Gifts From The Sea

Originally Published in The Wire NH, August 14, 2012

This is supposed to be a recipe column. However, there’s always a story behind what’s on my plate, and surely, this recipe could be no different. In fact, when I set out last week on my first ever single-handed sail, to the Isles of Shoals, aboard my 33-foot boat La Sirena (That’s ‘Siren’ in Spanish, for all you Gringos), the last thing on my mind was what I was going to make for supper. And while I had provisioned the ship for several days of floating around the Isles of Shoals, I did not expect to be serving more than a couple of guests, let alone serving anything I had harvested from the sea myself.

By mid-afternoon I was met with cheers and relieved radio hails from surrounding vessels as I successfully hooked myself onto a mooring in Gosport Harbor and declared my victorious arrival with a Jolly Roger flag. In minutes, a few friends donning snorkels and flippers joined me, and we commenced a well-deserved swim, exploring the refreshingly chilly waters between Star and Smuttynose Islands. And that’s when I spotted them… Surf clams! Diving to depths of up to 15 feet, we collected 20 clams, and what to have for supper was excitedly decided.

Anyone who has spent anytime at the Isles of Shoals would probably agree that it holds a bit of magic in its water, sky and craggy rock landscape. Being able to visit by private boat is a treasured experience of mine. It has afforded me the opportunity to befriend like-minded folks who are lucky enough to live and work on the archipelago during the summer months. For me, a visit is always a welcome adventure. For them, a dinner invitation aboard La Sirena, which often includes a few heated rounds of dominoes and a few more happy rounds of Dark and Stormy’s, is always a welcome change of pace. And so, with surf clams in hand, the dinner invitations were extended, and before I knew it, I was steaming, stuffing and grilling these gifts from the sea for seven seafaring souls who arrived in a platoon of dinghies from Appledore and Star Islands. Even the Captain of the Schooner Harvey Gamage, which had anchored just outside of the harbor for the night, joined in the revelry and reminiscing that often occurs amongst those whose lives are spent primarily on the water.

So how about that recipe, Captain? Of course! Surf clams range in size from 4-8 inches, and their meat is mild and sweet. The inside meat is primarily chopped up and used for chowder, with their “tongue” being the dreamy stuff of fried clam strips. Recreational harvesting of surf clams in designated areas is legal in New Hampshire and Maine without a license. If you’re not up for diving for them yourself, check with your local seafood retailer for availability. If surf clams aren’t available, this recipe can be modified to use large fresh oysters.

© Alicia Goodwin Photograhy

Stuffed Surf Clams © Alicia Goodwin

Whether aboard your ship at sunset at the Shoals, or in your own backyard, sharing these delicious gifts from the sea with friends and family (and a little bit of rum!) will surely be a memorable experience.

Fair Winds!

~ Ali Goodwin a.k.a Gal Foodie

Grilled Stuffed Surf Clams
Serves 4-6

10 Live Surf Clams – 5-7 inches each
1 cup baby portabella mushrooms, chopped coarse
2 slices of white bread (I used a hamburger roll!), crumbed
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
5 cherry tomatoes, sliced in quarters
4-4 inch slices of Genoa salami, diced
2 tbsp butter, diced
1 clove garlic, diced fine
4-5 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 tbsp DennyMike’s ‘Cue Stuff Fintastic Rub
¼ cup white wine
1 tbsp lemon juice

Directions:

Steam the clams for 15 minutes, or until they open on their own. If you can, steam them in fresh seawater. Remove the meat and tongue from the shells, saving the shells for stuffing. Rinse separated meat under cold water to remove any sand. Split the shells into two parts, also rinsing to remove sand. Dry meat, chop into small chunks and let cool.

In a mixing bowl combine all ingredients, stirring well. It should be moist but not soggy. Adding more breadcrumbs or mushrooms will help if it gets too wet.

Preheat the grill (approximately 400 degrees)
Fill shells, open side up, with enough filling to just reach the sides. Sprinkle tops with a little more grated Parmesan. Place shells directly on grill grate and cook for 10 minutes, or until tops and edges are browned and slightly crispy.

