Week 36: Famous Dishes – Ratatouille Pizza

This week’s challenge of “Famous Dishes” involved a full exploration of the term “famous.” To ensure true fulfillment of such a broad idea, I decided to take on the well-known French dish made famous by a Disney mouse: ratatouille.

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Eggplant, squash and peppers provided all the colors and textures needed for the dish.s

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On a super thin setting, rhe mandoline made fast work of the slicing.

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Designing each layer so that each slice peeked out from behind the next took a small amount of patience.

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Using a hearty tomato sauce as the base, this ratatouille had all the elements found in the classic dish.

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As a pizza, all this baby was missing was cheese,

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Where there was once no mozzarella, suddenly mozzarella.

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After a bit of doctoring, the mozzarella slices snuggled up quite nicely in their new bed of vegetables.

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Cooking was a tad risky considering the dense sheets of water-laden vegetables and abundance of sauce on such a thin crust.

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The pizza still came out looking like a beast.

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Fresh thyme and cracked black pepper supplied a kick of herbacous, savory notes.

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No dish has wanted more for a rustic French red than this one, an instinct I didn’t trust until the first sip.

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The pairing was outstanding. This Syrah-based red out of Languedoc had a funky fresh personality that was quite a sipper on its own. And despite a somewhat soggy crust and slightly undercooked vegetables, the ratatouille pizza was a treat by itself but it really hit a new height with the wine. The entire experience has been bookmarked for revisiting in the future.

Week 35: Nordic – Gravlax & Hovmästarsås on a Rye Crust Pizza

This week’s Nordic cuisine challenge involves flavors of gravlax, mustard and dill to hark back to Middle Age tradition. A rye crust seemed to offer a natural accompaniment, but while gathering the ingredients and confidence in plotting out my pizza submission, I failed to realize just what a pain the grain would be to work with.

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Having flailed about the kitchen with dramatic huffs and puffs of frustration, I finally turned to my savvy boo of a husband for his opinion on rye and why it sucks as an ingredient. He offered condolences and immediately pulled up a video to show that I was not alone in my exasperation. Rye is apparently an asshole across all fields of cooking. Surprisingly, the dough turned out okay and involved only minor troubleshooting to roll out for action.

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Traditionally, gravlax is with a mustard sauce known as Hovmästarsås, which was used as the base of the pizza. Hovmästarsås is a combination of mustard, dill, vinegar, salt and sugar.

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Red onions and capers were tossed into the mix for a bit of exploratory flavors.

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A light dusting of mozzarella helped round out the base while crème fraîche offered some silkier textures to seduce the palate.

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Delicate as it is, gravlax entered onto the pizza during the cooling stages of the oven-crisped pie.

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The gravlax itself was rather grassy and expressive on its own, but a garnish of dill helped to fortify the herbaceous quality.

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Together with the rest of the ingredients, this style of pizza has immediate charm, especially when the wine is involved.

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To tame this beast, another sparkling rosé joined this year’s rosé parade. This one, Jean Bourdy’s Cremant du Jura, was abundantly fruity with steely undertones.

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The rosé danced quite nicely alongside the tangy caper and mustard tones, bringing red berries and soft tannins to the mix.

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This pizza is a definite summertime hit with sparkling rosé by its side.

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Also a big win as a foil-wrapped lunchbox treat for those who pack lunches and want t o include a little midday thrill.

Week 34: Fire – Coal-Fired Pizza with Blistered Shishito Peppers, Sesame & Sriracha Cream

This week’s challenge of Fire was all too fitting for the long-ignored grill attachment sitting quietly in the corner that transforms my humble Weber into a coal-fired pizza oven.

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Assembly took up the majority of my efforts whereas the rest of the day’s work was spent fixing up simple set of ingredients for some pizza nibblings.

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Before caging the coals in for their oven setting, I grated the grill for the shishito peppers to take on a quick blister over the flames before using them as the featured topping with a glaze of sesame oil to finish them.

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While the coals fired up, the dough and cream sauce were prepped on parchment paper for easy travel in and out of the backyard.

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Sriracha mayo acted as the base sauce here. Cheese was a forgotten afterthought that could have operated well but was not wholly necessary beyond helping adhere the topping neatly onto the dough and a heavy hand of black and white sesame seeds finished the pizza.

 

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While the pizza was just undercooked, for the first undertaking of the grill attachment, this pizza was a big, big win.

