Friday, March 26, 2010

Breaking the Ice

After rereading Quinn's article for Drink Me Magazine on wine cocktails (man that's a lot of links for an opening sentence), I was struck by sudden inspiration.
Dessert wine. White grape juice. Vodka. Garnished with frozen grapes. Maybe something to add a little sparkle like soda or champagne. I could call it, I dunno, the Window Pane or the Looking Glass or something.
And then that little niggling feeling. That, "wow, this is so real to me I can practically taste it. . . " and then I remembered. I had. It's called the Icebreaker from Luna Park in SF's Mission District. Riiiiight.
In any case, here's the recipe so you too, can try it out and then a year later think you came up with it.

ICEBREAKER (aka Window Pane or something)

Fermented grape juice is shaken vigorously with Ciroc Vodka and served over ice in a frosted drink known as the Icebreaker at Luna Park in San Francisco. Owner A.J. Gilbert shares, "We've wanted to do something with frozen grapes for a long time and that's how this drink started. We went for Ciroc Vodka because it's made from cold fermented grapes, and the Bonny Doon Muscat Vin de Glaciere, a dessert wine made from frozen grapes, naturally complemented."

2 oz. Ciroc Vodka
2 oz. Bonny Doon Muscat Vin de Glaciere

Shake vigorously over ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a frozen
Flame Red grape and Thompson Seedless grape.

But see now, if I add white grape juice and soda or champagne to it, it really could be my own drink right? But you know, intensely based on this one?

Yes, that WAS my creative spark sputtering and going out, thanks for asking.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Ad Hoc Fried Chicken

Taken from believe it or not. Not that I allow myself fried chicken very often, but if it's THOMAS KELLER'S fried chicken, I might have to give it a go.

If there's a better fried chicken, I haven't tasted it. First, and critically, the chicken is brined for 12 hours in a herb-lemon brine, which seasons the meat and helps it stay juicy. The flour is seasoned with garlic and onion powders, paprika, cayenne, salt, and pepper. The chicken is dredged in the seasoned flour, dipped in buttermilk, and then dredged again in the flour. The crust becomes almost feathered and is very crisp. Fried chicken is a great American tradition that’s fallen out of favor. A taste of this, and you will want it back in your weekly routine. --Thomas Keller

(Serves 4-6)

  • Two 2 1/2- to 3-pound chickens (see Note on Chicken Size)
  • Chicken Brine (recipe follows), cold

  • For Dredging and Frying
  • Peanut or canola oil for deep-frying
  • 1 quart buttermilk
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Coating
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Ground fleur de sel or fine sea salt
  • Rosemary and thyme sprigs for garnish


Cut each chicken into 10 pieces: 2 legs, 2 thighs, 4 breast quarters, and 2 wings. Pour the brine into a container large enough to hold the chicken pieces, add in the chicken, and refrigerate for 12 hours (no longer, or the chicken may become too salty).

Remove the chicken from the brine (discard the brine) and rinse under cold water, removing any herbs or spices sticking to the skin. Pat dry with paper towels, or let air-dry. Let rest at room temperature for 1-1/2 hours, or until it comes to room temperature.

If you have two large pots (about 6 inches deep) and a lot of oil, you can cook the dark and white meat at the same time; if not, cook the dark meat first, then turn up the heat and cook the white meat. No matter what size pot you have, the oil should not come more than one-third of the way up the sides of the pot. Fill the pot with at least 2 inches of peanut oil and heat to 320°F. Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet. Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper.

Meanwhile, combine all the coating ingredients in a large bowl. Transfer half the coating to a second large bowl. Pour the buttermilk into a third bowl and season with salt and pepper. Set up a dipping station: the chicken pieces, one bowl of coating, the bowl of buttermilk, the second bowl of coating, and the parchment-lined baking sheet.

Just before frying, dip the chicken thighs into the first bowl of coating, turning to coat and patting off the excess; dip them into the buttermilk, allowing the excess to run back into the bowl; then dip them into the second bowl of coating. Transfer to the parchment-lined pan.

Carefully lower the thighs into the hot oil. Adjust the heat as necessary to return the oil to the proper temperature. Fry for 2 minutes, then carefully move the chicken pieces around in the oil and continue to fry, monitoring the oil temperature and turning the pieces as necessary for even cooking, for 11 to 12 minutes, until the chicken is a deep golden brown, cooked through, and very crisp. Meanwhile, coat the chicken drumsticks and transfer to the parchment-lined baking sheet.

