Week 25: Caribbean – Pineapple & Mango Jerk Shrimp Pizza

For this week’s Caribbean challenge, I took on what seems to be the most common style tackled by many fellow redditors: jerk something. Having never tried jerk anything, I expected to fail in ways I wouldn’t realize without a basis for comparison. Ultimately, my goal was to scrape together a half-edible pizza, which (spoiler) I achieved.

IMG_7001

Jerk seasoning revolves around the aromatics of allspice and the intense heat derived from the Scotch bonnet pepper. Habaneros, which rank in the same Scoville neighborhood, were used in their stead.

IMG_7002

Borrowing a tidy pastry bag prep trick from work, I set raw shrimp in a wet marinade for a 12-hour swim.

IMG_7003

Meanwhile, I juiced a fresh pineapple and reserved some chunks for topping as well.

IMG_7004

Plucking from another jerk pizza recipe, I mixed the pineapple juice into tomato paste with red wine vinegar until a sauce like consistency was achieved.

IMG_7008

The remaining toppings were prepped for a trip to pizza town.

IMG_7005

To ensure the shrimp would cooked completely through, they were given a quick tour of a hot cast-iron pan before joining the rest of the pizza toppings in the oven.

IMG_7016

Mozzarella cheese was sprinkled on lightly for some cohesiveness and a small relief from the potentially high heat of the habaneros. Based on how badly my fingertips stung 12 hours and some 20 hand-washing sessions after I had last touched the peppers, I was ready for a battle.

IMG_7011

After sacrificing aesthetics of using whole shrimp in the name of overall consistency, I still went batty over the colorful vibe of this pizza.

IMG_7012

Distracting and friendly, these hues are a bit deceiving of the dangers here. Luckily, the sweetness in wine can play defense for your tongue.

IMG_7009

To help relieve the local wine shop, Village Vino, of the wall of tasty rosé they’ve amassed in a short amount of time, I selected a light and fruity style to accompany this pizza and all of its Caribbean flair.

IMG_7010

Hailing from the Chehalem Mountains of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, this Teutonic rosé bursts with fleshy melons and peach on a white pepper backdrop all while keeping a tame 11.54% abv. Such a plump, summer style is a hammer to a bad mood and does a pretty decent job wrangling in the spice on this pie. As this is a fruity but dry style, this wine is not as spice-repellant as a sweeter wine might be, but it does match the brightness of fruit in every bite. I consider the pairing passable and the pizza a win.

IMG_7015

It’s hard to say if I’m more excited about receiving my shiny new 25-week apple badge than I am about hitting the midway point to my 52-week commitment next week. I get that, like karma, these small achievements don’t mean much. But still…

pat on the back

Advertisements

Week 20: Outdoorsman – Charcoal-Grilled Veggie Pizza

Taking on the camping aspect of this week’s theme, I fought mild waves of self-doubt over how cooking pizza outdoors would actually go. In the kitchen, I rotate through most of the gear enough to anticipate any issues or difficulties. Cooking pizza dough on a naked grill didn’t come as intuitively as cooking a steak, so I tapped a Serious Eats guide for a smack of confidence that the dough wouldn’t just slide through the grates cartoon-like and melt over the coals. And it didn’t.

Preparation turned out to be the most important lesson in this setting. While this grill session took place in my backyard on a mild weekend afternoon, running inside for every forgotten item was pain enough for me to squeeze out a thoughtful camping lesson for reflection. If I truly were camping, I’d be boned nine times before food ever hit the grill.

IMG_5744

While the coals heated up, I prepped the veggies first, skewering mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and canned artichoke hearts (which were thankfully placed in a pop-top can).

IMG_5746

The dough was patted out in advance, ready to determine the course of this night with how well it faced the grill. To my surprise, the crust was rather easy to manage once it settled in over the heat. It bubbled up and took on a rather rustic look within minutes. Rotation helped to cook portions of both crust and vegetables evenly over the meager amount of coals used.

IMG_5747

With one side of the dough fully cooked, I flipped the crust over for a kiss of heat so that texture wouldn’t be too soft amongst the toppings.

IMG_5748

The sturdiness of the dough was rather fortunate as I gave no thought to the weight of the toppings as they were piled on. It was only during the transfer back to the grill that I realized how heavy the pizza had become, but the crust stayed true to the cause.

JPEG image-1064AC8DCA29-1

With coals pushed to one side, I set the pizza on the other end and tried to capture enough heat under the grill cover to melt the cheese a bit. The results were somewhat lackluster but the flavor remained unaffected.

IMG_5750

With big, juicy toppings to chomp into, this pizza had a glamping charm to it that would only suit a rosé. Something crisp and funky from Corsica to feast with.

