Week 46: Underused Equipment – Heirloom Cherry Tomato & Spiralized Zucchini Pizza

No amount of salt on my keychain can make up for the shame I bring to Alton Brown fandom when I admit to having a spiralizer tucked neatly into my kitchen drawers. This week’s challenge has forced me to dust it off and transform the clunky contraption into a useful pizza-making tool. Here we go.

img_0079

Of all things worth spiralizing, zucchini seems a choice decision, if only for their general neutrality in both taste and texture. They’re also rarely found on the pizzasomm pizzas of 2016, which has deemed their spiralization a worthy task.

img_0080

For once, janky week-old zucchinis were able to escape refrigerator death by means of a glorious pizza bath.

img_0081

Not only did they escape eventual rot, but they looked good doing so. Just feast your eyes on those curls.

img_0082

Likewise, the sauce was concocted from dying fridge items, such as chive cream cheese, cottage cheese & homemade whipped garlic. A bit of basil and goat cheese were added for funsies. Cream, champagne vinegar and lemon olive oil brought in some pizzazz while also turning the goop into a more sauce-like consistency.

img_0083

The construction was simple and satisfying. More could be added for complexity if desired but the flavors were clean and fresh expressions of themselves.

img_0085

What a beaut. A scrumptious one, too.

img_0084

White Bordeaux offers the grassy, herbaceous quality needed to match that in the pizza while also letting the flavors of the pie speak for themselves.

img_0086

While the use of the spiralizer in my kitchen will likely not advance beyond the occasional vegetable massacre, the stage presence of the product is undeniable. Don’t be surprised to see more spirals appearing on future pizzas of mine, Alton Brown be damned.

Advertisements

Week 40: Steakhouse – Prime New York Strip, Portobello Mushroom & Blue Cheese Scalloped Potato Pizza

Having honed my steak making techniques for years, this week’s “Steakhouse” challenge was a chance to apply my accumulate knowledge to a pizza, a more recent DIY fascination. The main challenge: all toppings need to be able to be torn apart sans knife, a steakhouse necessity. For steak, a quick sous-vide bath was worth exploring as a potential solution as it would soften the tissue without overcooking the meat, allowing for additional heat both in forming the crust stovetop and in the oven playing nice with other toppings. The same potential solution was applied to the preparation of scalloped potatoes, which would normally require lengthy cooking time in a casserole dish.

img_9346

A single ugly duckling russet potato was sliced thin using a mandoline and placed in a vacuum-sealed bag for a 30 minutes sous-vide swim. Truffle oil, salt and pepper were added in before sealing.

img_9347

A simple blue cheese sauce was made with shallots, butter and cream. Saint Agur undeniably superior to all others in its category, thus

img_9350

The cream sauce was applied below and above the layering of potatoes. The potato pie was cooked on its own awaiting the remaining toppings that joined in for the last 2-3 minutes in the oven. The majority of their preparation took place beforehand.

img_9345

To make up for any loss in quality by cooking at home, the finest cut of meat is the only option to meet basic steakhouse standards. When the occasion arises to throw down the money and stomach space for a steakhouse experience, what comes better surpass the prime cuts that are very simply prepared in my cast iron. With this prime New York cut, a one hour bath at 53°C kept the meat rare and ready for more heat.

img_9348

The steak was finished in a cast iron to achieve a crust and sliced after a bit of rest.

img_9349

A portobello was given some time on the cast iron followed by a final roasting in the oven.

img_9351

The plain potato pizza was pulled from the oven just minutes before it finished cooking and the portobello and steak slices were applied for the final stretch in the oven.

img_9352

Now this is a steakhouse meal in pizza form. Not meant for the everyday, but certainly worth honoring with a bit of a splurge in wine as well.

img_9353

Two Hands Shiraz out of Barossa Valley is a style with some definite umfph. It has spice and power and a surprising balance that makes it so enjoyable on its own. Here with the steak it meets the earthy, meaty flavors with its own savory components but counterbalances with boldness in fruit. While Australian Shiraz doesn’t see the same attention it did a decade ago, there are still great examples of it being made, this being one of them.

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.

IMG_7471

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

IMG_7472

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

IMG_7473

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

IMG_7474

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

IMG_7475

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

IMG_7476

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.

double taco dance

Week 16: Root to Stem – Shaved Asparagus & Ricotta Pizza with Stem-Infused Whole Wheat Crust

This week is a challenge that speaks directly to the most wasteful aspects of my cooking. While I do my best to make stocks out of bones and stems to feed my soup-making habits, my creativity stops there. The asparagus used to top this week’s pizza will find their cheesy ricotta home built above a crust interlaced with nutrients leached from their usually-discarded stems.

IMG_4741.JPG

The process was as simple as using a stock created from the stems to substitute for the water used in the crust.

