(Special Thursday edition of The Cheesemonger thanks to the Labor Day holiday royally messing with our editorial calendar.)
There's a reason a red squiggly line appears under the word burrata in a Word document. Even Microsoft Office engineers, as caseophilically adept as we'd like to believe they are, are just, well, not. Which brings me to you, humble reader. If enlightened you have not already been by the joys of burrata, get thee promptly to a cheese store listed at the end of this post. In all seriousness, burrata uniquely captures the fine line between milk and cheese. When newly formed curd is heated in a vat, its protein chains can become elastic, allowing the cheesemaker to stretch the curd. Hence the family of "pasta filata," or "pulled curd" cheeses like mozzarella, provolone, and cacciocavallo.
With burrata, the cheesemaker forms a small pocket of stretched curd and stuffs it with fresh cream and stringy curds from the vat. Tied off at the top, the result is an apple-sized ball of cheese that closely resembles fresh mozzarella, with a leaky, cream-filled interior that ruptures when put under the knife, so to speak. Its flavor ranges from a plesant milky sourness to a spitting incarnation of sweet heavy cream. Most burrata in the States comes from Puglia, where it is traditionally served with oysters. While I've never tried this duo, something tells me that it's best enjoyed on the Adriatic coast. I prefer mine plain, or with a drizzle of rich olive oil and freshly ground pepper. Try it while you can with some local heirlooms for a new take on a Caprese salad. One piece will serve anywhere from one (trust me) to six consumers. Burrata is widely available at gourmet markets, including Whole Foods Bowery ($9.99/each) and Murray's Cheese ($8.99/each), and Bedford Cheese Shop in Williamsburg ($8). (photos: Bedford Cheese Shop and Agritour Puglia) - Nora S.