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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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What a beaut. A scrumptious one, too.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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 29: Fat – Creamy Carbonara Pizza

I’m surprised to have pulled this week’s fat challenge off with almost zero preparation and the bad luck of having the oven light go out unexpectedly. Even still, the convenience of having bacon and eggs readily available for morning yums allowed for easy tinkering. Having already tackled a breakfast pizza this year, I decided to translate the ultimate pasta tummy pleaser of Spaghetti Carbonara into a pizza wonderscape and hope for the best.

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Bacon, eggs, parmesan and herbs (in this case chives) are the very basis of carbonara.

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After cooking down the bacon until soft, the fat is used to provide the base of the sauce, as it would be in the pasta dish.

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Chives are chopped according to their roles. The coarser chop is cooked with the cream sauce and parmesan. The finer chop is meant for a fresher topping upon cooling.

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The pizza was built in many layers with fat and a parmesan & black pepper cream gently layering the crust followed by chives, bacon and more parmesan.

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When the pizza was all but a minute done, I pulled out the pie and gently poured over a cream-whipped egg as evenly as possible before placing the pizza back in for another minute. Timing was key in not over- or under-cooking the egg on top.

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And somehow it pulled together and worked. And was surprisingly balanced and tasty. The pizza was aromatically rich with its range of chives and black pepper charging the palate upfront. Next the creamy egg notes interweaving the bacon smokiness held their own presence on the mid-palate while the sharp parmesan brightness saw through to the end with black pepper still mingling.

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The red burgundy selected kept an abundance of raspberries and pomegranate, which saw the savory elements of this pizza as a springboard for their bright fruit flavors. Burgundies have a tendency to transform with food, the way Italian wine often does too, finding a whole new expression alongside a range of flavors. It’s just one of the many reasons why I’m such a francophile in my wine preferences. Deal with it.

Week 14: Food in Disguise – Strawberry Jam & Whipped Mascarpone “Margherita Pizza” crepe

To contribute to the pile of tricks compiled for April Fool’s this week, I created a strawberry jam & mascarpone crepe, which is designed to break hearts by looking like a savory pizza pie.

Working from a basic Alton Brown recipe for crepe batter, I started by creating the batter so it had the minimal few hours of rest to ensure a delicate texture.

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While the batter rested in the refrigerator, I went to work on making a fresh strawberry jam.

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The strawberries were admittedly not fresh but their ultimate demise as a quickie jam experiment was a far better fate becoming engulfed in mold and trashed unceremoniously, IMO.

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For a pristine, pure-fruit style, the jam was made with a modest addition of sugar and a couple ounces of fresh lemon juice to amp up the vibrancy.

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Next, a simple mascarpone cream was whipped up for layering the crepes.

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Again, I reduced the sweetness here to make sure the wine pairing would not be knocked out of balance. More on that later.

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Crepes were made and layered once cooled with a hefty spread of whipped mascarpone between each sheet.

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The final layer was then topped with strawberry jam, dollops of mascarpone and fresh mint leaves for effect.

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When cut, the thin tiers of creme and crepe took on the personality of a delicate cake that could be managed with a fork and knife or manhandled like a slice of pizza. The latter seemed appropriate.

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To pair with such fruit, cream and gentle sweetness, I tapped the 2002 Domaine Huet Moelleux Vouvray, “Le Mont,” 1ère Trie of France’s Loire Valley. The intense minerality and brilliance to the aromatics balanced the sweetness so well within the wine that it was remarkably undetectable to the overall experience. Alongside the crepe, it was perfectly matched as any more sweetness from the crepe may threaten to overwhelm the Chenin Blanc. With a sweeter style crepe, a sweeter wine would be needed.

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And now, back to my honeymoon.