On the first sticky day of summer, I walked down to Philadelphia’s Italian Market in search of something cool, and I came home with burrata. Cheese and humidity don’t always mix, but then, burrata isn’t ordinary cheese. It’s a fresh mozzarella compress wrapped around a scoop of glorious cream and bound together with leeks. If the leeks are bright green – without any brown spots – you know the cheese is fresh. It’s a neat trick.
At Di Bruno Bros., the burratas are made by hand and displayed in a vat of cool water, like a pod of baby manatees. The spectacle is coolness incarnate. You won’t find burrata at very many venues outside of Southern Italy, although Thomas Keller has been known to order these very burrata and serve them at his restaurant, Per Se, in New York. Give a Google, and you’ll find the naked burrata photos to prove it.
The secret of really good mozzarella, and thereby really good burrata, is a hand-pulled curd. Most fresh mozz is stretched by machine – this creates a rather stringy creature. Hand-pulled mozz is toothsome, not tough. Cheesemonger Hunter Fike details the process in an earlier post that is very much worth reading.
How do you serve a burrata? Cut it in half like a geode. Slicing it before dinner guests makes for a dramatic presentation, much like carving a turkey. You’ve heard of restaurants that now prepare table-side mozzarella? Everyone has eaten mozzarella, but how many have lunched on fresh burrata? Watch your friends clutch their cheeks as you pull this cheese apart to reveal a cream-filled center.
Burrata is best served with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt, and the best baguette you can find. You can gussy it up with some fresh herbs and roasted cherry tomatoes, but it doesn’t need much else. With a lightly dressed salad and a bottle of white wine, you’ve got a simple supper. Quick. Cooling. Luxurious.
For something extra decadent, try a burrata stuffed with truffle cream. It sounds absurd, and it is. Frankly, it’s the best summer meal I know of for vegetarians and those who love them. Call it the new bacon. Discuss.
For more irrepressible cheese enthusiasm, visit Madame Fromage.