It had been talked about from time to time: reapproaching ricotta. The last time we made it we were, admittedly, a little nervous about the new venture and so crafted our inaugural batch of ricotta with a healthy dose of caution. We probably cooked it for a few minutes more than it needed; squeezed it a little harder than necessary; let it drain for a full 15 minutes instead of 10 or 12. We were left with some decent ricotta that, though on the harder side, at least I found suitable for putting with pasta and hot sandwiches, finding that the heat from the rest of the dish helped to smooth out the cheese. The flavor was fine, not divine. The texture was okay, but not anything that even the hardest-core ricotta addict (hi, Mom) would delve into with a spoon. Like I said – it worked okay as a dairy-based addition to otherwise respectable dishes, but probably couldn’t have stood on its own merits.
And so, Sunday. We had pretty much isolated the texture issue, identifying draining-time as the culprit for a dry cheese (naww, really?). We figured we’d do everything the same – right down to the lab thermometer, whose red slidy tab-thingy (yes, that’s the technical name) I dutifully adjusted to 175 so that we could marshal the pot right off the heat as soon as the curds were ready.
Like clockwork, the milk got hot (though we did sort of obsessively hold the thermometer in the pot from almost the very beginning… but I promise, the rest of the procedure was much more relaxed), the curds formed, we flicked the burner off, and dumped it all into the cheesecloth/colander. This time, remembering our relatively dry product last time, we drained it for exactly 10 minutes.
Creamy, soft, super mild (we did put a bit of salt in during the cooking process; to be honest, I’m not sure how much of an effect it had). Better than any store-bought or deli-made ricotta I had ever had, though I imagine part of that might have come from the fact that our product was like super-crazy-fresh, not to mention still warm. BUT STILL. If you weren’t inspired by my tale of the first attempt, please please PLEASE think about making ricotta now. Right now.
To celebrate our achievement, we used it in an improvised version of something like this, topping with a generous scoop of the ricotta. (Then we totally watched Foul Play, continuing what’s shaping up to be a sort of perfunctory Chevy Chase Film Festival.) (Shut up. It’s winter in Chicago. We make up projects & pursuits where we can.)
Okay but on the real: Go make some ricotta. 10-minute drain. I’m telling you.