Chef Fabrzio Aeilli of Sea Salt shows how to make fresh mozzarella.
Sea Salt on Third Street South is one of those places where you come for a meal but stay for the experience. Chef Fabrizio Aielli, originally from Venice, Italy, has brought Old World charm to this little seaside city in a big way. The name itself, Sea Salt, pays homage to the salts Aielli keeps in his kitchen. Jars line the shelves with different flavors, hues and sizes, all used in his signature dishes. This attention to detail and passion for an art that is not only visually stimulating but also delicious is what makes Sea Salt one of the favorite restaurants in town.
A real treat, and an Italian specialty, is Aielli’s homemade mozzarella cheese. Made on premise, his incorporation of the cheese into his dishes sets his restaurant apart as one of the freshest spots in town. Starting with slowly heating milk, Aielli adds rennet (a curdling agent used to aid the process) and citric acid. The process begins to resemble cheese almost immediately. Once the milk comes to the right temperature, it is removed from the heat and left to sit. This separates the curd from the whey. After removing the curd and letting any excess whey run off (this can be achieved by folding the curd over on itself in a colander; the more you work the curd at this point the drier the cheese will become), salt to taste (homemade sea salt, of course!), which will be worked into the cheese in the steps that follow. Now it is time for the stretching the curd into cheese.
Aielli demonstrates the process of stretching the curd into cheese in the video. He first places the curd in hot water. Pressing and folding the curd onto itself in the hot water to facilitate even heating, the curd will begin to become sticky, making it into cheese. Then the chef begins to stretch the cheese, almost like taffy, several times. Once the cheese develops into a smooth mass, it is ready to fold into a ball. Once formed, he places it in a briny bowl of cool water to sit, helping it retain its shape.
If you are fromage fanatic, try the Trio of Buffalo Mozzarella. The bocconcini (small mozzarella balls) are served on a platter three different ways: with crispy panko crust, baked anchovies, and tomato and basil. The classic mozzarella, tomato and balsamic reduction is always a huge hit. And the Eggplant Tower, which is stacked with buffalo mozzarella and served with a fresh tomato pesto basil sauce, is tops.