Mozza's Burrata with Braised Leeks and Mustard Bread Crumbs
For New Year's Eve, I made two dishes from The Mozza Cookbook: Burrata with Braised Leeks and Mustard Breadcrumbs along with Grilled Beef Tagliata. Both recipes are spot on, but Nancy's impossibly tender leeks stole the show. The leeks are braised in the oven for about two hours yielding a buttery texture that's surrounded by a glazed and slightly caramelized exterior. This perfect balance of sweet and savory makes it hard to resist eating them right out of the pan. Similar to Gjelina's Pomodoro Sauce, the magic of a few ingredients and some time never ceases to amaze me. The other great thing about this recipe is that it plates beautifully and everything can be made in advance. It's a no-brainer recipe for dinner parties.
Mozzarella, Stracciatella, Panna, and Burrata
A quick breakdown that feels a little like a geometry proof.
- Mozzarella - A southern Italian cheese that is made by heating and stretching fresh curds.
- Stracciatella - A southern Italian cheese that is made by heating and stretching fresh curds, then shredding the resulting cheese. Basically it's shredded mozzarella as far as I can tell, though there are usually subtleties with these things.
- Panna - A mixture of mozzarella scraps/stracciatella and cream.
- Burrata - A mozzarella pouch that's filled with panna.
The best burrata can be found in the Apulia or Puglia region of Italy - the heel of the boot. The specific cities that I've seen mentioned are Andria and Matera. An insider tip is that Osteria Mozza flies in burrata from Puglia on Thursday for the weekend menu.
How is Burrata made?
The video here is about 3 minutes long and does a good job of explaining the process.
Made in the U.S.A.
Gioia and Di Stefano are two frequently mentioned burrata makers located right here in sunny California. Legend has it (and by legend, I mean the tales told by the Interwebs) that one of these cheesemakers introduced the burrata craze to the United States.
All about Leeks
If you're interested in learning more about leeks, I have an entire "Useless Facts" section devoted to my allium friends in the How to Make Melted Leeks post.
Original vs. Adapted
I substituted pomegranate vinegar for white wine and then included some additional quantity clarifications, instructions, and notes. Other than that, this recipe is exactly as it appears in The Mozza Cookbook.
When plating this dish, the key to creating a little ball of burrata is to maintain the integrity of the mozzarella layer or outer "shell". I use a sharp knife (or cooking sheers) to cut off the 2 ounce serving. Make a note of how many ounces your burrata ball is, divide by 2, and that will give you a sense of how many cuts you will need. Once the serving is portioned out, one side of your little cheese ball will be the exposed stracciatella. Very gently tuck the edges of the outer mozzarella skin as far as you can around the exposed or cut side, then place the ball of burrata cut side down on the leeks. You won't have a perfect sphere, but it will be a somewhat round shape which presents nicely. The first time I served this dish, I haphazardly placed the burrata on top and it just didn't look right.
Not All Leeks Are Created Equal
The recipe calls for 1 pound of leeks but the amount of white and light green on any given leek can vary widely. As a point of reference, the leeks I picked up for my New Year's Eve dinner didn't have much white so I only needed a 9 1/2 x 9 1/2 dish rather than the 9 x 13 dish suggested in the cookbook. You want the leeks to fit neatly in a single layer so adjust your cookware accordingly. Also, Le Creuset cookware is a dream to clean after the long braise.
You Can Do It
There are a number of ingredients and steps in this recipe but don't let that deter you. It's really truly worth the effort. One approach is to make the bread crumbs on day 1, the vinaigrettes on day 2, and then braise the leeks and serve on day 3. Breaking things down will make the process feel entirely manageable - easy even.
Leeks at Tutti Frutti Farms - Santa Monica Farmers Market
Farmers | Artisans
I make an effort to source my food from local California artisans with a special focus on the Santa Monica Farmers Market. Below is a list of the talented folks who contributed to this dish.
- Grist & Toll / Flour for Homemade Sourdough Bread
- Polito Family Farms / Lemons
- Maggie's Farm / Thyme
- Finley Farms / Leeks
- Trattore Farms / Pomegranate Vinegar
Mustard Bread Crumbs
- 1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
- 2 tablespoons whole-grain Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons white wine or pomegranate vinegar Note: I didn't have white wine and ended up using pomegranate vinegar instead. The flavor was great so I plan to stick with this ingredient change in the future since we don't usually have white wine around.
- 1/2 teaspoon flake-style salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons quality neutral-flavored oil such as grapeseed or almond
- 1 pound rustic bread, crust removed, then torn into 1-inch pieces (results in about 8-9 ounces or 8 cups) Note: I used my homemade country sourdough.
