Sorry for my long absence. Summer has been occupying me and it's also too hot to cook anything in particular.
Last weekend, my friend Sal from da Bronx took me to Arthur Avenue. I've always wanted to check it out, but was scared to go by myself. It's da Bronx after all, ya know? Sal was born and raised in da Bronx (how he become a lawyer is a bit of mystery, he might have great "connections"). He guided me through the neighborhood, telling me which stores carries the best cheeses, etc. Sadly, many of his favorite stores (especially the best past' shop) were closed for the week. But I got pretty awesome fresh ricotta, olive bread that put Amy's Bread to shame, prosciutto di parma, and fresh pasta.
Italian people's conversations are funny. When he called his mom to ask for specific store locations, and the conversation went like:
Sal: "Ma, I see two bakeries, which one is the good one?"
Ma: "The one next to the butcher."
Sal: "Ma, butcher is in between two bakeries."
Ma: "The one with cashier on the right."
Sal: "... No Ma, we don't need to come over for barbecue later."
Love Italian mothers.
Anyhow, the highlight of the trip was Casa de Mozzarella. I was too scared to take photos since you never know how Italians might react to an Asian taking a photo of them or their store. Their fresh mozzarella was so good, and so huge. But I didn't buy the finished product.
I've been wanting to make my own mozzarella, but never had a chance to buy cheese curd, and I asked if they sell curd, and the guy at the counter was like, "Sure, it's $3.99 a pound". So I got two pounds, and came home and started to research around the recipe.
The curd itself looks like a hunk of tofu.
The process is pretty easy. Basically you cut the curd into small pieces, then melt them in hot water, stretch and shape. How easy, right? Not at all. The simpler the ingredients are, the harder to perfect them- which applies to many simple recipes.
Chop into small cubes.
Put cubes into a bowl, add room temperature water.
Here comes a tricky part. Some recipes said, "Do not raise water temperature any more than 170 otherwise you will lose too much milk fat", and others said, "Put boiling water in it". I watched a video of a guy teaching a small audience how to make mozzarella, and the fucking video ended right before he started talking about adding boiling water. Goddamn it! So I added 170 degree salted water (about 3-4 tbsp salt in a pot of water). I waited, and waited, then curd started to get soft. Yay!
I should have known, though, that the guy at the cheese shop was stretching cheese as if they were very soft bread dough. This looks like very dense bread dough, which is not a good sign.
After a couple of stretches, I squeezed the ball, and it looks ok here.
Place end product into water.
Tightly wrap them and mozzarella cheese is complete.
Of course it tasted good since the curd is from Casa de Mozzarella/House of Mozzarella, but the texture was horrible. It was similar to kamaboko (Japanese fish cake), and very rubbery. Also I didn't add enough salt. I was dreaming of having a nice caprese salad, but instead, I gathered my friends and had a pizza party.
You know what happens next right? Yep, I am doing it again, for a Mozzarella Battle! Unfortunately it's very difficult to find curd in the city, but fortunately, making cheese from milk isn't hard either (well, according to websites). All you need is whole milk, citric acid, and rennet tablet (whatever it is, I ordered it yesterday). I think citric acid separates milk from water, and rennet solidify the milk into cheese. Let's see how this comes out. Stay tuned.