DennyMike’s ‘Cue Stuff Rubs can be found locally at Hannaford’s and Whole Foods Market, or online at (http://www.dennymikes.com)

I’ll take it to GO.

Going. Doing. Living.
I’ve considered apologizing for my latest disappearing act, but no. There’s no apology for living a full life. Nope. Not ever.

Salads made from the gardens at Strawbery Banke for Taste of the Nation 2010So, whatcha been doin’ Gal Foodie? And there’s the rub. I don’t even know where to begin. There was a winter… Of love, of discontent, of hot wings and football and nacho dip. Of Pho and fennel and stews and muffins. Of crossword puzzle races while we cooked. And lots and lots of wine. There was another goodbye, and another Spring of packing up the kitchen and moving to greener pastures.

Summer, oh summer! Sailing picnics and saltwater, yoga on the dock and wine and cheese and fresh eggs and eating the first tomatoes of the season, right there in the grass, for breakfast. The radio show with so many wonderful guests, and writing articles and recipes for Northeast Flavor Magazine. There’s judging the Maine State BBQ Competition next weekend (oh, please no oysters this year!), a few catering gigs, lots of dining al fresco, and very soon, there will be packing again for a 6 month trip to Europe, which I’ll be writing about on my new blog, ADRIFT.

And, there was the opening of an art gallery.
Yes. Drift Contemporary Art Gallery.
As if there wasn’t already enough to do.

And so I leave you with this for now.
Oh, I’ll be right back. I promise. I’m just going…

Life is short. Live it. I couldn’t be happier.
~Gal Foodie

Guinness Stew is Good For You!

Time in the kitchen has been short and sweet these days. I’ve been focusing on making large amounts of one thing, and then eating it for days. It’s the price I pay for being overworked and underpaid. But I don’t mind. Especially if it’s this fabulous Guinness Stew. I’d like to say I came up with this all on my own. I’m quite surprised I didn’t actually, since it includes all the components of my beef stew, with the addition of some other yummy ingredients that I should have been adding to my beef stew all along (like parsnips!!). It’s from Cooking Light magazine, and it’s to die for.

This is not a quick stew. All told it took me about 4 hours to make. But the house smelled divine all day, and the end result (especially the day after) was a warm and wonderful, hearty stew filled with delish root veggies, raisins, caraway seeds, and best of all, Guinness. The whole meal rounds out nicely with a my Grandma Murphy’s Irish Soda Bread, and, well, more Guinness.

Guinness Beef Stew

Guinness Beef Stew from http://www.cookinglight.com

Ingredients

  • 2  tablespoons  canola oil, divided
  • 1  tablespoon  butter, divided
  • 1/4  cup  all-purpose flour
  • 2  pounds  boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1  teaspoon  salt, divided
  • 5  cups  chopped onion (about 3 onions)
  • 1  tablespoon  tomato paste
  • 4  cups  fat-free, less-sodium beef broth
  • 1  (11.2-ounce) bottle Guinness Draught
  • 1  tablespoon  raisins
  • 1  teaspoon  caraway seeds
  • 1/2  teaspoon  black pepper
  • 1 1/2  cups  (1/2-inch-thick) diagonal slices carrot (about 8 ounces)
  • 1 1/2  cups  (1/2-inch-thick) diagonal slices parsnip (about 8 ounces)
  • 1  cup  (1/2-inch) cubed peeled turnip (about 8 ounces)
  • 2  tablespoons  finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preparation

1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons butter to pan. Place flour in a shallow dish. Sprinkle beef with 1/2 teaspoon salt; dredge beef in flour. Add half of beef to pan; cook 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove beef from pan with a slotted spoon. Repeat procedure with remaining 1 tablespoon oil, 1 1/2 teaspoons butter, and beef.

2. Add onion to pan; cook 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomato paste; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in broth and beer, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Return meat to pan. Stir in remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, raisins, caraway seeds, and pepper; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Uncover and bring to a boil. Cook 50 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add carrot, parsnip, and turnip. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and bring to a boil; cook 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Sprinkle with parsley.

May the road rise up to meet you – feet first!

~ Gal Foodie

Dishin’ Up Love Recipe Contest Winner!

