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 44: Dehydrating – Oven-Dried Basil & Tomato Margherita Pizza

This week’s dehydrating challenge was tough to work up the courage for considering how convinced the internet is in needing to purchase a dehydrator. I said nay to this advice, opting to find a more convenient solution: the oven. While I was tempted to sun-dry tomatoes, I’ve had bad luck in recent years with bugs invading what’s mine, thus I didn’t tempt the outside world with a yummy display of sunbathing treats.

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While the drying portion of the preparation was a success, I did not account for what dehydration means in the face of intense heat.

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My first attempt was unfortunately a dud. An edible dud, but not a pretty one.

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I took another swing at this pizza, this time with the additional challenge of dehydrating basil to complete the flavors of a classic margherita.

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This time I topped my tediously watched over oven goods after the pizza had completed baking. And for a bonus dehydrating affect, all tomato sauce areas not covered by cheese experienced a level of dehydration that concentrated the flavors even further.

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The spooky designs that came with desiccation seemed all too conveniently timed for the trick-or-treating season. Luckily, this pizza was more than just a halloween gimmick, it actually tasted pretty incredible for something so simple.

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To draw out the juicy flavors of this pie, a 2009 Rioja accompanied each bite.

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Having drawn the attention of my dearest babby, this pizza may have been devoured quicker than any other before it, making this second pie a definite win.

Week 43: French – Escargot à la Bourguignonne Pizza

As a Francophile, I too this week’s challenge was a chance to explore dishes I hadn’t yet had the courage to tackle on my own. Escargot is such a treat to find on a menu because I don’t have the means at home so I took the time to figure out just where the hell to source snails from. The answer was, as at almost always is, the internet.

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The preparation I most enjoy is a classic Burgundian style featuring parsley, garlic, shallots and a ton of butter. Pernod and vermouth added extra aromatics.

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The preparation is pretty simple. Lots of chopping and dicing.

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A butter sauce was mixed together with plenty of parsley and salt.

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The snails were so petite but there were many in one small can. I decided to load them up.

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A parmesan and olive oil base was set before the traditional escargot preparation was spread over.

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Voilà!

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Another hit of parmesan to finish off the pizza and slices were ready to facilitate one of my favorite classic pairings.

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Red burgundy and escargot is a top-tier pairing in my book. And it certainly didn’t fail now.

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C’est bon!

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 39: West African – Tatale, Yam Fufu & Peanut Sauce Pizza

This week’s theme, West African, gifted me the opportunity to work with plantain and yam, two semi-standard produce items I tend to ignore.

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As ugly as this once-green plantain now is, it’s still kicking inside. I’d like to applaud myself for spending weeks with this blackening fruit and not turning it into some kind of pseudo-banana bread.

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Peanut is a common feature in West Africa sauces and stews. Here, it made the base of the pizza using the broad stroke flavors of this recipe’s sauce to create my own.

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Unlike a well-ripened banana, plantains seem to keep their structure even in their old age. It took more effort than expected to mash in shallots and cayenne for a tatale recipe.

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The plantain cakes caramelized in the pan, some more than other, which gave it a candied sweetness. Cornmeal can be mixed in to the batter to create a more stable texture.

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Meanwhile, yam was cut up, boiled and mashed for an addition of fufu to the pizza, an admittedly silly topping when considering fufu’s role as a starchy vessel to assist in eating other dishes.

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Peanuts are crushed to finish the pizza.

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The peanut sauce is liberally applied and the plantains divvied up to see at least one piece per slice. Fufu and peanut crumbles finish the pie.

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And without the use of cheese, this pizza turned out accidentally vegan.

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Pretty damn tasty vegan pizza. And the wine pairing only improved the situation.

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The sweeter flavors of plantain and yam needs a style with more luscious fruit to offer. Jaffurs’ Santa Barbara Viognier of Bien Nacido Vineyard offers pineapples and peaches with a rounded texture that dances quite nicely alongside our pie. The two complement each other without either pizza or wine taking over the experience.

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.

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

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

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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 37: Mystery Ingredients – White Peach, Sweet Corn, Basil & Mascarpone Pizza with a Blackberry Gastrique

For this week’s challenge, I failed to internalize the instructions properly. Having never seen the two shows cited as examples, Chopped and Master Chef, my mind went to the one “mystery ingredient” show I was familiar with: Iron Chef. Thus, I told my chooser to pick just one ingredient for me to build my flavor profile from. He chose white peaches.

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When asked why he chose white peaches when I had taken him to a grocery store cherished for their diverse produce section, he responded, “Dragon fruit? Too showy. Star fruit? What the fuck is that anyway? There is no season for love, Victoria, but there is for peaches.” How could I argue with that? Peaches it is.

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To complement the summery sentiment established in the choice of mystery ingredient, I decided to make a blackberry gastrique, a trick I picked up in a previous challenge pizza, and charred sweet corn.

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The white corn was a delightfully subtle addition.

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The whole of the ingredients included a shredded mozzarella base with a couple additions of mascarpone.

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The pie was finished with chiffonade basil leaves and almond slivers.

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The choice of wine was not showcasing the same level of sweet summer flavors as the pizza but still offered some refreshing qualities to the experience. Overall, a moderately sweeter style of Chenin Blanc would have been preferred but this pairing wasn’t a complete failure as the whole of the evening was quite enjoyable with many thanks to the tasty components involved.