Curds the Word

It was my buddy Keith’s birthday this past Sunday (also Groundhog’s Day & Super Bowl Sunday), so there were plenty of reasons to celebrate. For my part, I made my first batch of homemade cheese curds the day before… and oh, were they good!

Fresh cheese curds

I won’t bore you with the tedious details. Suffice to say, it was a marathon 8-hour procedure which I further complicated by throwing in a sous vide for temperature control, but well worth it. If you happen to be a curd lover, you might want to check out the thorough directions at New England Cheese Making Supply Co.

Mild cheese curds are at their best when eaten fresh, while their prized squeakiness is at its peak (within a day or so of making). Keith got his lovely curds on time and I had enough left for a very tasty riff on a pizza Margherita. I realize I am past due for a [Friday] pizza blog, so here we go!

I was curious to see what the curds would do on the pizza. Would they melt or turn rubbery? I would keep ingredients on the tame side as to not overwhelm the curds. All that was left was to assemble a few ingredients and give it a quick bake in a hot oven.

I started with a pre-baked crust made earlier in the day. To get my quota of garlic in, I opt for a gentle smear of garlic confit. I like to keep a jar of it in the fridge for occasions such as this, as it gives a mellow garlic flavor that blends well but does not dominate. For a substitute, see the recipe for easy alternative.

Pizza with Curds and Tomatoes

In rapid succession, it’s layered with sliced onion and spicy pasilla pepper; then a bit of salt and pepper and a sprinkle of fresh rosemary and thyme. Our featured sliced tomatoes and cheese curds get dotted about; if you don’t have curds, use any fresh cheese, such as mozzarella. It’s finished with a light dusting of Asiago or Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil, and popped into a hot oven until the top is bubbly and the crust is golden brown. Once baked, fresh basil is scattered across the top and it’s served.

Final curd outcome: the curds melt slightly, brown on top, and become creamy. Once cooled, they firm up and go back to their original texture, albeit a tad drier. Pretty much what you would expect. No rubbery cheese here!

Pizza with Cheese Curds and Tomatoes

Ingredients
½ recipe pizza dough, or medium purchased
1 Tbsp garlic confit, or 1 Tbsp olive oil heated with 2 cloves garlic, smash
½ onion, slice
½ pasilla or other pepper, slice
salt and pepper
1 tsp fresh rosemary and/or thyme
3 Roma tomatoes, slice
1 cup fresh cheese curds, cut bite-size
½ cup Asiago or Parmesan cheese, grate
2 tsp olive oil
5-6 fresh basil leaves, tear smaller if large

Instructions

  1. Prepare one 9-10” crust. Preheat oven to 425-450°F.
  2. On fresh or pre-baked crust, evenly spread garlic confit over the surface, coating edges.
  3. Add a layer of sliced onion and pepper. Season lightly with salt, fresh ground pepper, and fresh herbs.
  4. Top with sliced tomatoes and dot with fresh cheese curds. Sprinkle with aged Asiago or Parmesan cheese and drizzle the top with olive oil.
  5. Bake 15-20 minutes, until bubbly on top and crust is golden brown. Scatter with fresh basil leaves. Makes 1 medium pizza.

Curd’s the Word

We love our cheese curds in Oregon.  There’s something extremely entertaining about these little morsels that make everything taste better— including broccoli.  Simply stated, curds come from the early stages of simple cheese making when acid is introduced to milk, separating it into the watery whey and solid curd.Broccoli and curds (640x480)

The resulting squiggly curds are fairly mild, rustic, low on the creamy scale, and a cheese kids seem to love. Unless a complete cheese snob, what’s not to like about little cartoon-like bites of squeaky cheese?

Here’s a way to get your cheese and broccoli together effortlessly.  No sauce is required, just plenty of unadulterated cheesy goodness.  Keep in mind that all you want to do is get your broccoli near al dente and quickly melt the cheese with it.  Beyond that, the cheese solidifies even more and all of the melted creaminess is lost.

Cheese Curds and Broccoli

Ingredients
2 tablespoon butter
1 clove garlic or zest of 1/2 lemon
1 pound broccoli, rinse, cut off woody stems and then into florets
Salt and pepper
1/2 pound cheese curds, cut up any large curds

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°. Spray 2 quart baking dish lightly with oil.
  2. In large skillet over medium high heat, add butter and the garlic or lemon zest; when aromatic add the broccoli.  When hot, add about 1/4 cup water or enough to create steam, cover for 2-3 minutes, until tender-crisp.
  3. Season with salt and pepper and place a layer of broccoli in baking dish. Layer with half of the curds, add remaining broccoli and top with the rest of the curds.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the cheese melts. Serves 4