Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Return to Sur la Table, Part 1

Thanks to my friend Vanessa diSteffano, who has been a teacher at Sur la Table for a number of years, I've enjoyed quite a few classes at the Farmer's Market location in Los Angeles. Sadly, Vanessa left the store to return to her work as a pastry chef at a newly-opened restaurant called Duplex on Third, near Cedars-Sinai. Before she left, I managed to catch two of her classes in June.

The first class was a lesson in making ricotta, mozzarella, and burrata cheeses.  I could not believe how easy it was to make fresh ricotta and I can't believe that it has taken me this long to learn. It is simply a matter of cleaning your tools thoroughly, heating some milk, adding salt and buttermilk, stirring and straining. Voila! Ricotta.

Fresh ricotta forming curds.
Drained ricotta. Just add a little cream.
Mozzarella is a bit more complicated, because it involves rennet, curd cutting, and stretching with reheating.
The mozzarella cooks while the ricotta cools.

Draining cooked mozzarella curds.

Mozzarella curds before shaping.
Vanessa salts the cooking curds.
Mozzarella curds have been shaped into a block. The creamy ricotta rests before stuffing the kneaded and stretched mozzarella.
We made burrata by stretching the mozzarella and stuffing it with ricotta mixed with cream. The mozzarella balls needed to be reheated to remain pliable.
Vanessa carefully reheats the mozzarella, which has been shaped into balls.
Tying the stretched and stuffed mozzarella into a pouch.
Finished burrata: mozzarella stuffed with creamy ricotta.

We then prepared glazed apricots to serve with the burrata as a kind of crostini. It was fairly easy to do.      
Mise en place for the glazed apricots.
After the apricots were mixed with orange juice and vanilla, they were laid out on a pan.
The apricots were generously sprinkled with brown sugar.
A torch was used to brulee the apricots.
The bruleed apricots on top of the burrata and toast was delicious. The creamy ricotta served with salted honey was even better.

The class easily fit into the two hour time-slot. It does seem a bit wasteful to use so much milk to make so much cheese, but the results are definitely worth it.

Vanessa recommended a book from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company  called  Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll. You can buy a kit for basic cheesemaking from them, or from, or (if you are very lucky) from a local cheese supply shop. It happens that there is a home cheese/wine/beer making shop tucked away just off Ventura Boulevard in Woodland Hills where I was able to find the book, vegetarian rennet, and other supplies right after I took the class. The book contains instructions for making aged cheeses as well as fresh cheeses. Even though I have a wine cellar, which would be an excellent location for aging cheese, the worry about contamination is a bit much for me to deal with. But I have no doubt I'll try my hand at some more fresh cheese really soon.

Next up, I'll write about the other class I took, based on Julia Child's work.

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