OK, OK, OK. I know it’s WAYYYYY past Valentine’s Day. And I am weeks overdue in posting our winner of the recipe contest. Several freak illnesses, a few major storms that knocked out utilities, and one Valentine’s Day later, we have a winner!

Valentine's Day Meal

The "Wooing Meal"

There was a husband who loves cheese. There was a dorm room kitchen experience that ended in a proposal, there was a strawberry pizza. Again, you guys never cease to amaze me with your stories and your culinary talent. The winner was chosen for several reasons. I love the idea of the “wooing meal.” I think all us Gal’s have one or two of those up our sleeve. I get all warm and fuzzy thinking of new love. And, it’s hysterical that this recipe came off a bottle of Amaretto. I have a funny picture in my head of a bunch of marketing executives in 1978, sitting around a conference table trying to come up with recipes they can use to sell more Amaretto. (Of course! Amaretto Chicken! It’ll sell CASES!) So, Karen Christiansen, you won our hearts with your “wooing meal.”

This is a recipe I got from the tag hanging from a bottle of Amaretto di Saranno over 30 years ago.   I was in college at the time and it is one of the first meals I made for my boyfriend, who is now my husband.  He still calls it the “wooing meal”.  Every time I make it I think back to those days when our love was new.

Chicken Amaretto | Serves 4
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Curry powder, to taste
Garlic powder, to taste
Flour, for dredging
1/4 cup butter
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup Amaretto liquor
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp. cornstarch

Directions

  1. Cut chicken breasts into 1-inch slices. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, curry powder and garlic powder. Dredge in flour.
  2. Saute in melted butter until brown on all sides. Add mushrooms, Amaretto and lemon juice. Simmer 5 minutes.
  3. Mix chicken broth with cornstarch. Pour over chicken.
  4. Simmer until sauce thickens. Serve over patty shells or cooked white rice.

Note: If you’re cutting down on fat, you can make this using just 2 tbsp. of butter and it’s almost just as good.

It was so hard to choose a favorite (oh my job is so hard!), so I wanted to share with you one more recipe that made it to the top of the list. It was submitted by Kimberly Woods, and we LOVE it!

This is one of my favorite recipes to make for romantic sleepovers.  It is also perfect for a Mother’s Day breakfast in bed.  Children enjoy the strawberries and love when a cookie cutter is used to make the french toast into a fun shape (heart, star, etc).

Strawberry Stuffed French Toast
¾ cup milk
5 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp cinnamon
1 tbs sugar
8 slices French bread, 1 ½ – 2 inches thick
10 ounces brie cheese, sliced
3 ¼ cups strawberries, sliced
¼ cup butter
powdered sugar
maple syrup

Directions

  1. In large bowl, beat together milk, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, and sugar.
  2. Cut slices of bread horizontally to form a pocket.
  3. Set aside 1 cup of sliced strawberries for garnish. Place remaining strawberry slices and brie in bread pockets.
  4. Dip bread slices in egg mixture, coating them completely. Place bread slices on a plate, cover and chill for 20 minutes in the refrigerator.
  5. In large frying pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add bread slices, cooking on each side about 2 minutes or until golden and cheese starts to melt.
  6. Remove from pan, dust with powdered sugar and garnish with strawberries. Serve immediately with maple syrup.

Either of these recipes is a great excuse to dish up some love in your kitchen!
~ Gal Foodie

Do you know The Muffin, Man?

Perfect Muffin,
I’ve been hunting for you. I’ve been dropping serious dime in cafés everywhere to find out where you are. What makes you so dangerously irresistible? I’ve been asking around, and I’ve been tipped off by professionals in your kind of business.  I’m on to you, Muffin. I’m on to you. I finally know what makes you tick. And I’m about to expose you for the greater good of all muffin lovers everywhere. Consider yourself found.
~ Gal Foodie

For years, the perfect muffin has eluded me. I don’t consider myself a prolific baker. I tend to shoot from the hip when I’m in the kitchen, and baking is so, well, safe. But to be able to wake the house up on Sunday morning with the smell of perfectly moist, fresh baked muffins? I’ll risk playing it safe. Sort of.

