Making fresh mozzarella at home

September 29, 2008 5:30:13 PM PDT
For most of us, the cheese in our refrigerator is store-bought. But you can actually make your own and it's not as hard as you might think. Executive chef Peter McNee, from Poggio Trattoria in Sausalito, shares his recipe.

Hand-pulled Mozzarella
By Poggio Executive Chef Peter McNee
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
2 lbs. Mozzarella curd
1 gal. salted water (hot)
1 gal. salted water (cold)

Method:
Bring salted water to a simmer on the stovetop. Cut or crumble mozzarella curd into a large mixing bowl. Pour most of the hot water over the mozzarella to cover. When the mozzarella curd has comes together into a single mass, strain out most of the hot water. With a wooden spoon, begin pulling/stretching the mozzarella. Begin forming the curd into any shape or size you wish. When formed, place into the cold salted water to cool and reserve for serving.

The fresh mozzarella is the best the day it is made, but can be refrigerated and served the next day.

Insalata Caprese
Poggio Executive Chef Peter McNee
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
1 batch fresh hand pulled mozzarella, (large round balls)
Ripe heirloom tomatoes
Fresh basil
Aceto balsamico
Sea salt
Fresh cracked black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Method:
Slice mozzarella and tomatoes about one quarter inch thick. Tear or cut the fresh basil into strips. Arrange mozzarella and tomatoes on a plate, alternating one and the other. Season with sea salt and pepper. Add basil, aceto balsamico and extra virgin olive oil. Eat and enjoy.

About Poggio Trattoria Executive Chef Peter McNee:
Toscana may be where Chef Peter McNee began his love affair with Italian cuisine and culture, but it is in Sausalito where he keeps the forno burning. Surprising the palates of his guests, not only with his authentic northern Italian cuisine- some of which cannot be found outside Toscana, Peter's passion beats at the heart of Poggio. With the Poggio organic garden at his fingertips and a wealth of firsthand Italian cooking experience, Peter has developed a style of his own at this rustic, northern Italian trattoria, serving seasonally inspired, simply prepared cuisine.

Before cultivating his fondness for Italian cooking in Tuscany, the Minnesota native - having graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics - honed his skills in some of the Bay Area's top restaurants. The chef's west coast career began at the famed San Francisco restaurant Stars, where he cooked while attending the California Culinary Academy in 1999. At Stars, he moved up the ranks, garnering extensive knowledge of local produce while building relationships with local farmers at the green street market.

An interest in Napa Valley, the viniculture and its farming, prompted a two year stint as Sous Chef at Tra Vigne Restaurant in St. Helena. It was while he was at Tra Vigne that Peter realized he needed a more global perspective. "I had so many questions about the food I was cooking. I felt I needed to be asking the people who were responsible for creating the cuisine." This thought inspired him to partake in a yearlong culinary pilgrimage to Italy in 2003.

While working in the regions of Toscana and Lombardia, Peter turned his passion into a quest to not just cook but understand, live and breathe Italy. "It is difficult to really understand cuisine until one gains an understanding of another's language, history and culture. The friends I've made, the time I spent is more valuable than any recipe I ever wrote down. It's really more about the human connection created through food."

Upon returning from Italy, Peter joined Poggio as Sous Chef and helped launch Poggio, establishing it as one of the Bay Area's top restaurants. After becoming Executive Chef in April 2006, Peter returned to his roots at the local markets, taking full advantage of every season's bounty. Today, he continues to draw from the Bay Area's farmer's market, fresh local seafood and naturally raised meats.

Executive Chef Peter McNee has created a rustic, seasonally-inspired menu combing spit-roasted and slow braised meats, blistered Neapolitan pizzas, house-cured salume, homemade burrata and mozzarella, crisp organic insalate and housemade pasta paired with slow-cooked sugo. Peter has taken Sausalito's darling and breathes life into her soul, from daily treks to their hillside organic garden for watercress, trips up north to forage for mushrooms, to traveling to Piemonte in search of his own prized tartufi bianchi (white truffles). "Honestly, you really can't beat Sausalito, the people, the view and weather and great local ingredients from Marin. Where else do you have all this?except maybe Italy?"

Website: http://www.poggiotrattoria.com/


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