June 12, 2010

The other day I was telling a friend about my food guilt complex.  Let me explain: If I take shortcuts (i.e. using canned vegetables) I feel like a horrible person.  Okay, not a horrible person, but a lazy cook.  I like the idea of everything being made from scratch, even if it takes longer.  Today I bought frozen peas for a soup I’m making tomorrow and had to tell myself that it was alright that I was not sitting and shelling fresh ones by hand.  Perhaps it’s time I move to a farm… or become one of those Brooklyn crazies that keep chickens in the backyard for the fresh eggs (at least that’s why I think they have them.) 
I digress.
For tomorrow’s Sunday night dinner,  I am doing a summery pasta that includes ricotta cheese, so I figured why not make it from scratch!  I’ve never made cheese before, so it was a bit of an adventure (adventure in cheesecloth.)  This experience also convinced me that I may be the messiest cook that has ever existed.  My kitchen is a disaster. 
I used the simplest recipe I could find.  Two ingredients!  Three if you add salt.
Homemade Ricotta (via 101cookbooks)(Two things: I didn’t buy the right amounts of milk and buttermilk, so I did a quart of milk, 1/2 quart of buttermilk.  Also, I added salt.)
1 gallon good-quality whole milk 1 quart good-quality buttermilk

Combine both milks into a large nonreactive saucepan over medium high heat, preferably a thick-bottomed pan if you have one. You will need to stir occasionally, scraping the pan bottom, to avoid scorching. Once the milk is hot, stop stirring. You will start to see curds rise and come to the surface. Run a spoon or spatula along the bottom of the pan occasionally to free up any stuck curds.
While the milk is heating, select a sieve or colander with a wide surface area. This will help your curds cook more quickly. Line the colander with a large piece of cheesecloth that has been folded numerous times – until you have about 5 or six layers. Place the lined colander over a large bowl or sink.
When the mixture reaches about 175F degrees, you will see the curds and whey seperate. The curds are the clumpy white mass. Now, remove the pan from heat, and gently begin to ladle curds into the prepared sieve. Pull up on the sides of the cheesecloth to drain off any extra liquid, but resist pressing on the curds. Gather the edges of the cloth, tie or fasten them into a knot and allow them to drain for another 15 minutes minimum. Move to an airtight container and refrigerate if you aren’t going to use it immediately. Try to use or eat it within a few days, it really is best that way.
Makes about 4 cups.
I’m not sure that making cheese is my forte, but I’m glad I gave it a go.  I will make sure my dinner guests know all of the work that went into it so that they lavish me with praise. 
I’m off to watch The Room on Bjorn’s rooftop, fresh hummus and truffled popcorn in hand…  But that’s another post all together.