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Homemade Ricotta

Ricotta 11 Homemade Ricotta

I’m fairly certain that in some previous life I grew up on a farm, with chickens and dairy cows and those wide-trunked, top-heavy trees that flop over fences and into creeks. Or perhaps I just watched too much Little House as a kid.

We drove back from Kelowna yesterday, stopping in at D Dutchmen Dairy for our usual vanilla milkshake (like thick, cold cream – made with their own ice cream and a glug of whole milk from the Holsteins out back) and to stock up on dairy products to cram into the car for the last leg home.

DDutchman+sign 585x391 Homemade Ricotta

The sign on the barn said that each Holstein produces 8500 litres of milk per year (plus one calf) – math isn’t my forte, but that calculates to over 160 litres of milk per week, per cow. (Never mind urban chickens – I want to keep a cow in my back yard.) I fantasized for the rest of the drive about what I might do with access to a steady supply of so much good milk/cream/butter and how I might smuggle a cow into our garage, and when I got home I made a batch of ricotta.

ricotta 13 Homemade Ricotta

There are plenty of formulas for homemade ricotta out there – most are made with whole milk and lemon juice, some are enriched with cream, others use white wine vinegar as the acid. All you do is heat the milk, then stir in some lemon juice and it magically separates into curds and whey, which you then pour through a cheesecloth. Really, that’s it.

ricotta Collage 2 Homemade Ricotta

The milk/cream is heated to steaming – or 190F, if you have a thermometer in your drawer – squeeze in some lemon juice and let it sit for five or ten, then pour it through some cheesecloth. Isn’t it satisfying to use cheesecloth for actual cheese making?

ricotta 17 Homemade Ricotta
ricotta 19 Homemade Ricotta

It will drain in less than an hour, but the longer it sits, the more whey will drain out – which you can thriftily use it in bread dough, pancakes, muffins and the like.

ricotta 18 Homemade Ricotta

If there’s so much whey that the colander is sitting in it, pour it out into another bowl. (You’ll wind up with about three cups of whey and one of ricotta.)

ricotta 14 Homemade Ricotta

A friend told me this morning his mom used to make paneer in exactly the same way – she’d set a plate on top to weigh it down, which you can do once the ricotta is firm enough to gather up in the cheesecloth. The more whey you press out, the firmer and drier your cheese will be.

ricotta 20 Homemade Ricotta

Ricotta is great in cheesecake, divine on pizza and tossed into pasta, spread on toast or crostini and drizzled with honey, and a soft, spreadable ball is perfect for a cheese board or brunch. Also? I find it immensely satisfying to have a bundle of fresh, homemade cheese wrapped in cheesecloth in the fridge. It’s almost like having my own cow. But I get to keep my lawn, too.

Ricotta Collage Homemade Ricotta

This formula makes about a cup – enough for a nice little ramekin for your breakfast table or to add to a recipe. Quantities are easily doubled – and the process is the same. I brought some to CBC this morning with a batch of cherry-rhubarb preserves – I simmered frozen rhubarb (gotta get rid of last year’s stash) and the last of a bag of frozen cherries on the stovetop with about a cup of sugar until it all got soft and jammy. Perfect with the smooth, creamy ricotta and a crusty, chewy baguette.

ricotta 23 Homemade Ricotta

Homemade Ricotta

This method and ratio is very close to a lot of recipes out there, like this one and this one. I used 2 1/2 cups 2% milk and 1 1/2 cups half & half – so long as you don’t go below 2% you should be fine.

4 cups whole milk, or some 2% and some heavy cream or half & half
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
the juice of a juicy lemon (3 Tbsp.)

In a large, heavy saucepan, heat the milk (and cream, if you’re using it) and salt over medium-high heat until it’s steaming – if you have a thermometer, it should read 190F. Stir it occasionally to keep it from scorching on the bottom.

Remove the pot from the heat and gently stir in the lemon juice, only stirring a couple times. Let it sit undisturbed for 5-10 minutes.

Line a colander or sieve with a double thickness of cheesecloth and set it in a large bowl; pour in the curds and whey. (If the whey is too deep and the colander is sitting in it, you can pour it off into another bowl.) Let the ricotta sit for an hour or so – the longer it drains, the drier it will be. Place a plate on top of it if you want to press out as much whey as possible.

