I recently fell in love with Rachel Khoo's The Little Paris Kitchen. I found it hidden inconspicuously at the library, on a nondescript nonfiction shelf near the check-out counter. It was nearly serendipitous, how magnetic I found the cover, how I wanted to envision myself thumbing through this same cookbook at a cafe, in a striped sweater, a cigarette dangling between my teeth as I take notes. I read the whole cookbook in two days, dog-earing the pages during my lunch break that I'd take in Balboa Park. Starting slow, I began with the simplest recipe I could find (they're all simple, really, which is the true beauty of this book!): fromage frais. Fresh cheese. I paired this easy, crumbly, soft cheese with clover honey and a fresh boule and snacked on anytime I felt a little peckish. A perfectly sweet treat (with a little bite, if you add some salt).
Fromage frais (recipe taken directly from The Little Paris Kitchen)
Makes about 14 oz
Fromage frais has a smooth, creamy taste and a subtle acidic note, making it less smelly socks and more freshly washed white linen. Of course, an additional plus is that it’s low in fat and cholesterol, but that doesn’t mean it’s low in taste.
• 2 qt 2 percent or skimmed milk, preferably organic but not UHT or homogenized • 1/2 cup plain live or probiotic yogurt, preferably organic • juice of 1 lemon (6 tbsp) • a pinch of salt or sugar • 2 tbsp heavy cream (optional)
Pour the milk into a large pot. Heat very slowly, stirring gently, until it starts to steam and little bubbles form around the edge (it should not boil at any point). This should take about 20 minutes.
Allow to cool for a couple of minutes before stirring in the yogurt and lemon juice. Leave to sit undisturbed for a further 10 minutes. Return the pot to the heat and bring the milk to a boil. Once it separates into curds (the solids) and whey (the liquid), remove from the heat.
Line a fine-meshed sieve with cheesecloth or a clean tea towel. Place the sieve over a bowl and pour in the separated milk. Scrunch the cloth tightly immediately above the cheese, like making a money bag, and twist to squeeze out any excess liquid. Now tie the corners of the cloth together to form a hanging pouch and thread a wooden spoon through the loop. Hang the cheese over a large bowl or jug (don’t let it sit on the bottom), and refrigerate for 30 minutes or overnight. The longer the cheese hangs, the more the liquid will drip away and the drier the cheese will become.
To serve, twist the cloth as before to squeeze out any excess liquid, then remove the cheese from the cloth and season with salt or sugar. Serve as it comes for a firm version, or beat in a couple of tablespoons of heavy cream for a smoother, creamier cheese.