IMG_4744

From here, regular pizza-making resumed. The yeast frolicked in the warm asparagus water that made up their new home and went about business as usual.

IMG_4743

With extra nutrients fortifying the dough, I decided to make a whole wheat flour to create as healthy a pizza package as I could stand without stripping away the essentials.

IMG_4746

Shaving the asparagus was both equal parts time-consuming and oddly-satisfying. There are core portions that could not be shaved down due to mechanics, thus they were chopped up for additional texture.

IMG_4748

The cheese was a simple mixture of ricotta, lemon olive oil, lemon zest and lemon juice.

IMG_4747

The lemon olive oil can really help make any citrus flavors pop. I used it as the base sauce for the rest of the flavors to play off of.

IMG_4750

At 550F, pizza doesn’t take much longer than 8-10 minutes in the oven.

IMG_4751

The crust was perfectly chewy with a light crisp to the bottom. To keep the texture more appealing, the shavings of asparagus were each swirled into a gusty little toppings, which were admittedly rather time-consuming to stage as well.

IMG_4752

The effect was worth the effort.

IMG_4755

With a dab of coarsely-ground black pepper on top and wine nearby, these puppies were ready for quick consumption.

IMG_4754

The wine was a Gruner Veltiner, chosen for the qualities it would mirror in the pizza, such as the waxy vegetal notes, peppery aromas and the overall clean style. Neither of the two survived the night.

Week 2 – Sous Vide: Short Rib & Mashed Potato pizza

Upon the insistence sous vide websites or books everywhere, short ribs are the showcase piece for this next pizza project. According to these various resources, short ribs can take anywhere from 12 to 72 hours, depending on preferred texture.

IMG_7004

I decide to try a 72°C bath for about 24 hours so the meat would be just beginning to fall off the bone. As short ribs are new to my kitchen, a 24-hour projection allows wiggle room for mistakes, one of which almost flopped the entire pie in its final stages.

IMG_7005

The half-pound of bone-in short rib purchase looks somewhat scant, but for a single pizza it proves to be plenty. To keep to the classics, mashed potatoes a la sous vide seems a fitting accompaniment for the ribs. Getting saavy with russett potatoes, the outsides are cut for potato skins for immediate enjoyment.

JPEG image-4BBC6C8C7E53-1

Meanwhile, the fleshy insides were wrapped up and tossed into the sous vide in the final hours of the short ribs’ bath. After taking the short ribs out to begin building the sauce, I upped the temperature to 90°C for the final 20-30 minutes for the potatoes to soften just enough.

JPEG image-FCDF5B8B49C3-1

For the sauce, I made a red wine reduction steeping yellow onions, shallots, garlic and thyme aromatic richness while amping up the savory elements by adding in short rib juices, duck fat and a quick dribble of sherry vinegar.

IMG_7006While the reduction finished, I shredded the short ribs and hand-mashed the potatoes to a chunky texture.

IMG_7007

Preheating the oven to 550°F with pizza stone in place, I rolled out a homemade whole-wheat dough and built the pie using the reduction both as a sauce and a short rib glaze.

JPEG image-094393330047-1

To accent the mozzarella base, I topped off chunks of St. Agur, a winner of a blue cheese, and Marco Polo, a cheddar that derives its personality from cracked green and black peppercorn.

IMG_7008

When it came time to pop the pizza into the oven, I realized I had made a huge mistake. The weight of the ingredients and the crust itself can be enough to cause the dough to stick to its resting place, especially when not enough flour and cornmeal is used in preparing the peel. This can also be remedied by using parchment paper.

The whole night’s effort came dangerously close to getting scrapped, despite having poured all of the ingredients into the one pie. Fighting to maintain an already strained patience, I managed to salvage the majority of the pie, cutting off a crescent sliver, which eased my ability to flour underneath section by section until the pizza came loose from the peel.

IMG_7009

The end result is not the prettiest, but the flavors are still in tact. With eyes closed and wine in hand, the end result is still rather satisfying.

With notes of peppercorn and savory richness, this pizza calls for a bold red with the same kind of instant gratification that comes with comfort food built upon comfort food. Starfire (Columbia Valley, Washington 2006) is a fleshy, indulgent Bordeaux blend with a moderate range of more exotic aromas such as black licorice, fresh mushrooms and wet forest leaves. The splotches of blue cheese can be pushy and challenging, but the wine overcomes with creamy waves of plush dark fruit. The red wine reduction mirrors the inherent sweetness of the fruit while occasional bursts of peppercorn on the pizza enhance the earthy aromatics.

If I could change anything about this pie, I’d switch out the whole wheat flour for bread flour to gain a smoother texture, distracting less from the winning topping here, the mashed potatoes. That and I would have remembered the damn parchment paper.