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 38: Acid – Snow Crab, Grapefruit, & Blood Orange Beurre Blanc Pizza

This week’s pizza featuring the theme of acid has not only grapefruit and blood orange, but also a splash of champagne vinegar to brighten up the mood.

img_9124

The blood orange and champagne vinegar were used in the beurre blanc that was prepared as the sauce for the pizza.

img_9126

After cooking down the liquid, the shallots were strained from the final sauce before adding butter for richness.

img_9127

A quick lesson in cutting suprèmes from grapefruit was necessary to protect the delicate textures.

img_9128

To further protect the delicate nature of the toppings, the base of this pizza, blood orange beurre blanc, cottage cheese and fromage blanc, was baked in advance so as to allow the crust to cool to a welcoming temperature.

img_9130

Meanwhile, the snowcrab was quickly boiled and shelled for clean segments of meat.

img_9131

The construction mainly took place after the pizza had cooked in the oven. Grapefruit, avocado and snow crab made up the core flavors while poppy seed were added as a final touch.

img_9133

My instinct was to reach for a wine with high acid and a severe dryness to match that of the pizza’s profile. White burgundy worked well enough to match the profile.

img_9134

In the end, Vouvray with a whisper of residual sugar was a natural pairing to help maintain a high level of acid while also counteracting any of the harsh quality with the sweetness inherent in the style.

Week 13: Breads – Pepperoni Monkey Bread

For this week’s challenge, I revived a past memory of making pepperoni monkey bread as inspired by a cover recipe of Cook’s Country not long ago. Without the actual recipe in hand, and without all the necessary kitchen gear, I put together the best monkey bread my semi-stocked refrigerator would allow.

To begin, I rolled out a long sheet of leftover dough from a previous pizza thrill. The contents were then wrapped up into a tight roll for chopping.

IMG_1757

Inside were layers of mozzarella, cottage cheese and pepperoni.

IMG_1755

While chopping up the roll into bite-size morsels with a dough scraper is a handy use of a specific kitchen tool, not having a bundt pan is a somewhat difficult piece to find an equivalent for. For this semi-blind experiment, a cake pan with a centered ramekin will have to be sufficient.

IMG_1759

The chopped pieces were placed in a calculated, galactic pattern around the ramekin (which would later serve a dual purpose) and pressed into a compact form for baking.

IMG_1760

The results may have been messy with pepperoni and cheesy bits poking out, but the final product envelopes much of the clutter while still inviting a piece to be pulled off and dipped into the marinara that fills the center. To make savvy use of time, the marinara is best placed in the ramekin a couple minutes before the bread is finished setting.

IMG_1761

The marinara used here is my go-to recipe of San Marzano canned tomatoes cooked down briefly with a pinch of torn fresh basil, salt, sugar & red wine vinegar. When dipped, a piece of monkey bread transforms into a condensed pizza bite. It was really, really difficult not to eat this entire thing is one sitting. So that’s quite exactly what I did…but not without wine.

 

IMG_1762

COS is a killer producer from Sicily that I especially enjoy for the concentration of red cherry in its red wines balanced with the more savory, licorice elements the wines often display. While this 2011 Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico displayed a bit more age than I had hoped, the pairing is still sound with the boldness of juicy fruit and brightness of acidity that Italian wines are known for that will help to balance the classic pizza flavors in this dish.

IMG_1764

So I very thoroughly slaughtered both food and wine and have zero regrets.

Week 4 – Brunch: hash brown breakfast pizza

At the dawn of this week’s challenge, it was clear a simple breakfast pizza, softball it may be, would be all too straightforward. With three-pounds of homemade hash browns squirreled away in the freezer for any and all breakfast burrito needs, I knew I could tap this stockpile for the base of this next project. This particular batch of hash browns was made with particular care in an effort to perfect this brunch-time afterthought. I did okay. The thawed hash browns were still soggy with moisture I had failed to wring out of them. Luckily, it wasn’t too late to correct this problem with a minor squeeze session over the sink. When it came time to cook, I could only hope my efforts would provide a crispy enough base that could be spread thin while also supporting the extra weight of toppings.

Hash Brown Breakfast Pizza

To begin, preheat the oven to 350°F and toss in a couple pieces of bacon until crispy (approximately 12-15 minutes). Oven-cooked bacon is one of the many life hacks that has so many benefits it should have its own brochure. Not only does it provides complete control for even cooking, it also frees up the stovetop, makes clean up easy and keeps those damned grease pops safely tucked away.

JPEG image-3D896F2E110E-1

Meanwhile, the bacon fat rendered can be used in cooking the goodies up top.

JPEG image-B7737871C2B8-1

Just as with latkes and fritters, a binding agent is needed for the hash browns to hold its shape, which in this case is the shape of pizza dough. One medium egg is scrambled and tossed with the potatoes, plus some chopped yellow onions and chives for some pizzazz.

JPEG image-51EEAD4D7DAA-1

The mixture is spread into an oiled steel crepe pan over medium heat, evenly spread out and smushed into the natural circular shape of the pan. Once set in place, the potatoes are not to be fussed over until the bottom begins to crisp up (approximately 3-4 minutes).

JPEG image-B2B8BF1F2129-1

The trouble now is the flip, which is why the crepe pan is preferred for its mildly-sloped edges. Using a spatula, loosen the hash browns from the pan all around so that it can easily slide off onto a cutting board, cooked side down. Having very lightly coated the pan in oil again, flip the pan upside-down over the potato disc and then quickly flip the cutting board over to place the potatoes cooked-side up in the pan. Cook over medium heat while placing on toppings of cheese and bacon.

JPEG image-410BF512E637-1

Place the crepe pan, again crucial for its metalware, into the oven to melt the cheese fully. To secure this pizza in the breakfast realm, an egg can be cracked over top and cooked until soft at this time. After pulling the pizza from the oven, the spatula is once more utilized to carefully move the pizza onto a cutting board. More toppings of tomato and finely chopped chives are added just before serving to keep their delicate textures intact.

 

JPEG image-61388EF4C775-1

The pizza is pretty outstanding. The mix of cheeses (cheddar, monterey jack, mozzarella and cottage cheese) provides a medley of textures ranging from chewy to creamy. The gently-cooked onions offer a layer of extra flavor in each bite, the tomatoes pop with a subtle juiciness and the bountiful heaps of bacon on top and bacon fat throughout do not go unappreciated.

JPEG image-56330DAED5A7-1

As for wine, what better way to preserve the traditions of brunch than to pair this pizza with Champagne. All the grease and cream and fat of brunch dishes can easily be whisked away by refreshing bubbles and crisp acidity while more delicate mainstays like eggs are heightened by an equally light wine.

JPEG image-A48F418C12ED-1

Gosset – “Excellence,” Brut, Champagne, NV, the entry-level offering of the house, is the most complexity needed when brunching. There are hints of limestone and toasty brioche in the glass, and while there is a muskiness in the wine that mirrors the earthy elements in the pizza, the aromas do not inspire much reflection. It’s thoroughly enjoyable without the pressure of having to talk tablemates out of adding a splash of orange juice.

For those who indulge in this brunchtime combo, consider keeping sour cream close by for a truly hedonistic experience.