Chef's Kitchen With Hari Cameron - Part 1

I love to cook, and I think I'm pretty great at it. But as great as I think I am, I know that I have a lot to learn. After a week of furiously looking at cooking schools online and determining that was not plausible for me at this moment, I knew I needed to find a way to learn more. So, I started with my friends who are chefs, and have asked some of them to help me learn.

Among the very first to give me a big, fat "yes" was Hari Cameron, executive chef at Nage. He's a fabulous chef who loves to give back to community, and thank goodness, he decided to donate an afternoon to me! Hari taught me how to make ricotta cheese, and then he also gave me a gnocchi recipe (more on that in part 2!) I learned a TON and now I am excited to share it with you guys!

First, the ricotta cheese. This is an item that I use constantly in my Italian cooking. Whether it is for a cheesecake, casserole, or or spaghetti dish, I love me some ricotta. Ricotta is made by taking a lot of milk and incorporating in an acid. We did this two ways, one with vinegar and one with lemon, and then we compared the two.

I was surprised to learn that making ricotta cheese was easier than I thought it would be. The ingredients are simple, but they also must be precise, so if you make this at home, please keep this in mind. Here are the two recipes, so you can see them side by side. The method, as you will see, is the same.

Recipe One:

1 cup buttermilk
9 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 tablespoons distilled vinegar

Recipe Two: 

8 cups (or 2 quarts) whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice

You will also need: a big old bowl and in that you place a strainer with 4 layers of cheesecloth over top.

Place the milk and cream in a pan and heat slowly. This is called "scalding" the milk. You want to heat the milk to 180-185 degrees. Unless you are a pro, like Hari, it's best to use a thermometer to make sure you have the temperature correct.

When it's heated, it's time to add the acid and salt. Continue to cook until you start to really see the separation of the curds.

side note: remember the nursery rhyme about curds and whey? Well, yea, that is basically what you get when you separate the milk with the acid. Pretty coolio, huh? 

Then you pour it into the prepared cheesecloth bowl. Let it sit for about 30 minutes. Hari was careful to tell me that the longer you let it sit, the more moisture you will lose. You want to lose moisture, of course, but keep in mind that you don't want to lose too much!

When it's done sitting, pull the cheesecloth up, and form it into a tight ball, squeezing out the excess moisture. Then, lay it out on a plate and taste away!
The finished product!! YUM! 

Which one did I like the best? I was a huge fan of the lemon; it had a fabulous taste and even a hint of sweetness. But to be sure, they were both amazing.

Use within a few days!

Oh and part two will coming just after the Thanksgiving holiday where Hari shows me how to make a gnocchi that will impress your family and friends. He even threw in a brown butter recipe that had me saying "YUM!"

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