I have used mixes. I have used recipes from Joy of Cooking, Fannie Farmer, Stonewall Kitchen, the Internet… the list goes on. I had yet to make a muffin that wasn’t flat on top, with the consistency and taste of dry cardboard. And then my friend Jean Kerr gave me a copy of her cookbook Windjammer Cooking: Great Recipes from Maine’s Windjammer Fleet, and after I was done deftly identifying all the schooners I had sailed or worked on in my “former life,” I discovered the recipe on page 82 for Orange-Chocolate Muffins.

I didn’t make them.
But the recipe intrigued me because unlike other recipes, it required very little butter, the liquid was orange juice, not milk, and it had very few other ingredients. It also didn’t have “penalty of death” warnings of over-mixing, although I will tell you that through trial and error, over-mixing muffin batter usually does result in lead-like muffins that are better suited for Tom Brady-style practice throws off my deck.

I decided to use this muffin recipe as my baseline, and  started switching things up, experimenting with different liquids and measures and ingredients. I shared an almost perfect batch of the modified muffin with Jean and the cookbook’s co-author, Spencer Smith, and both gave it a resounding  “Delicious!” But I wasn’t done. It still wasn’t right.

Batches later… Victory was mine. I captured the Perfect Muffin.

Strawberry Banana Peach Muffins

Strawberry Banana Peach Muffins
Makes 5-6 Jumbo Muffins

2 cups Flour
1/2 cup Sugar
1 tbsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
2 Eggs, beaten
1/2 – 3/4 cups Peach Juice
3 tbsp Melted Butter
1 tsp Vanilla
1 Very Ripe Banana, mashed
2 cups Sliced Fresh Strawberries
Sugar In The Raw for sprinkled topping

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400. Lightly grease a jumbo muffin tin – I use jumbo muffin cup liners to make it easier to clean.

2. Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl, making sure to mix well.

3. In a separate bowl, mix together all wet ingredients, including the banana.

4. Combine all ingredients in the large bowl, add strawberries, and hand mix until just combined. The batter should be wet but not runny. If it seems too dry, add touches of juice until it is mixable. Do not over mix unless you want to practice your football passes later.

5. Fill muffin cups completely to the top. This will result in a nice round top. Sprinkle with raw sugar.

6. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until centers are firm to the touch, and tops are just beginning to brown. I have found that this particular recipe yields about 5 jumbo muffins. Smaller muffin cups can be used, just reduce the cooking time, but still fill cups to the top edge for a full muffin experience.

Variations on a Theme:
I have used 1 cup of fresh chopped cranberries with orange juice – just add a little extra juice to accommodate for the missing moisture the banana would provide – or add a banana! I have also used 2 cups of Maine blueberries. I added them frozen right to the batter. I used milk but preferred using orange juice. Banana nut? Carrot raisin? What’s your poison? The key is making sure the batter has enough liquid, but isn’t runny.

Light, moist, sweet deliciousness is all mine.
Now that the hunt is over, I plan to sleep in next weekend.
~ Gal Foodie

P.S.  There’s still time to enter the Dishin’ Up Love Recipe Contest!

P.S.S – Still need a sweet treat for Valentine’s Day? Check out last year’s blog post For the Love of Cheesecake.

Dishin’ Up Love Recipe Contest

THIS MONTH’S CONTEST:

Do you LOVE food? Do you LOVE making it for someone special? Then I want to hear about it! This month’s Gal Foodie Recipe Contest is all about dishin’ up love! Send me the recipe you love to make for the person or people you love the most! I’ll post it in time for Valentine’s Day.

Cupid Stainless Steel Measuring SpoonsI’m giving away a set of the sweetest Stainless Steel Cupid Measuring Spoons, in exchange for your submission of the winning recipe!

Here are the Rules:
1. Send me your favorite recipe for a food that inspires love. The deal, as always, is you also MUST tell me WHY this is “love” food to you. And keep it clean! I prefer original recipes, however if you have one from a book or other resource YOU MUST disclose the source. Entries that appear to be plagiarized with no cited source will be tossed like a salad.