IMG_5749

But just as the realities of camping with wine have struck me before, this bottle was corked and completely ruined for enjoyment. So I did as I did last time and grabbed a beer.

IMG_5751

Yes, Ballast Point sold out for a billion dollar check but that doesn’t mean I love this beer any less. It’s refreshing AF and great alongside whatever just came off the grill. Cheers.

Week 19: Mother Sauces – Cheddar Stuffed-Crust Pretzel Pizza

I got a little ambitious for this week’s Mother Sauces challenge (which I’m just now putting together is themed so for Mother’s Day). Making, documenting and incorporating the tomato sauce I regularly make, a batch of which I completed last night for restocking purposes, would be a pretty big yawnfest. Instead, I chose to take the béchamel route and build a pizza around the cheddar sauce so introduced by the designated wikipedia page. What followed was a plot to not only create a pretzel crust to enhance the tasty mustard and cheddar elements, but also to stuff said crust with cheddar. It went pretty alright.

JPEG image-8443CA906CBF-1

I began with the sauce, first whipping up a basic béchamel sauce to work from.

JPEG image-94B5951F641D-1

Then dry mustard, cheddar and worcestershire sauce was adding according to whimsy.

JPEG image-EA56114EAA56-1

The dough was rolled out and thin slabs of cheddar were wrapped into the crust. Transferring the dough into a pre-heated cast-iron pan without incident proved to be difficult but manageable with the help of a large, flat spatula.

JPEG image-AED364E11392-1

The cheddar sauce was applied liberally as the base with mozzarella and pepperoni to follow on top.

JPEG image-24677F0E4A63-1

A baking soda-boiling water concoction was dabbed onto the crust to earn that familiar pretzel browning from some oven time. Pretzel salt was specifically sourced for this project and the remaining half gallon requires a commitment to future pretzel projects, which I’m okay with.

JPEG image-CACDAA4DD235-1

All this cheesy business requires a wine that can withstand a salty punch to the face. When a dish veers to an extreme savory note, a push towards fruity expression in wine can offer some balance to the palate.

JPEG image-96EC5DEF0C70-1

Torres Alegre – 2005 “Cru Garage” Zinfandel (Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico) is a sun-pampered, incredibly fruit-driven style expressing dried dark berries and overripe plums with hedonistic intensity. Alone, this wine can sit heavy, especially with a lackluster acidity that would normally be a deal-breaker for me personally. Alongside a plate of salty flavors, all is forgiven as the fruit brightens and sings. The same concept can be applied with most any fruit-forward wine and should be.

Week 18: Brown Bag Lunch – Homemade Lunchables Pizza

This week’s Brown Bag Lunch challenge dangled the opportunity to poke at my nostalgia buttons and I took a swing at my very own set of homemade Lunchables pizza. Overall, this was a very smart decision.

JPEG image-D70DB9C12195-1

To begin, mini crust discs are made to fit the lunching tupperware I use on the daily for packing snacks for work. Puffing up in oven may be an issue, which can be remedied by a few stabs from a fork beforehand or a bit of pressure from above afterwards.

JPEG image-667A5B9143FA-1

Next the tomato sauce is made by gently cooking garlic in olive oil and then dousing crushed San Marzano tomatoes into the pot for a quick simmer. Fresh basil and dried oregano make up the whole of the spices used.

JPEG image-7C5203FE6EBF-1

Raw ingredients may vary based on personal preference but fresh tomatoes and pepperoni are great toppings of choice.

JPEG image-2B3F662A6476-1

A quick mix of cheddar and mozzarella made for a wonderfully complex assortment of cheese aromatics. For further instruction on preparing a two cheese blend, this brief video guide can provide the necessary guidance for mastery.

JPEG image-207162CEF148-1

Staging is key in creating a bag meal experience. For the majority of my packed food needs, I turn to a set of Rubbermaid kits I found at Costco once long ago. They just happen to fit the REI lunchbag I bought just as long ago.

JPEG image-571E10EDD635-1

Being the responsible worldly thinker that I am, I chose to feature my handy-dandy reusable lunchbox as my “brown bag” for this project. Stocked with plastic utensils and an icepack, all this lunch needs is a nice view and a cool breeze.

JPEG image-9AA5B761F2AF-1

The build is simple. A microwave or toaster oven can zap this mini pizza into a blissful dance through a flavor meadow, but the extra effort can be easily overlooked when hungry.

JPEG image-79DD3F42BF33-1

If wine is an option, rosé or lambrusco can make a daytime meal sing. If a lunch is forgotten until the later hours, a Louis Latour red burgundy can transform a Lunchables adventure into an epic midnight snack.

