Sunday, February 28, 2010
I have never met anyone who didn't like cheese. I guess I've met people who couldn't eat cheese for some reason, but not because they didn't like it. Thankfully I'm not one of those people, and I make it a habit to incorporate cheese into every dinner that I have time to put some forethought into. Well, let me think about that--is it a habit if every good thing you can think to cook contains cheese? Or would that be a compulsion?
Along with the organic butter from Five Star Farms Anson brought home from the L.A. Specialty Food Show three little balls of beautiful white cheese wrapped in green plastic leaves and tied with a ribbon. (Boy does he know what kind of presents I like.) Burrata alla Panna--that ephemeral cousin of fresh mozzarella. It's come to the attention of cheese lovers over the past couple years and I've been seeing it on nicer restaurant menus. You can even get a version of it at Trader Joe's, though I think theirs is more like fresh mozzarella than burrata.
So what makes it different? Burrata is made by filling a thin skin of fresh mozzarella with rags, or straciatella, of fresh mozzarella curds that have been mixed with cream, or panna. The top is twisted together to keep the creamy insides in. It's normally a very perishable cheese that needs to be consumed within a couple days. The cheese that Di Stefano Cheese is making in the Los Angeles area has a shelf life of 30-days unopened. According to their website, the cheese would traditionally be wrapped in blades of a leek-type plant to indicate it's freshness. When the leaves are dried out, the cheese is past it's prime too. Their very clever packaging mimics that tradition and also gives you the thrill of opening a present. And who doesn't like cheese presents?
The flavor of the burrata is really quite mild, far from the salty, processed mozzarella that most of us grew up eating (not that I don't still put that on pizza). The mozzarella skin is easily broken and reveals a thick custard-like filling. It's delicate in both it's texture and flavor--imagine fresh sweet milk that has been thickened. I found when eating it plain that it needed a touch of sea salt and fresh ground pepper, but pairing it with fresh pesto really set it off. It would be natural to serve burrata with some fresh summer tomatoes and basil, or add it to a crispy pizza with tomatoes and squash blossoms as they do at Pizzeria Mozza (incidentally the eatery credited for popularizing burrata in L.A.).
So if you can't eat cheese, I apologize for these photos, but I'll make it up to you by eating any other cheese you can't. Yep, I would do that for you.