Makes about 1 cup of ricotta.

button print gry20 Homemade Ricotta

May 13 2014 | cheese | 14 Comments »

Braised Short Rib Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onions

ACE Grilled Cheese 1 Braised Short Rib Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onions

I feel like I’ve been slingshot (can that be used as a verb?) straight into mid January, and I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for a grilled cheese sandwich.

I’ve decided that if I’m going to eat bread, it might as well be truly fantastic – and preferably used to bookend other divine ingredients, bound together by melty cheese. There are few things I love more than a grilled cheese sandwich, but too often everything gets ignored but the cheese.

Grilled cheese Collage Braised Short Rib Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onions

Let’s start with the bread, shall we? This is a roasted garlic oval from ACE Bakery, with sweet, mellow roasted garlic right in the dough. It’s a good size – with enough structural integrity and a crisp crust. I used my friend Jessica’s trick – to mix grated Parmesan cheese into soft butter to spread on the outside of each slice, which creates an extra crunchy, cheesy exterior, maximizing those crispy edges.

Garlic bread 2 Braised Short Rib Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onions

Inside – aged cheddar is my favourite, and I had some old orange and extra old white in the fridge, so I used both. Grated, it easily covers any surface area, and melts more quickly. And a spoonful of caramelized onions – it could be a batch of onion jam, or just chop or blitz an onion or two in the food processor, then saute it on the stovetop in a little oil and a little butter for 10 minutes, or until it all turns nice and dark and golden and sticky. I usually can’t help a quick splash of balsamic vinegar in there too, and a pinch of sugar if you want to help things along.

Grilled cheese 1 Braised Short Rib Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onions

And that would be enough to make me happy, right there. But I’ve been braising plenty of beef or bison short ribs lately for some reason or other, which reminded me of how delicious bits of leftover short ribs are in a grilled cheese, and so I braised a batch just for this occasion. (The occasion being making them on Global on Saturday morning.)

Grilled cheese 2 Braised Short Rib Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onions

You don’t need a lot of the beef; pulled off the bone, it’s so rich and intense – more the essence of beef than thinly sliced roast from the deli – a few chunks elevates this sandwich to the truly sublime.

ACE Grilled Cheese 2 Braised Short Rib Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onions

Add woolly socks + a good book (or Downton Abbey on Netflix!) to get through a January weekend.

The Ultimate Grilled Cheese with Braised Short Ribs and Caramelized Onions

Short Ribs:
canola oil, for cooking
4-6 bison or beef short ribs
salt & pepper
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 cup red wine or beer
1 cup beef or chicken stock (or more wine)

Caramelized Onions:
2 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar (optional)
2 tsp. brown sugar
salt and pepper

grated aged white cheddar
ACE Bakery Roasted Garlic Oval loaf
soft butter or olive oil, for cooking
grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Heat a drizzle of oil in a small, heavy oven-proof pot set over medium-high heat. Season the ribs with salt and pepper and brown on all sides; add the balsamic vinegar and cook for a minute, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Pour the wine overtop, and add enough stock to come about halfway up the sides of the ribs. Cover and cook at 300F for 2 1/2-3 hours, until the meat is very tender. When cool enough to handle, pull the meat off the bones and set aside. Meanwhile, set a heavy skillet over medium-high heat; add a generous drizzle of oil and cook the onions for 10 minutes, until soft and golden. Add the balsamic vinegar (if you’re using it) and cook for a minute, until it evaporates; add the brown sugar, season with salt and pepper and cook for another 5-8 minutes, until deep golden. Set aside to cool.

To assemble your grilled cheese sandwiches, slice the roasted garlic oval on a slight diagonal and layer with grated cheddar, caramelized onions, short rib and more cheddar. If you like, stir some grated Parmesan cheese into soft butter and spread on the outside of the sandwich; alternatively, brush with olive oil. Grill in a panini grill or in a hot skillet, turning as needed, until the cheese has melted and the sandwich is crusty and golden.

Makes as many as you’d like.

pixel Braised Short Rib Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onions
button print gry20 Braised Short Rib Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onions

January 12 2014 | beef and cheese and sandwiches | 10 Comments »

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