July 13, 2012
Game-changer, Tip #7: Homemade Ricotta
Since deciding to leap into the world of freelancing, I often feel as though I'm performing a spectacle of plate spinning. Constantly trying to keep the plates going, adding new ones all the time - take my eye off of one, and the whole thing is liable to fall to pieces.
One of the many plates I spin is restaurant reviewing. A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of checking out a restaurant in Fort Greene, called Lulu & Po. By far the most delectable thing I was served all night was a more-ish plate of homemade ricotta, pesto and warm pizza dough. The idea was to top the bites of crackly dough with the creamy ricotta, drizzle with the pesto and munch away. It was as simple anything and yet, heaven on earth. The kind of dish that makes you want to curl up in a bed of it.
Making homemade ricotta is kind of trending in the world of food. Forgive me for this, but I guess you could say that it's ri-hotta at the moment. I'm not entirely sure why the sudden spike in interest - maybe it's because people recently discovered how easy it is to make. And maybe it's also a revolt against the extremely steep price tag that seems to be slapped on fresh ricotta in various cheese joints, which will go unnamed, all over this town.
This isn't an unattainable kitchen dream reserved for only the most skilled of chefs and cheese-makers. ANYONE can do it people - that means you. Fresh ricotta is mind blowingly delicious and definitely a cooking game changer. The next time someone asks you to fork over 8 or 9 dollars for a shockingly small container of fresh ricotta, just say no. Instead buy some heavy cream and a lemon, use the milk and salt you already have at home and be on your way.
I had some pizza dough, frozen from my last batch. I defrosted it until it was room temp, rolled it out, drizzled liberally with olive oil and dusted with sea salt before baking it for a little bit longer than I would if I were making a regular pizza. The goal was a crisp crust to contrast with the pillowy ricotta. I drizzled a little honey on top of each dollop of ricotta, making for a salty, sweet, lemony bite every time.
The best part about ricotta is that it's a cooking project that won't hijack your day. Get it started and leave it to drain while you get on with whatever you've got on tap for your Saturday or Sunday. And, don't fret about the pizza dough if you don't have it on hand, substitute fresh crusty bread or toasted crostini - or just eat it with a spoon while no one is watching.
What you'll need:
Yields around 1 cup of ricotta
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 Tbsp lemon juice or white wine vinegar
3/4 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp lemon zest
A few drizzles of honey
Combine the milk and cream in a small pot and place it over medium heat.
Gently bring to a light boil and add the acid. Stir once and lower heat, cooking for another 2-3 minutes.
Turn the heat off and leave the pot untouched for 30-40 minutes.
While you wait for the curds to fully develop, line a sieve or colander with two to three layers of cheesecloth.
After 30-40 minutes, gently ladle the curds into the lined sieve.
Once you have transferred all of the curds, gently pull the sides of the cheesecloth up and lay them over the curds, to lightly cover.
Allow to sit and drain for at least 15 minutes. The longer it drains, the thicker it will become. Please note though, that the longer it sits, the more risk of it drying out, so 10-15 minutes should be sufficient.
Store the ricotta in an airtight container in the fridge for a couple of days. Although, you'll want to use it immediately.