Monday, January 29, 2007

Notes from a Fromager -- Fancy Cheesburgers

If you’ve ever been to 25 Degrees, the fancy burger joint inside the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, then you know just how exciting it is to blanket your patty with something other than cheddar. I loved my prosciutto and burrata burger there, but I felt full (too full, I think) for hours afterward.

Still, from then on, I was inspired to be more adventurous with my hamburger, and for me, that meant taking risks with the cheese.

Burrata (sans Prosciutto), a pulled-curd cheese from Southern Italy, is basically the remnants of Mozzarella and cream held in a bag of curds. Sounds gross, I know, but it’s really divine. When you cut into the soft ball of burrata, an incredible creaminess spills forth, perfect for spooning onto your frying burger. Add some grilled onions on top and watch the burrata melt. This stuff’s like Mozzarella on steroids.

If you’re a blue cheese fan, I suggest you don’t mess with anything crumbly, like Maytag or Shropshire Blue. Instead, try St. Agur, a creamy cow’s milk blue from the Auvergne region of France. It’s fairly mild, so it won’t dominate the meat flavor, and its texture makes for easy application. If you want something more extreme, I recommend Papillon Roquefort, the classic sheep’s milk blue from France, famous for being Charlemaigne’s personal favorite. (Check out its legend of origin.)

My last recommendation is Cotswold, an English cheddar peppered with chives and onion. This cheese melts easily and will give your burger enough spice that the meat itself doesn’t need a thing. Cotswold, as you might’ve guessed, is also great on a grilled cheese.

--Edan

3 comments:

Kiki said...

Nice call on the burrata, Edan. I first tasted this unique cheese on a visit to my family's village in southern Italy, where another awesome cheese, caciocavallo, is king.

Given the delicacy and extreme perishability of burrata, I'm surprised you found it in L.A., and I'd be even more surprised to run across caciocavallo (an ultra-rich provolone cured in large hanging bulbs).

The burrata I had came from a local caseficio, or combination store/workshop. The cheese was in a medium-sized bulb and looked like an ordinary caciocavallo. But when you cut through the hard rind, there was a ring of provolone surrounding a medallion of the richest butter you can imagine.

(Weird; in my understanding of all these cheeses, it was provolone, and not mozzarella, at issue. Perhaps the recipes differ depending on the part of Italy? We had our fair share of buffalo mozzarella, a super delicacy that everyone loves down there, but the burrata was definitely provolone-based.)

We didn't melt the burrata on burgers, but simply cut small rounds and ate the cheese/butter by itself, taking the occasional bite of bread or sopressata (a delicate salami) and washing it all down with homemade wine. The butter melted on your tongue, and then you had this rich piece of provolone to chew. Man o man.

It was pretty much the most beautiful culinary experience I had in Italy, and I've never spoken of it before now, nor ever dared to hope that burrata would appear in the U.S. market. Thanks for bringing back a great memory.

Edan said...

Kiki,

Wow, that sounds amazing! The burrata we sell at my store is actually locally made from cow's milk (as is our mozzarella), so it's fresh as can be. You may be right about the Provolone versus Mozzarella discrepancy in the burrata/caccicavallo world...I don't know.

We carry Cacciocavallo, too, imported from Italy. I've heard the cheese is far different in Italy, but ours is very good, I think--like an aged provolone.

Heather said...

Burrata is by far God's gift to humans. No doubt - my favorite cheese! Now that I know you're store sells it, I'll have to stop in and pick some up.