Transfer the cooked thighs to the cooling rack skin-side-up and let rest while you fry the remaining chicken. (Putting the pieces skin-side-up will allow excess fat to drain, whereas leaving them skin-side-down could trap some of the fat.) Make sure that the oil is at the correct temperature, and cook the chicken drumsticks. When the drumsticks are done, lean them meat-side-up against the thighs to drain, then sprinkle the chicken with fine sea salt.

Turn up the heat and heat the oil to 340°F. Meanwhile, coat the chicken breasts and wings. Carefully lower the chicken breasts into the hot oil and fry for 7 minutes, or until golden brown, cooked through, and crisp. Transfer to the rack, sprinkle with salt, and turn skin side up. Cook the wings for 6 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer the wings to the rack and turn off the heat. Arrange the chicken on a serving platter. Add the herb sprigs to the oil (which will still be hot) and let them cook and crisp for a few seconds, then arrange them over the chicken.

Note on Chicken Size: You may need to go to a farmers' market to get these small chickens. Grocery store chickens often run 3 to 4 pounds. They can, of course, be used in this recipe but if chickens in the 2-1/2- to 3-pound range are available to you, they're worth seeking out. They’re a little easier to cook properly at the temperatures we recommend here and, most important, pieces this size result in the optimal meat-to-crust proportion, which is such an important part of the pleasure of fried chicken.

Note: We let the chicken rest for 7 to 10 minutes after it comes out of the fryer so that it has a chance to cool down. If the chicken has rested for longer than 10 minutes, put the tray of chicken in a 400°F oven for a minute or two to ensure that the crust is crisp and the chicken is hot.

Chicken Brine
Makes 2 gallons
  • 5 lemons, halved
  • 24 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch (4 ounces) flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 bunch (1 ounce) thyme
  • 1/2 cup clover honey
  • 1 head garlic, halved through the equator
  • 3/4 cup black peppercorns
  • 2 cups (10 ounces) kosher salt, preferably Diamond Crystal
  • 2 gallons water

The key ingredient here is the lemon, which goes wonderfully with chicken, as do the herbs: bay leaf, parsley, and thyme. This amount of brine will be enough for 10 pounds.

Combine all the ingredients in a large pot, cover, and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and cool completely, then chill before using. The brine can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Friday, March 19, 2010

It's almost summer!

Well, color me inspired. This seems like a perfect spot to put my Lavender Lemon Fizz and whatever other fun drinks I come up with for summer sipping. Given the gorgeous weather we've had this week, it's no surprise that I'm already dreaming of warmer things to come.

And yes, it looks sort of like ketchup, but it's not. I can't wait to try their yummy sounding concoction.

ingredients (serves 4):

1 1/2 pints fresh raspberries & blackberries (about 4 cups)

1 to 2 tablespoons sugar

6 large springs of fresh mint (about 2 ounces)

juice of 1 lemon

1/2 cup vodka

1 bottle prosecco (750 ml)

Doin it:
Reserve some berries for garnish. mash remaining berries, sugar, and herbs in a large bowl. stir in vodka, juice of 1 lemon, and prosecco. pour mixture through a sieve into a pitcher, pressing through; discard solids. pour into 12 oz bottles, add garnish and cork. keep chilled on ice before serving.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

oh good Lord that's an awful photo

I lurve the Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato soup from Trader Joe's - problem? Sugar.
That crystallized enemy of South Beachers everywhere, that turns up in just about every processed food. No wonder Americans have such a sweet tooth, there is some version of sugar in nearly every packaged food, sauce or condiment we eat! We eat 71 pounds of it a year. Oof.
While I don't foresee cutting it out of my diet completely (hello fruit), I certainly want to be the boss of how much goes into my meals.
A hankering for crispy cheese and yummy tomato soup led me to making my own version of the TJ's staple. And you know what? I like that it's not as sweet. So there.

