Makes about 3 1/2 cups
Large, chewy curds suspended in chive-studded cream make this a luxurious standout and customer favorite at Buck's Fishing and Camping restaurant in Washington, D.C. Chef Vickie Reh serves it year-round, alongside seasonal vegetables and greens. At this time of year, she pairs it with arugula and baby beets dressed in a lemon vinaigrette.
If you'd like to serve it with fruit or with dessert, omit the chives and black pepper; you might also want to use a different oil.
You'll need cheesecloth and an instant-read thermometer. And you'll have plenty of leftover whey, which is good for making bread and for watering and feeding houseplants.
Make ahead: The curds need to rest for 30 minutes. The ball of firm curd can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for a day or two before it is broken down and added to the cream, but it is best used the same day it is made. The curds need to be added to the cream an hour before serving. The assembled cottage cheese can be refrigerated for a day; remoisten with a bit of added heavy cream before serving.
Adapted by Reh from an Alton Brown recipe.
2 gallons nonfat milk
1 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream, plus more as needed
1/4 cup finely chopped chives (optional; may substitute scallions)
Freshly cracked black pepper (optional)
Best-quality extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
Heat the milk in a large pot over medium heat to a temperature of 130 degrees; do not walk away from the pot, as it's important not to overheat the milk. (If the temperature of the milk exceeds 130 degrees, it's best to start over with fresh milk.) Remove from the heat and add the vinegar, stirring for about 1 minute; a raft of solid curd will form. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit for 30 minutes.
Line a colander with several layers of cheesecloth. Pour the contents of the pot into the lined colander; reserve the whey for another use, if desired (see note above). Let the drained curds sit for 5 minutes, then compress them in the cheesecloth, forming a ball. Rinse under cool, running water until the core is almost cool, squeezing out as much moisture as you can.
Keep squeezing and tightening the cheesecloth to extract as much moisture from the curd as possible. The ball of curd should be quite solid, and uniform in texture and color; it should have a slightly translucent look, rather than blotches or veins of opaque white.
An hour before serving, pinch off bite-size pieces of the firm curd, letting them fall into a large bowl as you work. Add the salt and chives, if using, then gently fold in the cup of heavy cream until the mixture becomes slightly thickened to form a creamy cottage cheese. Add some or all of the remaining 1/4 cup of cream as needed, keeping in mind that as the cottage cheese sits or when it is refrigerated, more of the cream will be absorbed.
Serve slightly chilled, garnished with the black pepper and a drizzle of the oil, if desired.