Week 41: Bottled Sauces from Scratch – Elote Pizza with Red Onion, Avocado & Homemade Mayonnaise

When considering a “bottled sauce” to tackle for this week’s challenge, the list was surprisingly short. Homemade mayonnaise has been a long overdue project, which originally made the DIY queue to up my sandwich game. While mayo doesn’t play a significant role in my food otherwise, there are some dishes that lean heavily on the condiment. Elote, grilled Mexican corn slathered in mayo, cheese and lime, is not only a tasty street food treat but also has serious pizza potential.

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To begin, white corn was roasted in the oven for 30 minutes at 400°F.

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For extra pizzazz, some care was taken to char the outside over a stovetop flame. Beyond the actual act of eating, this was probably the most satisfying portion in the making of this pizza.

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The mayonnaise-making party began with finding the right oil, which I didn’t have any one suitable type, thus fashioned a three-part blend of canola, coconut & avocado oil. I used 3/4 cup of oil to 1 large egg yolk, a seemingly agreed upon ratio.

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With a bit of fancy hand jiggling and a steady oil-pouring hand, a fresh batch of mayonnaise was born into this world.

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From here, all flavors mildly related to elote were yanked from the fridge for integration. Feta played as a stand-in for the lack of cojita. Red onions and avocado generally have no place on corn but can definitely play well on the flat surface of a pizza.

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The charred corn-off-the-cob was mixed with all things creamy: mayo, feta and crema Mexicana. A dash of Tajin was added for evenly spread flavor.

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Mayonnaise and crema Mexicana also made up the base sauce.

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While the oven did its duty, orange wine was poured to enjoy in advance as it can be rather cerebral and a sip before food allows for less distractions and finely-tuned judgments.

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The pizza cooked beautifully, thin with just enough structure for the weight of two ears’ worth of corn plus all the accompanying goodies.

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Avocado, hot sauce & a squeeze of lime finished the pie.

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The Radikon orange wine had so much personality to offer with abundant acidity needed to balance with the lime juice squeezed over the pizza. While orange wines can range significantly in quality, good ones keep drinkers intrigued with the complexities achieved. This one caught my attention, and happens to play nice with even mildly spicy food.

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The pizza was a delightful play on balance, both between creamy and bright flavors and the sweet and spicy elements present as well. The orange wine worked as an equalizer as well and had no issue handling the double dose of spice this pizza saw. What I mean by all this is that this pizza was killer and I liked it a lot.

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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 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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test kitchen: prepackaged pizza nostalgia

In an indulgent quest to revisit nostalgic grocery store treats in the name of research, I have compiled a set of prepackaged pizzas of my past in order to compare their worth today as a source of nostalgia and general yumminess.
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LUNCHABLES PIZZA
Child-geared ads from decades ago planted a long-lasting fondness for these quaint little pizza snacks I have yet to shake. Even as quality waned and spiraled ever downward, an occasional Lunchables pizza still found its way into my shopping cart, excused as checking in with a childhood memory. What I found this time, especially having donned the spectacles of analysis, is a shell made up of recognizable parts.

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Free from high expectations, the crust has taken on the consistency of a nutritionally void pita bread, which at least has the decency to be soft and chewy. The meager portions of cheese would be more upsetting if it wasn’t so reminiscent of melted plastic. Meanwhile the sauce, despite keeping an eerie texture of cartoon nuclear waste, maintains the same herbaceous blend that strikes at the only nostalgic chord remaining or perhaps ever existed. It’s the same mental cogs at work here that have tricked an entire generation into continuing allegiance to shows like Saved By The Bell, an undoubtedly a dope show in its time that should be stripped of any syndication rights because it’s actually a terrible show and always has been.
saved by the bell
yummy points: 2/10
nostalgia points: 4/10

CELESTE PIZZA
Early transitions into adulthood meant much stockpiling of dollar pizzas in the freezer for the nights I didn’t want to eat egg drop soup or asparagus, the two things I knew how to cook. Revisiting the pizza of my college years as a full-functioning adult is an ice-bath shock of difference. There is no soul to be found, only hollow flavors of salted sludge reconstructed in the form of pizza. Each bite threatens to engulf me in a decade-long depression. This pizza makes me feel nothing.
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yummy points: 0/10
nostalgia points: 0/10