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The whole ordeal was paired with a Basque region Txakolina rosé sparkler by Ameztoi. The style is super dry and lower in alcohol (12%) making it a refreshing summer pairing for anything, but especially a zesty little number as the pie that popped out of the backyard’s new coal-fired oven.

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While a double-punch of spice like the one featured on this pizza is hard to pair well, the spice was short-lived overall and didn’t keep eaters suffering. Something as buoyant and light as the Txakolina rosé, regardless of its dry nature, was suitable and refreshing.

Week 32: Inspired By Video Games – Golden Beet, Parsnip Puree & Duck Leg Pizza with a Raspberry Gastrique

For this week’s rather frustrating theme asking for a dish inspired by a video game, I took on a rather loose interpretation of “inspired by” and decided to make a killer duck pizza to honor Adult Swim’s super rad Duck Game.

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This “frantic fowl-shooting four-player quacktion” won my heart immediately, despite my tendency to not survive the first 10 seconds of each round. Even still, that silly game is so much damn fun to play. If you haven’t yet, get it.

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The resemblance my be lacking but the two are made of the same basic yummy stuff.

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A little sweetness brings out the best of the duck’s personality so golden beets and parsnips make up the supporting toppings…

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…plus a raspberry gastrique made with cider vinegar and Mancino vermouth.

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In my second crockpot adventure, I tossed everything onto a low heat for 6 hours.

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The lengthy cooking session may have leeched some vibrancy of color but the flavors are quite rich, especially with the duck fat soaking the root vegetables as they cooked.

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The raspberry gastrique made up the base with fresh mozzarella to follow. After the beets, parsnips and duck went down another layer of mozzarella went on top to protect the precious duck followed by a spritz of balsamic vinegar for giggles.

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The resulting pizza was fantastic. It was almost as good as playing the game itself, especially with getting to split the experience amongst 4 people.

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And for once I didn’t fail miserably.

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Meanwhile, Chinon rosé made for a delightful little pairing here. Refreshing and dry, the wine added a summertime charm to the wintery flavors.

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On a second pass, the smell of duck definitely caught some canine attention. But there’s nothing new about that.

duck hunt

Week 31: Drink Pairings – Classic Pepperoni Pizza with a Trio of Obscure Wine Pairings

Well this week’s challenge is quite the softball of a challenge considering my r/52weeksofcooking metatheme. Since this is the very theme I automatically take part in every week, I will spend my time this week reminiscing about some of my favorite less traditional wine pairings. One bonus in indulging in more obscure styles is the likelihood of finding wines of great value for not very much money.

During my early years of studying the hell out of wine, my then-boyfriend/now-husband worked the bar of a super delicious San Diego pizza joint, bringing home pizza after pizza to my endless delight. Pepperoni pizza was our base style that we would choose to build upon with various toppings or not and is the pizza I have the most wine pairing history with. Thus, I made a very clean, classic style of pepperoni pizza to trigger cherished pairings.

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The first pizza pairing experience I ever latched onto was a pepperoni pizza and Dolcetto d’Alba. While Italian wines on the whole are really well built for rich and cheesy dishes considering their tendency towards higher acidity, Dolcetto keeps just the right level of juiciness and structure to bring something new each bite. While complexity is somewhat limited to more youthful dark berry and rustic earthy tones, the style hails from Piedmont where it is overshadowed by the internationally-revered Nebbiolo and even dark and brooding Barbara.

 

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Blaufränkisch is an Austrian varietal I’ve found a range of success in pairing with pizza and beyond. The varietal tends to showcase a dark fruit fruit profile with leather and spice in a structured, medium-bodied format. It provides a platform for pepperoni pizza to dance around on.

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One pairing that caught me by surprise was an unplanned glass of Zweigelt that showed up next to a freshly made pepperoni pizza some years back. The style may be the most obscure varietal of the three chosen here, even as a direct descendent of Blaufränkisch, This particular bottling hails from Lodi, California, displaying a magenta-tinged ruby color, fresh bubblegum raspberry notes and a lighter body that achieve a refreshing contrast to the savory pizza flavors.

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There are so many other pairings to consider with a basic pepperoni pizza but considering the variance found in producer styles and personal preferences, there’s never any one right answer. It’s what pairing food with wine so much damn fun.

Week 30: Fermentation – [Cured] Meat Lovers Pizza

And now for a challenge I’m rather well versed in: fermentation. Let’s all give a quick air-five to Louis Pasteur, the man who put an end to the shoulder shrug of a mystery that we built civilizations around. Yet even without understand the mechanisms, we still managed to bust out thousands of years of worth of food and booze history all very much dependent on the process. Without fermentation, we’d all be extremely sober and things like bread would be seriously impaired.

