For a brief period of time, I tried to write a cooking blog. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned that before, maybe six or seven hundred times. I’m sure that I always added that it didn’t take me long to realize that 1) my cooking blog was competing against about a million other cooking blogs; and 2) I am really not an exceptional cook.
Here’s where I am supposed to say that despite my only being an average cook, I LOVE TO COOK. There was a time when I would have said that and would have been speaking the truth. Now I have to be completely honest and tell you that cooking is only fun some of the time. But the rest of the time, it’s just Bill and me, and he would prefer a sandwich to any kind of meal any day of the week. Unless, of course, I am frying a chicken. Then he’s all in. But have you ever fried a chicken? Enough said.
What I’m getting at is that it really isn’t that much fun to cook for only two people. And that’s why very often no matter how committed I am to eating at home, sometime around 4 o’clock I realize I don’t want to make that Chicken Florentine, or whatever it is I have planned. And so I begin making plans on where we can dine out. Sigh.
One way to combat this troubling phenomenon is to use a crock pot, as I have already mentioned in an earlier post. Because at 10 o’clock in the morning, I am still on the cooking-at-home bandwagon. And even if my Crock Pot Chicken Florentine doesn’t sound good anymore at 6 o’clock, I am cheap enough that I won’t throw it away and we will begrudgingly eat it.
This is the point where I should share a Chicken Florentine recipe. Like I would really make chicken Florentine. Ha.
But lately I have been in the mood to try making a few unusal things at home. I’m considering oxtail stew. I’ve looked up recipes for pierogis. I keep saying I’m going to try and make pho from scratch.
But I decided to start small, because a recipe for homemade ricotta cheese came across my desktop, something from the Pioneer Woman (who isn’t a real pioneer woman at all because real pioneer women churned butter and baked bread and pounded the dust from rugs. They didn’t make ricotta cheese.)
But I did. Because it looked very easy. So easy, in fact, that I didn’t even study the recipe very carefully. I just saw the words I like a four-to-one ratio when it comes to my milk and cream.
And without thinking much about it, I poured in four cups of cream and one cup of milk (because who wouldn’t want more cream than milk?), brought it to a boil, removed it from the heat, added the salt and the lemon juice, and waited for it to commence curdling. And waited. And waited some more. And then began cussing and waiting. Something I’ll bet the Pioneer Woman doesn’t do.
But it never curdled. And I began chastising myself. You are a terrible cook, I said to myself. You can’t even curdle milk properly unless you’re trying NOT to curdle it in which case it would probably CURDLE. And then I dumped it down the drain.
(While my cooking skills are questionable, I am VERY good at being hard on myself.)
At some point later in the morning, I took another gander at the recipe for making ricotta cheese. This time I actually READ the recipe from beginning to end. Oh-oh. The ratio is in fact four-to-one, but it is four cups of MILK to one cup of CREAM. Oops.
So, having inherited the stubbornness of both my mother and my father, I went to the store and bought more milk and cream, bringing the total cost to my two cups of ricotta cheese to about $15. But this time, it worked. The milk mixture curdled, and I had myself some fresh, homemade ricotta cheese….
Which I used in my baked ziti that I made for my sister Bec’s birthday dinner last night, along with red sauce made from scratch by my sister-in-law Sami, who included – wait for it – the leftover prime rib from a recent meal. Let’s just say, as long as I have a great deal of help from others, maybe I CAN cook…..
Homemade Ricotta Cheese
1 c. heavy cream
4 c. whole milk
½ t. salt
2 T. white vinegar or fresh lemon juice
Line a strainer with a couple layers of damp paper towel or cheesecloth, and set aside in a large bowl.
In a large pan, mix cream, milk and salt. Bring liquid to a boil over medium high hieat, and remove from heat. Stir in the vinegar or lemon juice. Let mixture sit for a few minutes, and then pour into the strainer lined with the paper towel or cheesecloth. Let it drain until it is as dry as you want it, at least 20 minutes.
Makes approximately 2 cups of cheese.