Sunday, April 5, 2009

whipped ricotta with thyme and oregano

For such a simple recipe, this ricotta was nearly a disaster.

First there was the grilled country bread. Andrew Carmellini suggests two options for toasting the bread; on a grill, or in the broiler. And in an unexpected turn, we opted for the latter. It is a rare thing that I will willingly cook something in the broiler. Do you remember the furnace in “Home Alone” that turns into a fire-mouthed monster? Or that scene from “Elf” where Buddy is scared of the radiator?

Buddy: There's a horrible noise coming from the evil box underneath the window. It sounds like this kssstttowwwwwwoooooooo!
Walter: It’s not evil buddy it’s a radiator. It makes noise when it comes on.
Buddy: No it doesn’t it’s very evil! It’s scary to look at! Okay, I'm going...Wait, yes it is. It’s okay.

That pretty much summarizes my feelings for [read: irrational fear of] the broiler. As many times as I use it, I can never get over the slightly disconcerting smell, and sound, and smokiness of the production.

So I tend to avoid it. In this case, rightly so. Our first batch of grilled country bread, left in 30 seconds too long, turned to coal. Somehow, we recovered our nerve, and the next batch fared much better. In the end, we were left with perfectly crisp, charcoal-crusted bread.

Then, the ricotta. The ratio of milk to ricotta recommended in the recipe resulted in something more akin to thick ricotta soup, despite very vigorous whisking on the part of the immersion blender (with whisk attachment). We decided to substitute cow’s milk ricotta, which may have accounted for the off-texture, but I doubt it. Next time, I would add the milk a few tablespoons at a time.

And there will be a next time. Even in its near-liquid state, this was completely delicious. I believe Carmellini when he describes it as his “most popular antipasto ever.”

Whipped Ricotta with Thyme and Oregano
Adapted from Urban Italian, by Andrew Carmellini

2 cups Sardinian sheep’s milk ricotta (or regular cow's milk ricotta)
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
2 teaspoons coarse ground black pepper
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano, on the branch if possible
2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Using a whisk or a KitchenAid with the paddle attachment, beat the ricotta and milk together until light and fluffy. Add the table salt and mix well. Place the mixture in a serving bowl; sprinkle generously with other seasonings. Top with olive oil and serve with grilled country bread.

Grilled Country Bread
Adapted from Urban Italian, by Andrew Carmellini

1 loaf Italian bread (ciabatta or semolina)
extra-virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 garlic cloves, crushed

Preheat grill to highest setting, or put oven on broil and set the rack on the highest level. Cut the bread into thick slices. Drizzle each side with olive oil (about 1 tablespoon per slice), and season with salt and pepper.

Grill bread (or place under broiler) until crispy and charcoal-colored around the edges. Turn and repeat on other side. Remove bread and rub on both sides with fresh garlic clove. Serve warm.

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