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup
1/2 of a chopped onion (1 cup or so)
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 large cans of tomatoes (I got the 365 whole tomatoes from Whole Foods; the big size, not the standard soup can size)
2 1/2 red peppers (I had a half of one on hand; you can go with two peppers, or three)
basil (I used 3 frozen cubes, probably about 2 tbsp of chopped basil, but you can use dried or fresh, whatever you have)
pinch of something sweet (sugar, Splenda, whatever)
1-2 tbsps of something creamy (ff half and half, sour cream, cream, milk, etc.)
olive oil
salt & pepper

Roast the peppers (either in the oven or if you have a gas range, over the burners) until the skin is blackened. Place in a bowl with plastic wrap over the top to steam; this makes it easier to remove the skin.
In a soup pot, add a tbsp or so of olive oil and saute the onion and garlic until translucent. Add the cans of tomatoes and set to simmering, stirring occasionally.
Peel the peppers and slice them, removing the stem and seeds. Add to the tomatoes and simmer some more. I probably only let this simmer for about half an hour, but you can definitely cover it and allow it to go longer.
Toward the end of the simmer cycle, add the basil.
Puree with a hand blender (or in a regular blender) til smooth. Season with salt and pepper and add your cream. Mix in, and serve with yummy crispy cheese. You can garnish with more cream (a dollop of sour, or a swirl of liquid) and a basil leaf if you're feeling fancy in the pants.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sweet Potatoes + Marshmallows =\= Thanksgiving

Sweet potatoes and marshmallows are a classic. Many homes feature this tasty combo at least once a year, right next to the turkey, who also features about once a year, the poor dear. But is this a dessert or a side dish? Having only had it once or twice, always at someone else's home since my family looks down it's snobby little foodie nose at this dish, I have to vote for dessert. That said, I bring you Delicious Inspiration's Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Marshmallow Frosting and yes you read that right. * chomp *

Sweet Potato Cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup oil
1/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sweet potato puree

Marshmallow Frosting:
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1 cup marshmallow creme
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk, more if needed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line or grease 12 muffin cups.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the sugar, oil, milk and vanilla. Stir in sweet potato puree. Add in the flour mixture and stir until just incorporated.

Spoon batter into muffin cups and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until done in center. Remove from oven and let cupcakes cool on a wire rack.

Marshmallow Frosting:
In a small bowl, beat together butter, marshmallow creme and vanilla. Gradually add in sugar and beat until well blended. Stir in milk. If frosting is too thick, add more milk 1 teaspoon at a time.

Yields 12 cupcakes.

Shrimp - somehow. . . someway. . .

Why do I always forget to take a photo of the food? Instead, here is one of a peach/vanilla/jalapeno cocktail I also made last night, while trying to recreate a delicious cocktail from El Dorado Kitchen in Sonoma.

I was at Whole Paycheck last night picking up a couple of things for $50 (GAH, WHY DO I SHOP THERE?!), and I saw some shrimp that looked good and were on special. Unfortunately I can't ever remember which fish I'm supposed to buy and which I'm supposed to avoid and it was packed and I panicked and didn't check my iPhone app and the next thing you know I had a pound of farmed shrimp, but I don't know if they're the RIGHT kind of farmed shrimp. Whoops.
Since citrus is a no go, there goes my delicious margarita shrimp - what else would be nice? Curry and coconut milk came to mind, so I started searching. I found a couple of good options, but found another that was very different but also sounded amazing.
Now that I'm understanding flavor profiles I'm hoping I can combine these recipes to figure out something good - gingery, coconut, curry-y, but non citrusy. . . . maybe using mango to help with that tropical flavor?

Curry Coconut Shrimp
1 lb cleaned shrimp (shelled and deveined)
1/2 can light coconut milk
1 c onion
2 cloves of garlic (smashed, minced, crushed)
1 tbsp ginger (minced, grated)
1 red chile finely chopped
1 pinch of red pepper flakes (this step depends on how spicy your chile is)
1/2 - 1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp garam masala
salt & pepper
mango or honey (optional)

Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large saute pan over med-hi and add onion. Cook for 1-2 minutes until soft, then add the garlic, ginger, chile and spices. Cook until fragrant. Add the shrimp and cook 1-2 minutes on each side, turning once, until opaque. Add the coconut milk and allow to simmer and thicken.
You could also bbq or grill the shrimp and then add them into the sauce and let it simmer for a couple of minutes for the flavors to meld.

