Ahh. Cheese. That miracle food group that has saved numerous cocktail receptions and parties. It's the one dish that any culinarily challenged host can throw together.
While most of us love to eat it--minus, of course, those with lactose intolerance--few know how to partake in its glorious coagulation process.
As part of our how-to series, da Campo Osteria Executive Chef Steven Acosta shows us how to make the restaurant's signature house-made mozzarella.
Traditionally made with the curd from the Italian water buffalo, to get similar results stateside you need to use cow's milk curd. While we do have water buffalo in the US, they are a slightly different species, consuming a different diet. "It's kind of the same thing as wine," says Acosta, "The terroir and diet affects the flavor profiles of the cheese. You just can't get the same grassy notes with American water buffalo as you can with the Italian. Cow's milk curd is most consistent."
Word to the wise: wear heat proof gloves during the process. Acosta wears three sets of latex.
6 ounces of cow's milk curd
1 quart of water
2 tablespoons of kosher salt
Step One: In a large pot combine the salt and water and bring it up to around 200 degrees. You want the water to be just under boiling. "It needs to be salted like the ocean," says Acosta, "It can be too salty, but if it's undersalted the cheese is going to be bland."
Step Two: In a stainless steel mixing bowl, break up the curd into nickle-sized pieces. "The water melts and tempers the curd a lot better in smaller pieces than if it's in large chunks," says Acosta.
Step Three: Add the first bath of water until the curd is completely submerged. Let it sit for a minute. According to Acosta, "It takes multiple baths to get the curd to the right consistency. Because its kept at fridge temperature, it cools the water. So you have to bring it up."
Step Four: Add another cup of water. Use your finger tips to work the curd into one large mass under the water. Form the mass into the shape of a log.
Step Five: Pick up the log and stretch the cheese by spreading your arms apart while holding each end. "It needs to be pliable," says Acosta, "The cheese needs to stretch under its own weight."
Step Six: Fold the cheese in half and stretch it out again.
Step Seven: Take the stretched out cheese and twist it to form a spiral. According to Acosta, "This gets rid of any air-pockets. While it doesn't affect the taste, they're not supposed to be there."
Step Eight: Knead the cheese into the form of a ball like you would a pizza dough. Seam side down, put it into the water again for its third and final bath. "This gives it its sheen," says Acosta.
Step Nine: Garnish and eat.
Chef Acosta teaches mozzarella pulling classes every Thursday at da Campo Osteria at 5:30pm. For $35 per person, the class includes a glass of Prosecco, two glasses of wine, the hands-on demonstration, and the cheese curd. The restaurant also sells cheese curd to the public.
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