Thursday, August 2, 2012

Yogurt Cheese, Incidental Smørrebrød, and the Open-Face Sandwich Conundrum

I made yogurt cheese for the first time last night.  What a revelation, and how insanely easy!  All I was really trying to do was remove a bit of whey from the yogurt so the dressing for my cucumber salad wouldn't be so watery.  I dumped some yogurt into a cheesecloth (really a scrap of worn-out dish towel I use for fine straining) and let it drip.  I took what I wanted for the salad, and the rest of it sat out overnight.  I tasted it in the morning; I was stunned.  Tangy, creamy, savory—I would not have thought something so rich and wonderful could have come from plain old yogurt.  I made fresh cheese recently with a method that involved culturing, cutting curd, cooking, and straining.  Much more involved, and in the end most of the milk went away as whey; more than that, the end product, while perfectly fine, was not nearly as interesting as the yogurt cheese.  Labneh, it’s called in parts of the Middle East; David Chang likes it, it turns up in the Momofuku cookbook. 

I think I’ve got myself a new hobby, coming up with different ways to flavor the basic cheese.  Furthermore, my days of buying chèvre may be over.  Obviously, the quality of the yogurt is paramount in determining the quality of the strained product.  I am sure that our wondrously rich Wisconsin milk from happy grass-fed cows makes all the difference (but Cedar Summit is fabulous, too).

So then, just a little while ago as I passed through the kitchen on the way to pick blackberries, I beheld that cheese still nestled in the strainer, and next to it a container of tomatoes, and beyond that the bread board.  I would need sustenance for my fruit harvesting efforts, and so this incidental smørrebrød was born.  I thought it was pretty, and that you would enjoy to see it.

Smørrebrød, a beautiful thing, and what a joy to the baker’s heart, a meal based upon bread.  But the open-face sandwich is a curious concept, is it not?  Oxymoronic perhaps, for does not the very essence of the sandwich involve the presence of enveloping components, the bottom, then the top, between which the sandwiched item or items is/are sandwiched?  The open-face sandwich might be construed as an aberration, a perversion of nature, wherein the intimate embrace of sandwiching and sandwiched is violated, the that-which-should-be-hidden is laid bare, exposed to the pitiless scrutiny of an indifferent universe.

Or is it, on the other hand, like the koan of the sound of one hand clapping, a philosophical puzzle for us to contemplate in hermetic solitude?

And is it open-face, or open-faced, and is the hyphen required?  Each variation carries subtle implications all its own.

Questions, questions.  Perhaps I will try to answer them after lunch.  And then I still have to get up to Bide-A-Wee and pick those berries.  I got a little distracted....

Text and photos copyright 2012 by Brett Laidlaw


Jennifer said...

We had a funny yogurt cheese incident last week. I had made a new batch, and set it on the table with fresh strawberries and crepes for breakfast, and my 5YO refused to even try it. I took it away, then brought it back to the table again but this time called it Greek Yogurt. She tried it and loved it. It was all about the semantics for her, apparently!

Trout Caviar said...

Selling the sizzle, not the steak--great!

(By the way, can I come over for breakfast...?)