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 9: From A Can – White Clam Pizza with a can of rosé

For this next challenge, “From a can,” I decided not to indulge in my favorite pizza standard of artichoke red pie, despite the use of both canned tomatoes and artichokes. Instead, I took on a pizza that I had never dreamt of making: white clam pizza. URBN Coal Fire Pizza/Bar in North Park, San Diego boasts a New Haven-style, thus features a classic clam pie. It’s the perfect pizza to order for lunch on a Sunday with a glass of Provence rosé.

I generally operate under a zero-seafood-from-a-can policy when I cook so I’ve decided to slap on some bacon for a bit of flavor insurance.

JPEG image-816B75937432-1

Bacon offers unity between land and sea and, for those iffy about clams on a pizza, it can become the focal point of the experience.

JPEG image-788B180C7962-1

Garlic is the perfect aromatic to go alongside seafood so an abundance is used to coat the base.

JPEG image-F5E626A4E1E7-1

Classically, fresh littleneck clams are used but since freshness is already being shunned for the sake of this challenge, the clam of choice is not a point of concern.

JPEG image-8600C3F43778-1

Ignoring how closely these clams resemble ID4 aliens sealed in an Area-51 tube once unveiled, these clams need to be coarsely chopped with the juice reserved for extra flavoring.

JPEG image-C3C0657DB819-1

Once outside of their murky clam juice home, these puppies look ready to hop on a pizza and snuggle up alongside some bacon.

JPEG image-DE0916D54A3D-1

The dough used is a 3:1 bread and whole wheat flour, which was rolled out as thinly as possible while the oven climbed up to a maxed out 550°F. When freshly made, this dough can insert a subtle yeasty sweetness in the pizza’s overall flavor.

JPEG image-E2303CD4082B-1

Using olive oil & garlic as the sauce, mozzarella provided a base of cheese and the protein followed with parmesan grated overtop. Most importantly, a couple spoonfuls of clam juice were sprinkled over evenly before popping this bad larry into the oven for 7-10 minutes.

JPEG image-CD07B18C5A9D-1

In keeping with theme, a can of Alloy Wine Works – Grenache rosé, Central Coast, California was the pairing of choice, harking back to my URBN clam pizza & rosé days. With underripe raspberry and white strawberry notes balanced by the hint of actual sweetness in the wine, this wine tasted like the can’s own promising of sour patch kids. The inherent saltiness of the pizza even further emphasized the fruit of this rosé but it was the wine’s waxy texture and fuller body that helped manage bursts of smoky bacon.

JPEG image-5BAED5A0789D-1

The briny flavors were well integrated with the garlic and bright, tangy parmesan with the occasional bite of sea water surprise that is likely inevitable with a dish like this. The pizza kept pillowy texture that stayed moist and fresh thanks to the addition of the clam juice on top, without which this pizza would be lost.

JPEG image-06A582C1A983-1

Nailed it.

 

Mona Lisa & Vouvray

Mona Lisa is an Italian market, deli and restaurant prized for keeping harder-to-find goods like white anchovies, fresh pasta, and Italian amari. Having contemplated the deli-section artichokes with hungry eyes, I opted for Pizza Bianca, a white spinach pie, with the addition of artichokes. Expectations for a delicate, light pizza were shattered upon its arrival.

mona lisa collage

An entire atmosphere of mozzarella with puffy clouds of ricotta engulf the toppings below making this pie look intimidatingly rich compared to original expectations. Surprisingly, the crust maintained a thin and crispy base with a doughy upper layer that unified well with the pillowy topography above. Each bite was like a lunar exploration, never quite knowing what might be unearthed from within the rocky cheesescape.

When given the task of pizza topping, artichokes offer some tangy relief that regulates super cheesy situations. As the main representative of spring on the classic Four Seasons pizza, artichokes have a long-standing relationship with Italy, where its cultivation is the highest worldwide. Even still, artichokes are notoriously frustrating to pair with wines, requiring a tart, acid-driven white wine to offset the organic acid known as cynarine that makes everything taste sweeter. With a geeky weakness for acidic, mineral driven whites, I plucked a bottle of Vouvray to pair, no problem.

domaine huet

Vouvray is a French wine region of the Loire Valley producing medium-bodied whites made entirely of Chenin Blanc. The style rewards in its complexity, displaying a wide range of aromas spanning from quince to cheese rind, wet wool to chamomile. 2013 Domaine Huet Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Sec is youthful and dry with notes of citrus peel, wet asphalt and bruised yellow apples. For a pizza burly with cheese, Vouvray offers a vibrant backbone to the experience, refreshing enough for intensely creamy bites and dry enough to stand up to the sweetening effects of the artichokes. Vouvray has long been my number one homie, but now we’re officially pizza homies.