It’s a stretch
Watch the cheese guru at work
By Linda A. Thompson-Odum firstname.lastname@example.org
Mozzarella is the crowning touch for most pizzas and lasagna, and a caprice salad wouldn’t be complete without it. On Saturday, June 6, Butter’s Fine Food and Wine in Concord will hold a mozzarella-stretching demonstration by cheese expert Adam Prizio. This will allow visitors to see the technique that makes fresh mozzarella a culinary delight.
“Adam and I talked about doing something like this a while ago,” Butter’s manager Kristin Ryall said. “The real inspiration was the farmers’ market. We thought it would be a great way to get people to come over and get some fresh mozzarella to go with their fresh tomatoes and basil.”
Prizio worked for Ryall last summer for gas money after he graduated from Notre Dame law school and before he found a job in his field. She calls him the cheese guru extraordinaire. He first learned the cheese trade at the well-known Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, Mich. Then, while he studied in London, he worked at the famous Neal’s Yard Dairy. There he was the cheese monger and the shop manager during the holidays. (Today he works for the Food and Hospitality Practice Group at Nelson, Kinder, Mosseau, and Saturley in Manchester.)
While at Zingerman’s, Prizio would get to the shop early in the morning to build the cheese and salami displays. “Nearly every day we would stretch fresh mozzarella,” he said. “The mozzarella you buy in the grocery store is at best already a couple of days old. There is something amazing about fresh mozzarella that is made just four hours ago.”
Mozzarella was first made in Italy with milk from water buffaloes. Most of today’s varieties are made from cow’s milk, though you can still find the buffalo type around. The fresh mozzarella that Prizio will create is different from the regular style found in most supermarkets, which is drier and less delicate but melts well on pizzas and pasta casseroles. The fresh style is usually stored in water or whey and is soft, creamy, and delicate.
Prizio will demonstrate pasta filata, which in Italian means spun paste. The process gives mozzarella its famous chewy stringiness, and begins with mozzarella curd — the milk solids that are pulled from milk, leaving the whey behind. The curds are cut into little pieces and placed into room-temperature water. Gradually the water temperature is increased with the addition of boiling water until the curd starts to melt and come together. Then Prizio will gather the curds together with his hands and stretch them into long rope-like strands. Next he will shape the stretched cheese into little 1/3- to ½-pound balls, which immediately go into ice water.
The traditional method of pasta filata is done with wooden paddles, but Prizio will use his hands — not an easy feat with such hot water. He said he planned to put his hands in hot water a few times a day to train for the main event. “It takes about a week for your hands to stand the water as hot as it should be,” he said.
Prizio’s favorite way to enjoy fresh mozzarella is to warm some up on a soft loaf of sesame semolina bread and serve it with hot jardinière (the Italian-style vegetables in a jar). Ryall’s favorite is the traditional caprice salad of tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar: “It’s simple, and I enjoy simple foods. It just screams summer.”