While not entirely South Beach Phase I, I served this on top of some brown rice and it was heaven, though it could've used more spice - we had to add a bit of Sriracha. I also diced 1/2 of a mango and put it over the top for a little bit of sweetness. If you don't do mango, you might just add a tbsp of honey to the dish before you serve it.
It made three good servings - 2 for dinner and one for lunch; yum.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Shaddy O'Shea Cakes

Once upon a time there was the best dog in the whole wide world. She was loved very very much. She celebrated a St. Patrick's Day birthday, and ended her celebrations on that same day last year. I don't know how Irish a mutt dog from the pound can be, but St. Patrick's Day will always make me think of the Best Girl. Miss you pup.

Guinness Cupcakes with Bailey's Frosting



Preheat oven to 350°F Grease 24-30 cupcake cups, or fill with paper liners.

In a saucepan, heat the butter, Guinness, cocoa and brown sugar, whisking often, until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Into the work bowl of a stand mixer (or into a large mixing bowl), sift together salt, flour, white sugar and baking soda. Add the cooled Guinness mixture and beat on medium for 1 minute. Add eggs and sour cream and beat on medium for 2 minutes or until smooth.

Divide the batter evenly amongst the cupcake cups. Bake in preheated oven 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean. Cool in pan 20 minutes, then remove and transfer to a cooling rack until completely cooled.

Meanwhile, in (cleaned) work bowl of stand mixer, cream butter until very light and fluffy. Add salt, and slowly add confectioners sugar. Do not run the mixer above low, or the sugar will spray all over your kitchen. Add a couple of spoonsful at a time until it has all been absorbed into the butter. Add Bailey's and milk until spreadable consistency is achieved.

Frost cupcakes with Bailey's frosting. Sprinkle with green jimmies/sprinkles.

** edited to thank Kari for now making me crave a dessert she had involving a Guinness brownie, topped with Bailey's ice cream and Jameson caramel sauce. I'm sure that can be arranged.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Attempt #1 at Thai Food

I awoke Tuesday morning CRAVING Thai. Like, I had been dreaming about it and then it was all I could think about. Mmmm, Thai food. I had some extra lean ground turkey in the fridge and I thought it could potentially make some kick ass gai pad gra pow.
I found a couple of recipes that inspired me, and ruminated for a couple of days, and finally, tonight (Thursday), I went for it. It was okay, but it tasted NOTHING like the pad grapow you'll get at a Thai joint. Not even a little bit. It was probably way healthier, but. . . . I think if I hadn't been thinking about and craving the real deal, I may have been able to appreciate it a little more.
Did I need more fish sauce? More Tamari? I don't think I needed more oil, I used way more than I normally do. Do I need to go sit at the counter at Bang San and watch those ladies make it?
In any case, if you have some ground bird meat and some basil, and you're craving something spicy, give this a whirl, but don't expect it to replace your favorite takeout - deal?

Spicy Basil Chicken
4 - 5 tbsp oil; I wanted to use peanut oil but only had veg
7-8 cloves of garlic
2 shallots
6 peppers (I used 2 jalapenos, 2 serranos, and 2 uh, red ones) - if you can find Thai chilies I'd go for those though you'll probably need several more (the first recipe calls for 12-20!)
1 lb of bird meat - either finely chopped or ground
A generous drizzling of Tamari (maybe 2-3 tbsp)
Fish sauce to taste (and I have no idea what the correct amount is; I used maybe 1 tbsp)
1 cup of basil (again, go for Thai basil if you can find it, or holy basil if you're lucky enough to run across it - this is, after all the gra pow this dish is named for!)
brown rice
Gewurztraminer or other sweet white (Riesling or maybe a Pinot Gris if you don't like your wine quite as sweet)

Get your mise en place ready to go -
pulverize your peppers with your garlic (we tried the mortar and pestle route and failed, so it went into the food processor or got smashed on the cutting board) and set aside. Finely chop your shallots and set aside. Prep your basil (wash and remove stems). Get out your bird meat.

Heat a large pan or wok until it's smoking hot, then get ready to move quickly. Add the oil and swirl to coat the pan and heat the oil quickly. Stir in the garlic and pepper mix just long enough to get it coated and spread around and then add the shallots. Stir for 10-15 seconds to combine and then add the chicken. Stir fry (breaking up the larger slab if you dumped a container of ground meat into your pan like I did) until the meat is "browned" on the outside. I say "browned" because it doesn't really go brown so much as it goes. . . I dunno, less pink.

