Demystifying Cheese at Rialto
When Boston’s food lovers around town see fresh mozzarella on their favorite menus, there’s a good chance Lourdes Fiore Smith had something to do with it. The daughter of Italian immigrants has cheesemaking in her blood, and supplies handmade mozz, burrata, and mascarpone to some of the area’s top restaurants (think Oleana, Beacon Hill Bistro, and 51 Lincoln). When Chowder learned that Smith was joining Chef Jody Adams at her monthly cooking class at Rialto a few weeks ago, we jumped at the chance to see how she makes curds and whey.
Joining Smith and Chef Adams was Harvard scientist Amy Rowat, who uses food as a medium to promote science education. Aided by sketches, Rowat simplified milk’s complicated evolution into cheese for the group of hungry gourmands, illustrating the fat globules and protein particles that make up milk. Rowat explained how adding an acid, in the form of lemon juice or vinegar, transforms milk into a solid. Chef Adams encouraged us to experiment with different types of vinegars to achieve different tasting cheeses. And while she told us this—quite literally in a matter of minutes—a pot of milk became ricotta cheese.
Here’s the unbelievably easy recipe:
1 gallon whole milk
1/2 c. lemon juice
1 tsp. kosher salt
1. In a large stainless steel pot (not one made from aluminum, as it will create an entirely different reaction), bring milk to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally to keep the milk from scorching. Use an instant-read thermometer to monitor the milk’s temperature
2. Once the milk is at 180 degrees F, add the lemon juice and stir to combine.
3. Let the milk and lemon juice to rest for a minute or two, allowing curds and whey to form. When this occurs, you will see white clotted bits floating in a yellowish milk broth. It may not look right, but it is. (The clotted white bits are the curds, and the remaining yellowish broth is the whey.)
4. Separate the curds by pouring the mixture into a large bowl covered with a piece of cheesecloth (to catch the curds). Sprinkle with salt and allow to drain for 1 hour.
You can begin to experiment by adding cream to make the cheese richer, adding herbs and salts for flavor, and adjusting the draining time to achieve different textures. Ricotta, known as a fresh cheese because it does not age, should be eaten right away.
Following the ricotta demo, chef Adams set about making lunch. Using the just-made ricotta, she served up baked ricotta, fresh ricotta, ricotta gnocchi with mushrooms and truffles, and ricotta cheesecake. Meanwhile, Smith made fresh mozzarella and shared stories about her family’s cheese shop in Hoboken. And while she couldn’t show us how to make her beloved mozzarella—unlike ricotta, which can be made in a few simple steps, mozzarella takes years to perfect—she did share bites of the warm, freshly made cheese. And lucky for you, her mozz can be found all over town. Check out fioredinonno.com to see where.
For a list of upcoming classes at Rialto, visit rialto-restaurant.com.