Pizza

Ricotta

DSCF6328-1Last weekend Roger and I attended a gathering of a newly formed and, dare I say, critical UCI committee: The “Council of Clinical Chefs.” This group of home chefs (also Chairs of their respective departments) wields scalpels and stethoscopes Monday through Friday and whisks on the weekends. They’re a food loving fun group of people who unite to blow off steam while slicing and dicing food rather than their usual subjects. They kindly let me jump on board with their group (in spite of my lack of surgical training) and they presented me with my very own apron emblazoned with their very sharp logo.

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Our hosts, Dr. Bill Armstrong and his lovely wife Susan, were kind enough to hold the event at their beautiful home, which sports a wood-fired oven (Bill constructed it himself). Pizza was the selected food for the night and four of us were called upon to create a pizza of our choosing and bring a wine pairing we thought appropriate for our pies. I recently cured another five-pound pork belly (please see my blog for instructions) so I’m rather flush with pancetta right now. I went with a fig, pancetta, and fresh ricotta pizza with a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar. Because we would be feeding a crowd, I had to bring enough ingredients for five pizzas and purchase four bottles of wine. Luckily, I was able to find some great Black Mission Figs at a nearby Bristol Farms market. They come into season in June and will soon be in abundance at your local Farmers Market.

I love ricotta. There are so many tasty ways you can serve this spreadable/stuffable delight. Because it has a quiet flavor profile, it’s an extremely versatile ingredient. Whatever it’s lacking for in taste is clearly made up for in its creamy texture. Because fresh ricotta cheese just can’t be beat, I made my own for the party. Here’s a no-sweat ricotta recipe. I wish I could give credit where credit is due, but I had written the recipe down so long ago (it’s that simple!) that I couldn’t recall its origin.

Here’s what you’ll need (makes about 2 cups):

  • A food thermometer that can reach 170-degrees
  • Cheesecloth (I prefer unbleached)
  • A stockpot that’s large enough to hold 10 cups of milk product
  • A strainer (I have one with arms that extend to fit over the sink)
  • 2 cups of buttermilk
  • 2 quarts of whole milk

Unfurl your cheesecloth into a strainer and place the strainer over the sink.

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Pour the 2 quarts of whole milk into your stockpot. Add the buttermilk. Slowly bring up the temperature until it reaches 170 degrees, which takes patience. As the temperature increases, you will begin to see puffy little clouds forming: curds and they will be floating in a yellowish water left behind: whey. Congratulate yourself, you have just separated curds from whey and made cheese!

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Once you hit 170, and your curds have blossomed, remove the pan from the heat and carefully strain your stockpot over the lined strainer. The pan will be very heavy so be careful not to splatter the hot stuff all over yourself. Let it drain until you have a creamy, not soupy, consistency. Refrigerate until you’re ready to use.

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The fig pizza was a hit and the pairing I chose: a 2012 Vietti Arneis Roero complimented the flavors very well. I highly recommend the two together.

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The party wrapped up on the late side and you could tell by glancing around the house that a good time was had by all. Every counter and tabletop was buried under food flotsam. The place was in tatters. I hope by the time this piece is published they’ve finally dug out from the affair. That being said, I’m sure they would say it was all worth it.

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Dr. Jamie Landman & Dr. Bill Armstong

Dr. Jaime Landman & Dr. Bill Armstong

 

 

“You better cut the pizza in four slices because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.” – Yogi Berra

Eat well!

April