Adventures in culinary over-exuberance

I’ve been a lazy blogger recently; between some computer updates, conferences at work, and visiting family, I haven’t had much time or creative juice to post.  I have been cooking, though, and tonight is something of a special case.  It’s a weeknight, I got home around 6:30, left for the grocery store after 7, and got home around 8.  Then the madness began.

Dinner was the first order of business, since I was hungry.  We had about half a loaf of good tomato basil bread left over from when we had visitors.  This bread is from Panera — I had more than enough going on last week without baking bread.  But it was very good bread, and following in the theme of my pancake post, I made the bread into savory french toast.  It’s not a stretch, since french toast is less sweet than pancakes to begin with.  I added a little salt and basil to the batter, in place of the vanilla and pinch of sugar I would normally use.  It fried up beautifully.

Less happy was the asparagus we got this weekend; it was the dregs when we got it, and it was old, tough, and not too flavorful.  I sauted it with olive oil and a little white wine, which didn’t improve it much. I’m not sure how to improve on this in the future.  I’ve read that roasting is a good treatment for old asparagus.  I suspect that any dish where it is chopped up and cooked with other things would improve it, if only by helping it blend in.  So there’s a lesson: if your vegetables are past their prime, don’t try to let them carry their own flavor.  They need to be dressed up.  Unfortunately, given the hour and my hunger, a fancier experiment wasn’t really in the cards.

Over the weekend, I had planned to make cheese, but it didn’t come out right; the upshot was that I had a container of soon-to-spoil cream in the fridge, and needed to do something with it.  We came up with two somethings.  First, I made my attempt at burrata.  This is what I planned to make this weekend, and why I originally bought the cream.  Burrata is an artisan cheese that’s a variant on mozzarella, where the cheese is stretched into a ball and filled with curds and cream.  I’ve only had it once, and that was past its prime.  The thing about burrata, and why you’ll rarely see it in stores, is that it should be eaten within 2 or 3 days of when it’s made.  That doesn’t fit in well with American food production, where long storage times are key.  Since nearly all burrata is made in Italy, the timeline  for getting it from the cheesemaker to your plate is tight.  If you ever see it in a store, snap it up.  It’s worth it.

Despite the difficulty of finding burrata in stores and restaurants, the concept seems pretty simple if you know how to make mozzarella.  You just make the cheese, stretch it out into thin bags, fill with extra curds, top with cream, and seal.  That’s what I tried to do tonight.  I think my cheese-stretching technique needs some work, so my burrata won’t be elegant, but I’m crossing my fingers that it will be tasty.  If it worked well, I’ll have to perfect my technique next time.  I will report tomorrow.

The final use for the cream was making profiteroles.  This is one of Nathan’s specialties — he often makes it for special occassions, and it takes enough time, effort, and richness that we rarely make it for ourselves.  But cream has to be used up, right? What better use than whipped cream and chocolate sauce over buttery puff pastries?

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  • By Hands-Free Cooking · Burrata on August 17, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    [...] couple months ago, I wrote about my attempts to make burrata, an artisan Italian cheese that is delicious and nearly impossible to find in stores.  It’s [...]

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