Cheesemaking 101: The Cheese School
It’s been a long time since culinary school - seven years to be exact. But this past Sunday I was back in the classroom at The Cheese School in San Francisco; ready and excited to learn the ways of ricotta, mozzarella, and burrata.
I don’t want to give the class secrets away (that wouldn’t win me any friends at The Cheese School, now would it?) but I will say this - bring a date. Apparently making cheese amongst a jungle of strategically placed succulents is prime mating ground for San Francisco millennials, and I was flying solo. Of course, everyone was super nice, and the fact that wine is served throughout the three-hour class makes people extra congenial, but a cheesemaking comrade would have added to the fun.
I will also say that even with attending class, practice makes perfect. The instructor offered expert advice on curd temperature, texture, and the best technique to make those little mozzarella balls. When it came time to make the burrata, which is mozzarella and cream pulled together wonton-style in another thin layer of mozzarella, the assembly process required ninja-like skill. A skill that I do not have. Yet.
I wasn’t expecting aesthetic perfection, but my burrata was quite the sad sack of dairy, and fairly offensive to the eye. I reasoned that this was ok because it would still be creamy, gooey and delicious. Imagine my disappointment then when at home, I pulled my hours-old burrata from the fridge, and the inside was neither creamy nor gooey. There was a real sense of disappointment and defeat but it was at least delicious, so not all was lost.
As far as what went wrong, I think that my burrata’s undoing was the group atmosphere in which it was made - we were loosely following the recipe by sight and guestimation, not strict measurement. Lesson learned - next time when I make burrata, I will be a bit more Type A with the process.
The instructor started class by saying that the day’s session was going to put us all into one of two categories: those who will continue making cheese, and those who will be glad that it is readily available in the store. I am officially in the former group, and will continue on my cheese journey. I’ll expect a few more failures along the way, but that’s ok because even ugly cheese is delicious.
Burrata & Zucchini Pasta
The best way to salvage not-so-spreadable burrata? Throw it in with warm, garlicky zucchini noodles. It's rich and decadent in flavor, but swapping out the traditional pasta for zucchini makes this dish a little healthier and a whole lot lighter!
For two* servings:
- 2 lbs of zucchini
- 2 T olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- Garlic - I used 8 cloves, but you can use as much or as little as you want
- 2 T Mixed herbs - I used Penzey's Sunny Paris (shallots, chives, green peppercorn, basil, tarragon, chervil, bay leaf & dill weed)
- Salt, to taste
- Burrata - as much or as little as you want, roughly cut/torn into chunks
- Wash and spiralize the zucchini. Don't have a spiralizer? Open up your copy of The Vegetable Butcher for instructions on making zucchini ribbons. Don't have a copy of The Vegetable Butcher? Click here.
- In a large pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Don't let it get too hot, or you will fry your garlic.
- Sautée the garlic, and throw in the herbs.
- Add the zucchini ribbons. and give everything a good stir - get the ribbons coated in olive oil and combined with the garlic and herbs. You can add a bit more olive oil if needed, but don't do too much - you don't want the zucchini swimming in oil.
- Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the zucchini is heated through and tender.
- Plate the "pasta", and generously dot the chunks of burrata all over. The burrata will soften up from the heat of the zucchini, and add a nice creaminess to the dish.
- Sprinkle with a bit of salt, maybe even some pepper, if you're feeling crazy.
*This recipe is fairly off the cuff - adjust measurements as needed, or just eyeball the whole thing. It's basically an excuse to eat lots of cheese and garlic, without the guilt/heaviness from pasta carbs, so go with ratios that make you happy.