Having built this blog, and really an entire career, around fermented items, I figured I might try to make a pizza wholly from fermented items. The crust would be a no-brainer but the remainder could really range in personality.

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For the sauce, I made a Spanish vermouth reduction with shallots and parmesan. The sweetness from the vermouth would help to balance out the salty toppings I had planned.

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Salami and cured meats were the biggest shock to find on the list of foods that require fermentation. This very fact would make up the foundation of this pizza, having finally found a reason to use an absurd amount of meat as topping. I selected a range of styles including pepperoni, Calabrese salami, finocchiona salami, and bresaola.

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I also took this as a chance to splurge on some San Dainele Prosciutto and wow was it so, so worth it.

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Parmesan was used to support all the bright, salty flavors, and it also happens to be a fermented product as well. My goal was to finish the dish with greek yogurt for some balanced creamy texture but after a quick couple of tests, opted against it.

 

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With the flavors leaning thoroughly into the super meaty, salty realm, I worked with the textures to create an interesting topography that crisped up just right (despite the lack of lighting in my oven).

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And for the final fermented product: wine. I opted for Champagne, a style that has seen two fermentations, one for the initial still wine and another reactivated fermentation to capture the CO2 in bottle. While I wasn’t enamored with the pairing itself, despite higher expectations, I built a nice little night on the couch around the meal and indulged my dumb face while watching Netflix and petting some dogs so overall, it was pretty okay.

Week 28: Local Ingredients – Charred Market Orange, Fennel & Local Duck Prosciutto

This week’s kitchen adventure begins with a chance crossing with a duck prosciutto, sourced from the local Angel’s Salumi. From there the flavors built upon this one driving ingredient.

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Farmer’s market oranges and fennel were added alongside the duck for a boost of flavor.

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Thin slices made them palatable as pizza toppings.

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And a quick char knocked out any ferociousness offered in the raw forms.

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Altogether, this pizza looked pretty handsome. Especially after some oven time.

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J. Brix sourced some Counoise fruit from San Diego, bottling this light and vivacious style that did well with a solid chill. It was juicy and refreshing, especially alongside the rather juicy but savory notes of the pizza.

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This is clearly a summertime wine, so long as it sees a quick chill.

Week 27: Tacos – Mushroom & Pepperoni Quesadilla Tacos

This week’s r/52weeksofcooking challenge required a melding of two of the most cooked items in my kitchen: pizza & tacos. Creating a hybrid would prove to be somewhat straightforward as I have also mastered my quesadilla craft during my desperate time with all the ingredients to make tacos but no meat. As a result, this taco experiment began with a pizza quesadilla base.

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On its own, this would make for a dope midnight snack. But we must march forward.

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With pepperoni already lining the foundation of our taco, cumin & black pepper mushrooms made up the meat of the taco.

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With another melting of cheeses, using a mozzarella and Mexican blend throughout, the mushroom tacos were built and ready to be dressed.

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To crush this pizza-taco hybrid, tomato sauce, ricotta & red pepper flakes made up the final touches before it was eating time.

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The pepperoni kills it. There’s a touch of spice here and there so habanero sauce could easily be included or ignored.

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For the sake of the pairing I opted out of extra spiciness so that a red wine has a shot at being a decent pairing. While the fruit in this Grenache is soft and juicy with black raspberries for days, the alcohol is emphasized by the spice and throws the wine a tad off balance. A noticeable but forgivable offense when I’m too busy jamming out with these little handheld feasts.

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Week 25: Caribbean – Pineapple & Mango Jerk Shrimp Pizza

For this week’s Caribbean challenge, I took on what seems to be the most common style tackled by many fellow redditors: jerk something. Having never tried jerk anything, I expected to fail in ways I wouldn’t realize without a basis for comparison. Ultimately, my goal was to scrape together a half-edible pizza, which (spoiler) I achieved.

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Jerk seasoning revolves around the aromatics of allspice and the intense heat derived from the Scotch bonnet pepper. Habaneros, which rank in the same Scoville neighborhood, were used in their stead.

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Borrowing a tidy pastry bag prep trick from work, I set raw shrimp in a wet marinade for a 12-hour swim.

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Meanwhile, I juiced a fresh pineapple and reserved some chunks for topping as well.

