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Cheesy From Now On

Hey, remember a couple weeks ago when I made ricotta and then used the whey to make bread?

Well.

It happened again.

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It was kind of an accident. I bought milk on Monday and didn’t notice it was only dated sell by Wednesday until Wednesday. And sure, yes, it was still unopened and should have been fine for a bit after that, but I mostly consume milk a glug at a time in my coffee, so there was really no way I was going to get through a gallon of it in a reasonable time frame at that rate. Plus I’ve been on a decent streak as far as not wasting any food goes lately and didn’t feel ready to break it just yet. Thus: a promise to myself to check dates more thoroughly at the store, and also MORE CHEESE.

My second time through this cheese/bread process it already felt kind of familiar. I know twice isn’t really a pattern, but for me it’s usually enough that I start saying well I guess this is just how I live my life now (see also: my cat when her food is ten minutes late and she assumes she’ll just never eat again). Two true things about me: new stuff is my favorite thing in the whole entire world, and also I can’t stand not knowing what to expect and really thrive on routine and habit. So, basically, new stuff that I extra love turns into comfortable routine stuff pretty quickly. Wait, make that three true things about me, because easy kitchen tricks that lend themselves well to becoming part of my usual routine are also my favorite thing in the entire world. Cheese and bread definitely feel like magic tricks to me but, at least with the recipes I’ve been working from, they also feel pretty easy to get the hang of and execute fairly well. You heat some milk up, add some vinegar, stir it for a sec, and BOOM! CHEESE! And then: whey, flour, yeast, salt, stir and BOOM! BREAD! I could definitely make this a regular part of my life.

So my brain has been in “imagining that this is how my life is now” mode this week. I should get up every Saturday and make ricotta and then make lasagna for dinner, I think. Then: Ooohhhhhhh I should make my own pasta — NO I should make my own MOZZARELLA too…ok but then the timing…pasta dough first, then the mozzarella while that rests, and then the ricotta real quick-like when it’s time to assemble the whole thing so it will still be spreadable? YES. And once it’s garden time again I can even do the sauce from fresh tomatoes–OR ALTERNATE AND DO A PESTO LASAGNA EVERY OTHER WEEK!– but I mean there’s no reason I can’t make the sauce from canned tomatoes now too. I mean it sounds totally reasonable and I should totally become someone who eats entirely-from-scratch lasagna every Saturday night.

I should note that my brain tells me these things in the same tone it uses to say things like, I’m so much happier when I do yoga in the morning. I should start getting up a half-hour early to do that every day, or, knitting a gauge swatch really is so important and rewarding. I’m going to start really prioritizing knitting a proper gauge swatch before every new big project I take on.  Although maybe if I got up a half-hour early to do yoga every day, I’d have more time later for making cheese and gauge swatches. Who can say?

But enough about cheese. I’ve come to the end of the dairy chapter of On Cooking, so it’s time for a recap of what I made and what I learned.

Crème Fraîche

How It Works

You heat up some heavy cream, add a little butter milk, let it sit for a day or so until it thickens up. That’s really all there is to it. It ends tasting up somewhere between sour cream and yogurt but quite a bit lighter.

What I Made With It

I stirred in some dill, salt and pepper and drizzled it over roasted salmon; I drizzled it into a few different soups, I used it in place of sour cream on “whatever’s in the fridge is becoming tacos” night; and I used it in place of heavy cream in Marcela Hazan’s Tomato Sauce With Heavy Cream on “I’m feeling fancy and I’m making fresh pasta for dinner” night

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What I Learned

I really like it! If I make it again I’ll let it thicken more (I left mine out somewhere in the 12-14 hour range and it was about Elmer’s glue consistency). Also I really should just make a pint of it next time.

 

Ricotta

How It Works

As mentioned above, this is a pretty similar process to the crème fraîche. Both batches I made turned out much sweeter than store bought ricotta but a bit chewier. Will definitely be making this again, especially now that I’m embarking on my new life as a Weekly Lasagna Lady.

What I Made With It

Otherwise-not-from-scratch lasagna with the first batch; an attempt at the Paneer Masala from How To Cook Everything with the second that ended up with the cheese:sauce ratio all skewed but was still a big bowl of fried cheese and tomatoes so I’m not complaining; so much bread from the leftover whey

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Herbed Cheese Spread

How It Works

OK, this was a fantastic idea. Cream cheese, butter, a splash of cream, garlic and fresh herbs. The recipe called for parsley; I was out but I had plenty of dill still kicking around from making the salmon with dill sauce earlier in the week. It was SO GARLICKY and I’ve eaten it every day.

What I Made With It

Mostly just toast for breakfast every day; an attempt at a stuffed pork tenderloin that turned into pork tenderloin and a pan full of melted cream cheese but was still tasty enough (but not photographable)

What I Learned

I for sure don’t need to make a pound of it at a time but it’s still entirely worth making.

Further Thoughts

I am loving my little project so far! Maybe it’s having a structure, maybe it’s that I’m not in school right now (that is seriously such a huge load off that I can’t discount the possibility that it might be causing 100% of my good feels right now), maybe it’s the shiny new range or my new photography setup, but I am SUPER PUMPED about cooking lately. And Eat Your Books is working! I’ve been searching through my recipes and actually pulling my cookbooks out to cook from! YAY ME!

Up next from On Cooking: clarified butter and roughly 9,000 gallons of stock.

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