano-Reggiano week in British Columbia is well underway, taking place at select restaurants in Whistler and Vancouver from Nov. 17-23.

One of those restaurants is the Fairmont's Wildflower, where Graham will be serving up a special Parmigiano-infused dish to mark the occasion.

"We call it a multi-grain risotto," Graham said.

"We serve it with a poached egg and then some shaved truffle and fresh parmesan on top of that. It's got an interesting texture, and it's a little different take on our regular risotto."

But what is it about Parmigiano-Reggiano that sets it apart? Why does a single cheese deserve an entire week of celebration?

"Well, if you've ever tasted it, it's definitely one of the cheeses that chefs, we love, because it's just the strength of the flavour that comes through," Graham said.

"It's got a lot of artisan craftsmanship that goes into the production, and it's controlled really well in Italy so the quality is always at the forefront. They really do a good job of ensuring that it's consistent and that it meets our sort of specifications when we use it in a dish."

But it turns out Parmigiano-Reggiano week in B.C. is just the embroidering on the edge of the wheel of cheese.

Just how far does this cheese swirl spiral?

For starters, Parmigiano-Reggiano week comes on the heels of the highly successful, third-annual Parmigiano-Reggiano Night — a celebration that took place in 188 restaurants and thousands of homes across Italy on Oct. 25.

But the night was about more than just the enjoyment of good cheese.

It, like the week-long cheese celebration that is now sweeping across B.C., was put on by Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano-Reggiano — or the Consortium of Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese — to educate consumers about the one-of-a-kind nature of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

The Consortium was established in 1934, and has spent the better part of a century protecting the legacy of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

"In Italy it's controlled by the government to protect its integrity," Graham explained.

"Lots of people try to imitate it, but if you want Parmigiano-Reggiano it's coming from one specific place in Italy, using a specific milk, and it's really pretty special."

The cheese takes its name from some of the regions in which it is produced, and according to European law, only cheese from the Italian provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Bologna, Modena and Mantova can be labelled as Parmesan.

Each wheel is aged for a minimum of 12 months, and reaches peak flavour after 24.

Graham said the legitimacy of the cheese can usually be determined by its texture.

"When you have a real Parmigiano-Reggiano you can taste the crystals... when you bite into it you can actually feel the crystals," he said.

"Like in a very good cheddar, it just comes from the aging process, and its something that's very special."

While the cheese is used in many dishes at the Fairmont, the risotto will offer visitors a unique experience.

"It's going to be an interesting dish because of the textures of the different grains that are involved," Graham said.

"We cook an egg at 63C degrees in a water bath so that it's got a very soft yolk, and you open that up and it sort of melts into the rizzoto... then you have the cheese that's freshly grated on top of it, and some fresh truffle. It's a very earthy, very wintery kind of dish that's going to warm you up and get the taste buds moving."

Multi-grain risotto


¼ cup arborio rice

¼ cup farrow

¼ cup pot barley

¼ cup wild rice

2 cups mushroom stock

¼ cup chanterelle mushrooms

3 tbsp shemeji mushrooms

3 tbsp oyster mushrooms

3 tbsp Parmigiano Reggiano

1 organic egg

2 tbs olive oil

1/8 tsp black truffle

1 tsp fine herbs

2 tbs butter

1 shallot, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/8 tsp kosher salt


In a pot, add the oil with the garlic and shallot over medium heat and cook until tender.

Add the mushrooms and cook until lightly caramelized.

Add the barley, farrow and arborio rice and coat in the hot oil.

In a separate pan, add some oil and the wild rice over high heat to pop like popcorn, season and reserve.

In an immersion circulator, cook the egg at 63C for 1 hour.

Add the mushroom stock to the rice a ladel at a time until tender and cooked.

Finish the risotto with the butter and some of the cheese.

Garnish the risotto with the egg, cracked out of the shell, the wild rice popcorn, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano and fine herbs.

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