Sprinkle 1 tbsp or so of Tamari and stir in. Season "to taste" with fish sauce. I have no idea what this means even for my own tastebuds as this was my first time being brave enough to deal with fish sauce on my own because, hello, ew. I suppose it was about a tbsp.

Add in the basil and keep stirring and cooking until the basil is wilted. Give the meat a taste - add more Tamari or fish sauce as needed. We added another tbsp or 2 of Tamari.

Serve over brown rice if you're trying to be healthy. Taste before dousing in Sriracha - your chilies might be plenty hot. Maybe a squeeze of lime juice over the top would be lovely as well.

Drink with a nice cold, sweet white wine. Enjoy the fact that your entire house smells amazing (way better than dinner tasted if you ask me) for the rest of the evening. I really wish I had a fan/vent in my kitchen.

This would serve four if you were serving with other dishes or apps (or all skinny chicks watching their waistlines); or maybe three if it was the only course or you're sharing with boys.

Ricotta Orange Pound Cake with Strawberries

Another tasty treat to make with my homemade ricotta; too bad I don't have enough left!
Suggestions abound in the user comments; from adding different liqueurs to draining the ricotta a little extra. I guess there is a video posted that you can watch for more tips too.

Ricotta Orange Pound Cake with Strawberries
1 1/2 cups cake flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, room temperature, plus more to grease the baking pan
1 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 orange, zested
2 tablespoons Amaretto
Powdered sugar, for dusting
1 pint strawberries, hulled and quartered or 3 oranges, cut into supremes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 by 5 by 3-inch loaf pan with butter. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine.

Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter, ricotta, and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. With the machine running, add the eggs 1 at a time. Add the vanilla, orange zest, and Amaretto until combined. Add the dry ingredients, a small amount at a time, until just incorporated. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean and the cake is beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 45 to 50 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Using a mesh sieve, dust the cooled cake with powdered sugar.

Meanwhile, place the strawberries (or orange supremes) in a small bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Let sit until the juices have pooled around the strawberries.

To serve, slice the cake and serve with a spoonful of strawberries and their juices over the top of the cake.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Wild Mushroom Frittata

I swear that someday I will host a brunch event. I really need to get on that.

Wild Mushroom Frittata
Serves 4
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons butter
3/4 pound wild mushrooms (such as shiitake), chopped into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
5 egg whites
2 tablespoons each chopped fresh herbs (such as chives, parsley, chervil)
Squeeze of lemon

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil on high in a 6-inch cast-iron skillet for 2 minutes. Add butter; when it foams, add mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and sauté 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add onions and thyme; sauté 2 or 3 minutes. Stir in egg whites with a heatproof rubber spatula until eggs start to set. Transfer skillet to oven and bake 5 minutes, until golden. Sprinkle with remaining herbs and lemon juice. Cut into wedges and serve.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Making pizza

I don't know about you, but when I have three cups of homemade cheese staring me in the face, I think pizza. Luckily some people are open to everything I suggest and just roll with it once I arrive at my latest destination/plan/scheme/recipe.
The ready made pizza dough at Whole Foods was actually really good and easy to use, though not whole wheat. :o(
Sorry South Beach - it's full fat cheese too.

Two bags of dough and a couple other odds and ends and I was ready for one of my favorite savory pizzas, and a just made up sweet pizza. I swear, some day I'll photograph my food with something other than my iPhone, but until then. . . .

Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza with Homemade Mozzarella
one small can of San Marzano tomatoes
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 tsp dried basil (fresh would be awesome if you had it)
Open the can of tomatoes into a bowl, add the crushed garlic and basil and then squeeze with your hands to make a sauce.

Pop your pizza stone into the oven and head it up. Roll out the dough, sprinkle the stone with cornmeal and drop the dough onto the hot stone.
Spread the sauce all over, and top with mozzarella and prosciutto (I used just under 1/4 lb). Bake until done.

Toss the arugula (around 2 c) with basil oil or olive oil (1 tbsp) and salt, and top the hot pizza with it. Let pizza sit for a moment before cutting, and then whammo - enjoy your insanely yummy pizza.