- 1/4 cup minced shallots
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
- 1 teaspoon flake-style salt Note: This may seem like a lot of salt, but it works out given the application of this dressing throughout The Mozza Cookbook.
- 1/2 cup quality extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup whole-grain Dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup Lemon Vinaigrette (see ingredients above) + 2 tablespoons for tweaking
- 6 large leeks
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon flake-style salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 1/2 cups Homemade Chicken Stock (or organic), plus more as needed
- 1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
- 20 fresh thyme sprigs
- 2 ounces of burrata per serving
- Maldon sea salt
- Thinly sliced flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 9 x 13 or 9 1/2 x 9 1/2 Casserole Dish
- Mini Measuring Cup with Spout (less than $5 and one of my favorite tools)
- Baking Sheet
- BPA-free Storage Containers
Mustard Bread Crumbs
- Move the rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 275 degrees.
- Line a baking sheet with foil and set aside.
- Over medium heat, toast the mustard seeds in a small skillet until fragrant and lightly browned. Set aside to cool.
- Combine the mustard seeds, mustard, pomegranate vinegar (or white wine), salt, and pepper. While constantly whisky, slowly drizzle the oil into the mixture.
- Add the bread pieces to the bowl and then use your hands to gently work the dressing into the bread. Gently press, toss, and turn the bread to ensure that all of the pieces are evenly coated. Continue to do this until there isn't any dressing left in the bowl.
- Spread the bread in an even layer on the pre-lined baking sheet and bake for about 1 1/2 hours until the croutons are crunchy all the way through. Toss the bread once or twice to ensure that it's cooking evenly.
- Set the croutons aside to cool.
- Once cool, add the croutons to a food processor and pulse a few times until you have course crumbs. Note: Don't overprocess the bread or you will end up with mustard dust. The mustard crumbs can be stored in an airtight container for a few days or you can freeze them.
- In a small or medium bowl, add all of the ingredients except for the oil and pepper, then whisk to combine. Set the bowl aside for about 10 minutes so that the flavors can marry up.
- While constantly whisking, slowly drizzle the oil into the lemon and shallot mixture.
- Add the pepper, then set aside or refrigerate in an airtight container for 2-3 days. Note: I prefer to make the vinaigrette the day before I use it so that the flavors can meld.
- Add the mustard to medium bowl.
- While constantly whisking, slowly drizzle in the lemon vinaigrette. The resulting mustard vinaigrette should be neither too thin (runny) or thick (like mayonnaise) since you will be spreading the it on the braised leeks.
- Refrigerate in an airtight container for 2-3 days. Note: I prefer to make the vinaigrette the day before I use it so that the flavors can meld.
- Move the oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 350.
- While the oven is preheating, prep the leeks.
- Cut off the dark green leaves so that you're left with just the whites and a bit of light green.
- Cut off the roots. Note: You want to remove all of the roots, but don't cut so far that you go beyond where the end is "fused". This holds the individual layers together in one piece.
- Remove the outer layer (much of the dirt is often underneath), then slice the leeks in half lengthwise.
- Gently rinse the leeks under running water, separating the layers to insure that water can flush away any dirt.
- Pat dry and set aside.
- Add the leeks and olive oil to the baking dish. Gently toss to coat. Note: See "Recipe Tips" for baking dish size.
- Sprinkle the leeks with the salt and then add several cranks of peppers. Toss again and then arrange cut-side up in a single layer.
- Pour the chicken stock over the leeks until it comes 3/4 of the way up the leeks.
- Drizzle the remaining olive oil evenly over the leeks, distribute the lemon slices and thyme across the top.
- Cover the pan with heavy-duty foil and crimp the edges so it's well sealed.
- Bake for 45 minutes.
- After 45 minutes, take the leeks out of the oven. Remove and discard the foil, lemons, and thyme.
- Raise the temperature to 400, return the leeks to the oven, and continue to bake until the leeks are golden brown and have a shiny glaze. This will take about an hour and fifteen minutes. Note: I very gently flipped the leeks once during this baking period to avoid browning them too much. If you choose to do this, use a spatula and carefully nudge it under the leek to avoid tearing or damaging the beautiful layers.
- Remove the pan from the oven and then gently transfer the leeks to a plate or container to cool.
- Serve or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
- Place two leek halves on the plate cut side up.
- Sprinkle with a small pinch of flake-style salt.
- Spread 1 1/2 tablespoons of mustard vinaigrette across the tops of the leeks. Note: You don't want it all over the plate or dripping down the side, just right along the top. I realize this seems particular, but I like to make Nancy's recipes look as lovely as possible.
- Place the 2-ounce burrata ball on top of the leeks, cut side down. Note: See "Recipe Tips".
- Pile two tablespoons of mustard bread crumbs on the burrata, sprinkle with parsley, and then enjoy.