Week 49: Spanish Tapas – Boquerones Pizza

Anchovies were once so repellant to my sensibilities that I ate caesar salads sans dressing for many dumb years. Servers would repeat my order back to me in disbelief and only now do I understand why: caesar dressing is fucking delicious.

Shockingly, I came around to anchovies some time in my adulthood for seemingly no reason at all, and not just in their invisible form as salad seasoning. Like soon turned into love and I found myself slamming strips of anchovies with an accompaniment crispy sage or parmesan.

Staring down this week’s tapas challenge, I couldn’t resist but to do as ninja turtles do and put some damn anchovies on some damn pizza. And it began with some flash marinating.

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Parsley and garlic were chopped up for some classic accompaniment.

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White anchovies were marinated in champagne vinegar and olive oil for an hour.

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The marinade was sufficient enough to provide a base for the pizza. Parmesan finished the pizza before the super hot oven hugs ensued.

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The oblong shape was designed to provide tapas-sized pizza bites in the final presentation.

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More parmesan and parsley helped spruce up the pizza tapas before they met with their hot sherry date for the evening.

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Lustau’s “Papirusa” Manzanilla was a dry and saline style of sherry that tamed the inherent saltiness of this pizza. Even with its presence, it was hard to ignore what a nightmare this pizza was to eat despite no additional salt. Please think twice before trying this style at home because I’m certainly never making this again.

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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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.