TOTINO’S PIZZA ROLLS
Another college freezer standard that, almost as a rule, was only to be consumed while intoxicated. Packed with zesty flavors, these mini-hot pockets are better likened to cheesy nachos than pizza. While tasty, the flavors do not provide any relief from wanting, leaving a need to chase after some deeper satisfaction that is not really there. Meanwhile, the thick crust around the pressurized molten center requires a laborious amount caution to ensure delicate parts don’t get paved with lava-hot cheesy goo.
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yummy points: 5/10
nostalgia points: 8/10

BAGEL BITES
Despite the jingle’s insistence on enjoyment anytime, bagel bites have been a source of much late-night joy, usually cast in the final moments of more hedonistic evenings. These small beauties are packed with the satisfaction of both full flavor and nostalgia, remaining true to their memory. Bright red sauce sinks into the crust, softening the upper portion of the bagel allowing for a crispy bottom, which can be achieved when cooked in the oven. My preferred method of cooking involves a microwave and some savvy switcharoo, as diagrammed and detail by another equally obsessive bagel bite enthusiast over at Chocolate Covered Sugar Bombs.
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yummy points: 10/10
nostalgia points: 10/10

WINE PAIRING
lambrusco
A bottle of Lambrusco helped sail me through the flavors that now represent my past. The purple Italian bubbly is a quaffable delight that requires no thought to attend its straightforward fruity flavors. Drier styles are friendly with meat and pasta dishes, and also make for an effortless pizza accompaniment. The lower alcohol allows for clarity of mind to fulfill test kitchen duties of contemplative evaluation and appropriate gif assignment.

Napizza and uncommon Italian DOCGs

For a by-the-slice concept, Napizza is a pretty swanky spot holding down a coveted corner in Little Italy, the land of shiny new restaurants. With more than a handful of pizza options nearby, Napizza has established itself as a “healthy and organic” option, a modern trend that tends to litters walls and websites with a fatiguing number of buzzwords. With marketing so fiercely tuned in, it is best to hit mute and let the flavors speak for themselves.

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Behind the display window, each pizza offering sings its own siren song, drawing me in until I focus my hunger on the Truffle Porcini and Parmigiana, two slices destined for a set of Italian pairings.

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Built on a focaccia bread base, the medium-style pizza has a crisp olive oil crust that helps maintain the structure, allowing for weighty toppings such the mess of eggplant and chunky tomato on the slice of Parmigiana. A smothering of pesto with each bite offers a glitter of garlic spice and tangy green brightness. Meanwhile, the personality of the pizza stays true to the name, singing of simple Italian cuisine, hearty, earthy and satisfyingly cheesy.

napizza eggplant and cerasuolo

Azienda Agricola COS, Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico DOCG, Sicilia, 2011 is produced from the first and only DOCG of Sicily. The ruby red wine is made predominately from the black grape Nero d’Avola, Frappato making up a 30-50% minority. In this bottling, the dominant varietal expresses itself with finely grained tannins found in the wine while the latter varietal can be seen through red berry aromas of dehydrated raspberry and cranberry, further emphasized by the savory pizza elements of eggplant and pesto. The refreshing acidity is quite appealing with such a rich style of pizza while a soft note of wood provides a plush finish as does a lingering note of tobacco and black tea. The pairing isn’t perfectly aligned, each element playing its own instrument and not quite harmonizing. It comes together like an awkward first date, whereas the next one is like a long-awaited, romantic night out.

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The Truffle Porcini slice hits the palate with a roar of mushrooms, herbs and truffle notes. Such an aggressive umami overload puts our first wine in an aromatic stranglehold, demanding a larger player. Travaglini, Gattinara DOCG, Piedmonte, 2008 is a playful companion to this slice, swinging at its oily center with all the elevated acidity that accompanies the varietal, Nebbiolo. Known locally as Spanna, Nebbiolo makes up 100% of the wine even though a minimum of 90% composition is required for Gattinara DOCG.

In the last pizza pairing, Nebbiolo was featured through Palmina’s New World interpretation whereas in Gattinara, Nebbiolo is in its homeland of Piedmont, where Barolo and Barbaresco represent the pinnacle of its expression. Even though Gattinara is a more approachable style, it still comes dressed up with purple flowers, violets and roses as well as fresh leather, orange peel and baked cherry pie. The tart red fruits are tangy with personality and a quick burst of tannins add fireworks to this hot little love fest.

postscript: the uniquely-shaped bottle was designed in 1958 to diminish the need for decanting by catching sediment naturally. For three years, I walked around thinking the misshapen bottle recovered from a vineyard fire as lore would have it. Oh, how humbling fact checking can be. Also, embarrassing.