Monday, April 26, 2010

Failed cheese, tasty pasta!

I taught a cheesemaking class a couple of weekends ago, and though I had some fun (and tolerant) students, the experience was a NIGHTMARE! I can't figure out what's going on, but suddenly, I have lost the ability to make milk form curd, which is the whole basis of cheesemaking! A few days before the class, I made a batch of Neufchatel, and it looked like the curd had set up, but when I tried to ladle it out to drain, it just dissolved into a puddle of yogurty-looking goo. I went ahead and hung it to drip, but it was still very runny the next day. So I tried to rescue it by placing the bundle in a colander, putting a plate on top of the cheese, and pressing it down with a gallon of water. And the texture was perfect when I checked it the next day. Thus, I thought all was well...

But then, the night before the class, I was attempting to make mozzarella, and I went through another two gallons of Wal-Mart brand milk without success. So I went to the store at 2am to buy another kind (Price Chopper's brand). By the hardest, I managed to make one batch, but it took roughly forever to come together, and the resulting cheese had a weird texture. Before the class on Saturday, I stopped at Sam's and bought some Byrne Dairy milk to use to make the cheese again in class. And to my ultimate horror, it didn't work either, which was SO embarrassing. After all, I was there to teach people to make cheese! I guess I need to start a new search for milk that's not (secretly) ultra-pasteurized and try, try again. :-(

In the meantime, I took my failed mozzarella from class home and just for kicks, I let it drain overnight, and then the next day, I heated it a few times to see what I would get. It wasn't exactly mozzarella--it was more along the lines of ricotta salata. What was I going to do with that, you may ask? As it turns out, I ran across a simple pasta recipe from Everyday Food that I wanted to try, and I thought that my weird, Franken-cheese would work perfectly.

This recipe is so easy, has very few ingredients, and comes together in a snap! And it just seems delightfully springy to me, what with the lemon and the fresh chives and all. I served this with some Greek-style chicken thighs that I roasted in the oven with olive oil, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. Then when they came out of the oven, I hit them with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Delish!

Spaghettini with Lemon Zest and Chives
Everyday Food)
Serves 4

1 pound spaghettini, or thin spaghetti
zest and juice of one lemon
1 stick butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup ricotta salata cheese, or Parmesan, coarsely grated
2 tablespoons fresh chives, or scallion greens, thinly chopped (I used both!)
salt and pepper

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook one pound of spaghettini, or thin spaghetti, until al dente according to package instructions.

Grate the zest of one lemon into a large pasta bowl. Juice the lemon, and add juice to the bowl. Stir in one stick butter, cut into small pieces, and one cup coarsely grated ricotta salata cheese or Parmesan. (I used a cup of my strange mozzarella/ricotta hybrid cut into small cubes PLUS an additional 1/4 cup of shredded parmesan.)

Add drained pasta to lemon sauce, and sprinkle in two tablespoons thinly chopped fresh chives or scallion greens. Season with salt and pepper. Toss well, and serve.

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