I've had a killer cold the past few days - the kind that even makes watching television in the prone position an exasperating exercise. I spent the weekend drifting in and out of programming, catching shitty snippets of movies that rarely make it to dvd, and instead find a repetitive home on Cinemax or HBO Asia (with one exception: Cleopatra Jones! What a pleasant Blaxploitation surprise.)
Finally, after two days of this, I peeled myself off the couch wanting to cook. I had a lot of leftover bolognese in my freezer, and lasagna noodles in the cabinet. Even had a ball of buffalo mozzarella that didn't make it into a Thanksgiving casserole in the fridge, and two quarts of milk. Visions of lasagna bubbled in my brainpan. But, no ricotta - and a trip to the supermarket was out of the question.
Now, I know it's easy to make it. But I didn't know it was as easy to make as it is, cause I'd never made it before.
First, I went inside my bedroom and secured one weathered, thin cotton scarf from my wife when she wasn't looking, and put it in the washing machine (cheesecloth is to Asia what bamboo steamers are to America). Then I slowly heated two quarts of milk in a pan, checking the temperature now and then, until it reached a foamy 185 Farenheit (If you make yogurt, this is familiar territory.) Pulled it off the heat, added about 1.5 tablespoons of white rice vinegar (all I had) and a pinch of salt and let it sit, covered with a towel, for two hours.
Then I unraveled the scarf, poured the slurry of dairy into its welcoming, fuzzy folds, and twisted the top so it would drain in the shape of a hanging water balloon. A half hour later, with some twisting of the fabric, I had a ball of sweet, clean ricotta.
Perhaps it was the delirium of the cold medicine, or the hours of mind-numbing television, but when my lasagna emerged from the oven all bubbly and wonderful I felt that great feeling of accomplishment that Richard Dean Anderson probably felt from 1985-1992.
MacGyver could make a bomb out of birdseed and beer cans and he never shot a soul, but he also never made lasagna out of a forgotten carton of milk in Bangkok while battling a cold.
(I'll save my other recent breakthrough for later. It involves the holyshititsgood Momofuku cookbook which I surprisingly found in my Bangkok bookstore. I'm exhausted...)