2. If I select your recipe, it will be published on the Gal Foodie website along with your photo and you will also receive a set of Stainless Steel Cupid Measuring Spoons.

3. Recipes will be judged based on taste, originality/artistic flair, ease of preparation/practicality, and appearance.

4. Deadline for submission is February 10, 2010.

Submit Your Recipe [easy-contact]

Happy Birthday! Love, New Zealand

What I love about old family recipes is that there is usually a story. Over time, the story inevitably gets diluted. The handwriting gets smudged, the facts get a little flour on them, the names become a mystery. But the story always ends the same. “This is a food I know.” And with time-traveling delight, these are the recipes that keep our traditions strong, and the tale of the person who made it before us, tangible. In my family history book, there is a cake. And you can be sure there is a story.

Marjorie Catley, Melrose, MA 1940

My Grandmother, Marjorie Cattley, 1940

New Zealand is a far away, mythical place for most of us. For my Grandmother, it was home the first few years of her life. While I don’t know the whole story, I know the parts that have helped me understand who I am and where I get my strength and independence. It is the story of Great-Grandmother Lucretia Cattley, who alone, in 1919, packed up her 4 children and a few keepsakes, and crossed a giant sea from New Plymouth, New Zealand, to a small town called Melrose, in the State of Massachusetts. Without a husband to speak for her, she convinced a local bank to lend her enough money to buy a house. With a meager income from odd jobs, she made payments of 50 cents a week to the man at the bank, and alone, she paid for that house, and in it, she raised her 3 daughters, Amy, Eleanor, and Marjorie and her son, Henry.

I love that story.

Surviving the adventure across the sea is a recipe for New Zealand Birthday Cake. My Grandmother’s handwriting on an otherwise neatly typed card in her recipe box states that this is her Grandmother’s recipe. How many women in my family wrote that recipe down, or recited it in a kitchen far away to be made on someone’s special day? That’s a lot of years in one cake pan. At least five generations of my family, and nary a birthday has been celebrated without it.

Birthday Cake

Happy Birthday to us! November 27th, 2004

My beloved Grandmother is gone now, but for 32 years she and I shared a birthday. Every year she made the two of us the New Zealand Birthday Cake, and never once, did she forget to tell me where it came from. Everything, including the recipe, had been committed to memory, and the most important task in making the cake was telling the story. Last night, for my father’s 63rd birthday, my sister made the cake and the story was shared again. And all of those women were sitting with us for a slice.

There are no directions on this recipe card, save a scribble from my Grandmother that tells me to cream the first 3 ingredients together, and that 3/4lb of something equals 1 1/2 cups. I have always used my Grandmother’s 9×13” pan. The comment from my Mother is that this is one of the driest cakes she’s ever had the “pleasure” of eating. At the risk of altering the story, I am experimenting with cooking times – thinking that if I increase the temperature and significantly reduce the time in the oven, it may not be so “pleasurably” dry. No matter what, this story always ends with gobs of plain white frosting and homemade vanilla ice cream.

Grandma Cattley’s New Zealand Birthday Cake

¾ lb butter or shortening (1 ½ cups)
¾ lb sugar
4 eggs
4 cups sifted flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp mace
1 tsp salt
¾ cup milk
1 jar of citron and ½ cup nut meats
Bake at 340 degrees for 1 ½  to 2 hours.

Find your recipes and share their stories.
Happy Birthday, Dad!

Love, Gal Foodie

Gal, Interrupted.

I’ve been away awhile. Well, I’ve actually been right here all along, but just this morning I’ve been trying to figure out how to explain to you the analogy between life and running a restaurant. How they are so frighteningly similar, that I wonder why I ever bothered with a restaurant at all, when I already had a life.

Every day is defined by who walks through the door, both in and out. The people who run the place and the people who are just passing through looking for a little comfort, and a little sustenance. Someone quits and there’s a scramble to make up for the lost set of hands, and sometimes something you need doesn’t show up, but something else arrives in it’s place, and you make do with what you have because that’s the best you can do on short notice. Sometimes it’s a perfect night, and sometimes the morning comes way too early. You put your whole heart into it. And then something important breaks and you have to let it all go until you can figure out what it’s going to take to fix it. You stand up, you show up, and you go to your station and begin again every day, because there are expectations to be met and things that need doing.