Pear & Ricotta Pizza with Balsamic Onions
Thinly slice one onion and set about caramelizing that bad boy. Once the onions are cooked through and sweet and yummy and brown, stir in 1-2 tsp of balsamic vinegar (I used a fig balsamic) and set aside.
Thinly slice a pear - I recommend bosc over d'anjou since I think the bosc just has better pear flavor.
Again with the stone and rolling out of the dough and the placing of the dough onto the hot stone.
Top with 1 - 1 1/2 c of ricotta and drizzle with honey.
Spread the balsamic onions on top - quite honestly, if you wanted to go with two onions and spread them on first like delicious onionjamsauce, you'd probably be a very happy camper.
Lay out the pears and drizzle with a little bit more honey. Bake, nom, repeat.

** an interesting bit of trivia thanks to Wikipedia. . . . even though the bosc pears taste more like what I'd call "juicy pear jelly belly," it's actually d'anjou puree they use to make that flavoring. Who knew?? **

Cooking for Little Miss Muffet

That's right, it's curds and whey time. Who knew cheesemaking was so easy? A couple of gallons of whole, pasteurized milk, some buttermilk, a dash of rennet and a pinch of citric acid, et voila! Mozzarella and ricotta, just like that. I mean really - just. Like. That.

Thanks to Ready Made for placing the wild hair that got me all worked up in the first place; and then thanks to Kitchen Nightmares for making those restaurateurs go milk cows and make their own mozzarella, for really lighting the fire.

A quick spin around the interwebs led me to, which led me to chowhound (of course) hunting for rennet & citric acid suppliers in SF, which led me to Mollie Stone's (which didn't have either), which led me to Rainbow Grocery, which is always an interesting stop. (on that note, I'm not sure whether or not I recommend this, but I think not) Another quick stop at Soko for a candy thermometer, some clean kitchen gloves and some cheesecloth and I was ready to get down to business.
I'm already ready to start experimenting with lower fat milk and goat milk, but first things first.

I doubt it gets any easier than the ricotta recipe from Ready Made - a gallon of milk and 4 cups of buttermilk over heat? I mean really. I drained out a lot of the why from this cheese to make it firmer; I think next time around I'll leave a little more liquid in the mix since it was really stiff after refrigeration. It was delicious, and fresh tasting, and made about two cups of ricotta.

The mozzarella was a bit more complex, especially since some of us can't tell which side of the thermometer (C or F) one should be looking at and inadvertently watches the C side when they should be looking at the F side. * ahem * But it still turned out! Aside from completely ignoring the "sweet spot" temperature of cheesemaking I still managed to extract some curds, though this only yielded about one cup of finished cheese. It was a little denser and on the chewy side, but probably due to my inability to read and comprehend directions. 
Speaking of directions:
Besides rennet and citric acid, the only other ingredient that you’ll need is whole milk.  You’ll need to read the label carefully and make sure that the milk is NOT labeled “ultra pasteurized”.  Ultra pasteurized milk has been heated to a high temperature that kills the bacteria and cultures needed to make cheese.  Raw milk or pasteurized milk is OK, and milk from an organic local source is ideal.
  • Over medium low heat, bring one gallon of whole milk up to 55 degrees and add 1.5 tsp of citric acid (dissolved in 1/4 cup cold water), stir in thoroughly but gently.
  • When the mixture gets to 88 degrees add 1/4 tsp of liquid rennet (dissolved in 1/4 cup cold water), stir in gently for about 30 seconds.
  • Over medium heat, bring up to 105 degrees and keep it there for five minutes or until curds begin to form and separate from the side of the pot.  The whey should be almost clear, if milky white, allow to heat longer.
  • With a slotted spoon, scoop out the curds.  Don some rubber gloves and gently squeeze out as much whey as you can with your hands forming balls of cheese.
  • Place the cheese balls in the microwave (this is the faster method) for 30 seconds and then knead it, just like you would bread, squeezing out whey as you go.  Repeat this step several times, until the cheese has a slightly glossy sheen to it and can be pulled like taffy.  Add salt after the second kneading.

Maybe I'll try these directions (with helpful photos!) next time. It should be noted that my curds and whey looked like The Evil UP Milk That Should Just Be Thrown Away Curds and Whey of Death; but I still managed to make mozzarella out of them.

All in all, Cheese Day was a total delicious success, and led to the amazingly yummy Homemade Pizza Night to go with Open That Bottle Night. (Chupacabra and Pride Viognier if you were curious)