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Plucking from another jerk pizza recipe, I mixed the pineapple juice into tomato paste with red wine vinegar until a sauce like consistency was achieved.

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The remaining toppings were prepped for a trip to pizza town.

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To ensure the shrimp would cooked completely through, they were given a quick tour of a hot cast-iron pan before joining the rest of the pizza toppings in the oven.

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Mozzarella cheese was sprinkled on lightly for some cohesiveness and a small relief from the potentially high heat of the habaneros. Based on how badly my fingertips stung 12 hours and some 20 hand-washing sessions after I had last touched the peppers, I was ready for a battle.

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After sacrificing aesthetics of using whole shrimp in the name of overall consistency, I still went batty over the colorful vibe of this pizza.

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Distracting and friendly, these hues are a bit deceiving of the dangers here. Luckily, the sweetness in wine can play defense for your tongue.

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To help relieve the local wine shop, Village Vino, of the wall of tasty rosé they’ve amassed in a short amount of time, I selected a light and fruity style to accompany this pizza and all of its Caribbean flair.

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Hailing from the Chehalem Mountains of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, this Teutonic rosé bursts with fleshy melons and peach on a white pepper backdrop all while keeping a tame 11.54% abv. Such a plump, summer style is a hammer to a bad mood and does a pretty decent job wrangling in the spice on this pie. As this is a fruity but dry style, this wine is not as spice-repellant as a sweeter wine might be, but it does match the brightness of fruit in every bite. I consider the pairing passable and the pizza a win.

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It’s hard to say if I’m more excited about receiving my shiny new 25-week apple badge than I am about hitting the midway point to my 52-week commitment next week. I get that, like karma, these small achievements don’t mean much. But still…

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Week 23: Deep Fried – Fried Eggplant, Basil & Pepperoni Pizza

Having less and less time to adequately prepare for these weekly endeavors, a quick peek in the fridge was all the inspiration needed for this week’s deep fried challenge. In the O’Bryan household, we have a tendency to pick up a plump eggplant with ambitions of transforming the shiny beast into an Ottolenghi masterpiece. More often, we find ourselves dumping a blotched and festering limp vegetable corpse into the trash. This is all to say that we have yet to find the way to embrace their presence in our fridge. And we may have found the way.

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Fried eggplant on pizza is no genius idea of mine. Its true origin story remains a mystery to this blogger as she hasn’t the time nor the inclination to seek out any backstory, no matter how grateful I should be for the abundance of information available at my fingertips.

My first personal encounter, one that I remember quite fondly due to timing (I had just landed a job, albeit a shitty one, that would secure the path of my now career) and the tasty, tasty combination of toppings, was one that came recommended by the Bar Basic staff: fried eggplant, pepperoni, basil and garlic atop a large red pie. I went gaga for this shit. So here goes my attempt at recreating a super built-up cherished moment of my recent past. What could go wrong?

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After slicing up an eggplant to a consistenly moderate thickness, the slices were breaded in a panko and Italian crumb mix, the blend of the two resulting from a petty bout of indecision.

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Using a combination of high-heat oils, as I hadn’t the foresight to buy enough of any one kind, the breaded eggplant slices took turns crisping up in the pot.

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A rather sizable batch was produced, enough to feed three large pizzas as each pizza could barely take on more than 7 or 8. Any leftovers stayed rather well. If they never make it onto crust, they were reheated in the oven with tomato sauce and cheese on top for a quickie eggplant parmesana.

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While the original inclusion of garlic was mostly ignored (aside from the generous heap of garlic found in the tomato sauce), a few dollops of ricotta here and there made up for its absence with creamy, textured bites.

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After some fussing around with pairings, Barolo stepped up as the winner of the bunch. This 2006 Marchesi di Barolo from Piedmonte, Italy had just the right structure of tannin and acidity to tackle the richness here, but then the deeply-resonant tart fruits provided a great backdrop for all the savory notes to play off of.

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I loved this pairing. I loved this wine and the pizza and the whole experience of making it and eating it. This was so fantastic I wanted to die. Instead, I snapped some photos and obsessed over new angles and lighting. The work didn’t really pay off but the pizza itself was worth all the effort.

 

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It was so good, I actually made two.

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As for things that could go wrong? Nothing did. This was one of the best pizzas I’ve ever made. It will be one I continue to make for as long as I have eggplant in my refrigerator, which turns out to be more often than needed. It’s time to embrace their ever-presence.

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