You just do.
And that is where I have been.
I couldn’t have guessed that I would have had the life or the experiences that I’ve had in my short 36 years, and I couldn’t have seen the life I would be living these last few months for all the tea in China. But it happens, life. And restaurant or not, there’s always someone coming, or going. And there’s always something to do. And plenty to write about.

To begin at the beginning would be a story far too long for a blog post, but to begin at the end, well that’s something I can wrap my head around, because it’s as fresh as today’s bread, and all the stuff between then and now has caused me to take a lot of notes. So here’s what happened next…

I moved and it started to rain. It rained so much that Summer barely had a chance to get here before the Fall. And in the torrents, the love of my life left for greener grass. Even coated in fresh paint, my new kitchen was too dark and depressing to feel good in. I ate by myself, and I cursed the rain. And then I decided that there was too much to be missed, rain be damned, and I ventured out into my new food world and instead of cooking, I met the people who cook. I visited restaurants and started asking questions. I was asked to be a judge for the IMG_3741State BBQ competition, and in so doing, met a wonderful group of very accomplished chefs and restaurant owners who opened more doors. (Not to mention I learned that oysters and BBQ sauce don’t mix) I became the co-host of a radio show about food with a gal I had imagined would be a soul mate if only I could meet her. I ate fried olives and fluke ceviche with yuzu ver jus, pickled fresno chili, and sea beans and wondered where they had been all my life. Kitchens were bustling in my presence and tables were filling up. And Gal Foodie was getting her gazpacho back.

And then a phone rang with the horror – a child had been killed in a terrible car accident, and my world screeched sideways all the way back to my beloved Mount Desert Island. The only thing I knew how to do to make it all better was to cook. And cook, and cook. Until everyone at least had a decent meal in their stomachs even if their hearts were bleeding out of their chests. It was that same child that I had fed in my old kitchen for so many years whom I had already said goodbye to a few months earlier. Goodbye to my island, the life I’d built, my sweetest love – No – this eclipsed any farewell I’d ever known. I kissed the tops of their heads and fed their souls but the child was gone, the kitchen was gone. No amount of food could fill that hole. With all the heartache-encrusted strength I could muster, I headed once again from the old to the new, determined to find the recipe for moving on.

I made cheese for the challenge of it. I spent time on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and made crab cakes with the real thing and drank cheap beer at a place called Lucky’s Last Chance. A cookbook idea led to fairgrounds across the Northeast, where I consumed foods with names like the Craz-E-Burger. Despite the implied calorie count (who was counting?) IMG_4200there was a story there and so I grabbed for extra napkins and I kept eating. As a judge at the local chili festival, I met even more people who cooked, and people who published magazines about it. I learned how to make bean hole baked beans for 1,000 people, and roast an ox on a spit. I was recognized in public. And I finally started cooking in my new kitchen.

There is no recipe for this. There is no one way it can go. Sometimes you get lucky. You keep trying new things, testing new ingredients and hoping it turns out OK. And you don’t always get to decide who stays and who goes.  You can only trust yourself to keep showing up and doing what needs to be done –  the rest is left to Chance.

Life is so short,

~ Gal Foodie

Cheese Curd. Everywhere.

The cheesemaking process is something that has always fascinated me, despite my aversion to hot milk. As I would stroll through Pike’s Market in Seattle, my destination was usually the fishbowl that is Beecher’s cheesemaking room, to marvel at the SHOVELS full of curd that 2 men in oompa loompa suits were pushing around in a giant stainless vat. It wasn’t something I ever saw myself trying though, since the joke on the gal from the dairy farm is that she’s lactose intolerant…

But.

A mad scientist friend of mine suggested we try making fresh mozzarella this weekend and I jumped at the chance. I had no idea where to start, and was given a simple list for shopping. Buy a gallon of pasteurized whole milk and lots of tomatoes. Yup. Tomatoes.

