Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Cheese Man

About two weeks ago I had a cheese party at my home. It was a "Girls Night" event and it was a lot of fun. The guest of honor was a gentleman from our town, Larry Laraia. He's the proprietor of a family owned cheese shop, Laraia's Cheese Co. in Nanuet, N.Y., that carries more than 200 varieties of cheese, along with a large assortment of crackers, olives and other specialty items.
Our evening started with a lesson on, of course, cheese. Beginning with how cheese was accidentally discovered, according to the legendary story, by an Arab merchant while on his travels. He had stored his milk in a pouch lined by that of the stomach of a sheep. The heat from the sun activated the enzyme, rennin, found in the stomach lining, which then made the milk separate into curds and whey.

Petite Basque wheel of cheese on a "Girolle", cheese curler.

We learned about which type of cheese goes better with red or white wine. We tasted a Canadian white cheddar (Black Diamond), a Dutch gouda (Old Amsterdam), both of these cheeses paired very well with red wine. We also tasted a Swiss-type from France (Fol Epi) and a goat cheese from Spain (Campo De Montoban) both of these were light and paired very well with white wine.

After the cheese presentation, Larry taught us how to make fresh Mozzarella. It's a fairly easy process.

Larry Laraia

Making fresh Mozzarella

Shaping the Mozzarella

"Cheese Braid"

Fresh Mozzarella

2 - 3 lbs curd, cut into pinkie size pieces
Hot water and cold water
Kosher salt

Fill a large stock pot with water and bring to a boil.
Put the curd pieces in a large bowl, cover with the hot water, stir once and let it sit for about 4 - 5 minutes. Carefully pour off water, then add a second batch of hot water to the curd. Let it sit for about 3 - 4 minutes until it has the consistency of bread dough. Have another bowl ready, filled with cold water. Gently start kneading the dough with your hands and start forming it into a desired shape. After shaping drop it in cold water. It is best to salt the mozzarella before serving, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and or balsamic vinegar also will give the cheese a wonderful flavor.


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