You can probably guess that there’s more to making cheese than milk. And that tomatoes probably don’t have much to do with making cheese. And you’d be right. The mad scientist showed up with citric acid and rennet, 2 ingredients instrumental to creating cheese curd. He also makes a mean tomato sauce.

Mozzarella Cheese Curd

Mozzarella Cheese Curd

After a bottle of homemade Elderberry wine was uncorked, poured, and partially consumed, we set to making cheese. We probably should have waited to open the wine, as our first batch of curd, well, didn’t really “curd” the way we needed it, because we were too busy being silly, and not busy enough watching the thermometer. In fairness to the scientist,  I should note that as we were reading the directions online, the guy switched from Fahrenheit to Celsius, and this critical after-the-fact find isn’t helpful if you have a sensitive concoction on the stove. So I won’t blame the mad scientist for either mishap. I enjoyed the wine and we didn’t let the first batch of curd go to waste.

The mad scientist went to work quickly on our mishap, straining and draining and squeezing and kneading, and the result was a boursin-like cheese that with a little roasted garlic butter (which we had made a few days earlier to put on our flat irons) and some basic herbs, became a delectable spread that tastes amazing on just about anything.

Solid Mozzarella Cheese Curd

Solid Mozzarella Cheese Curd

So, did we actually make mozzarella? Yes! After another trip to the store for more milk, and another glass of wine (or 2), we went through the whole process again, and the curd formed a nice solid chunk that we were able to cut with a knife. We then proceeded to go through the strain, reheat, strain, reheat, knead process and the result was cheese curds everywhere and an incredible full-size ball of fresh mozzarella.

Mozzarella Success!

Mozzarella Success!

And it TASTED like mozzarella. It actually sliced much cleaner than what you would buy in the store, and because it had not been sitting in a brine for weeks, our palettes were expecting it to be  little more salty, and so we decided that next time, we would add just a touch more.

Homemade Pizza

Homemade Pizza

What we ultimately created was a wonderful afternoon full of good food, wine, laughs and lots of dishes. The mozzarella landed on grilled pizza where the sauce, caramelized onions and the dough were also made from scratch, as well as a few fresh sliced tomatoes with basil and vinegar. We hatched a plan for more cheesemaking in our future, that included buying a few goats (ok – maybe that was the wine talking), and we’ll share that whole experience with you too! For now, see a quick list below of what you’ll need for making your own mozzarella, as well as a link to the instructions we followed.

Tools:

  1. Large stainless or enamel stockpot
  2. Large mesh strainer
  3. Candy-making thermometer
  4. Stainless measuring cups & spoons
  5. Microwave safe bowl

Supplies:

  1. 1 gallon of Pasteurized milk (NOT Ultra Pasteurized)
  2. Sea salt
  3. Unchlorinated water (we used Pelligrino)
  4. Citric acid
  5. MALAKA BRAND Liquid Vegetarian Rennet, 0.5 Ounce Bottle (Pack of 2)

Kneading the Cheese Curd

Kneading the Cheese Curd

Pointers:

  • It is extremely important to watch the heat and the time. Don’t let the milk get above 90ºF.
  • Have lots of towels around as making cheese curd is messy business.
  • It really helps to have 2 people. The straining process is a lot of back and forth, and it really helped to have one person holding the big pot, while the other holds the strainer and kneads.
  • We used this website as our basis for the recipe/process. I suggest you read it through carefully from start to finish because timing and heat is crucial to success.

Grilled Pizza

Grilled Pizza

Pizza Suggestions:
For our grilled pizza, we made 2 batches of  basic white pizza dough ala Cuisinart, and then topped the first with the mad scientists amazing homemade tomato sauce, fresh basil, and dried Italian salami. The other pizza was half BBQ sauce, my homemade caramelized onions, blue cheese, and the other half more red sauce, mozzarella,

Grilled Pizza

Grilled Pizza

Greek olives, basil and salami. We heated the pizza stone on the grill, but would suggest pre-cooking the crust for about 5 minutes before adding the toppings and putting it back on the grill. Watch the bottom! It will burn fast if the heat is too high. Add a couple of cold beers, and a great view and you have yourself a really nice afternoon.

Happy Cheese Curding!
~ Gal Foodie