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 Homemade mayonnaise has been a long overdue project, which originally made the DIY queue to up my sandwich game.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 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.

Week 36: Famous Dishes – Ratatouille Pizza

This week’s challenge of “Famous Dishes” involved a full exploration of the term “famous.” To ensure true fulfillment of such a broad idea, I decided to take on the well-known French dish made famous by a Disney mouse: ratatouille.

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Eggplant, squash and peppers provided all the colors and textures needed for the dish.s

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On a super thin setting, rhe mandoline made fast work of the slicing.

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Designing each layer so that each slice peeked out from behind the next took a small amount of patience.

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Using a hearty tomato sauce as the base, this ratatouille had all the elements found in the classic dish.

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As a pizza, all this baby was missing was cheese,

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Where there was once no mozzarella, suddenly mozzarella.

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After a bit of doctoring, the mozzarella slices snuggled up quite nicely in their new bed of vegetables.

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Cooking was a tad risky considering the dense sheets of water-laden vegetables and abundance of sauce on such a thin crust.

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The pizza still came out looking like a beast.

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Fresh thyme and cracked black pepper supplied a kick of herbacous, savory notes.

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No dish has wanted more for a rustic French red than this one, an instinct I didn’t trust until the first sip.

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The pairing was outstanding. This Syrah-based red out of Languedoc had a funky fresh personality that was quite a sipper on its own. And despite a somewhat soggy crust and slightly undercooked vegetables, the ratatouille pizza was a treat by itself but it really hit a new height with the wine. The entire experience has been bookmarked for revisiting in the future.

Week 35: Nordic – Gravlax & Hovmästarsås on a Rye Crust Pizza

This week’s Nordic cuisine challenge involves flavors of gravlax, mustard and dill to hark back to Middle Age tradition. A rye crust seemed to offer a natural accompaniment, but while gathering the ingredients and confidence in plotting out my pizza submission, I failed to realize just what a pain the grain would be to work with.

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Having flailed about the kitchen with dramatic huffs and puffs of frustration, I finally turned to my savvy boo of a husband for his opinion on rye and why it sucks as an ingredient. He offered condolences and immediately pulled up a video to show that I was not alone in my exasperation. Rye is apparently an asshole across all fields of cooking. Surprisingly, the dough turned out okay and involved only minor troubleshooting to roll out for action.

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Traditionally, gravlax is with a mustard sauce known as Hovmästarsås, which was used as the base of the pizza. Hovmästarsås is a combination of mustard, dill, vinegar, salt and sugar.

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Red onions and capers were tossed into the mix for a bit of exploratory flavors.

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A light dusting of mozzarella helped round out the base while crème fraîche offered some silkier textures to seduce the palate.

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Delicate as it is, gravlax entered onto the pizza during the cooling stages of the oven-crisped pie.

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The gravlax itself was rather grassy and expressive on its own, but a garnish of dill helped to fortify the herbaceous quality.

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Together with the rest of the ingredients, this style of pizza has immediate charm, especially when the wine is involved.

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To tame this beast, another sparkling rosé joined this year’s rosé parade. This one, Jean Bourdy’s Cremant du Jura, was abundantly fruity with steely undertones.

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The rosé danced quite nicely alongside the tangy caper and mustard tones, bringing red berries and soft tannins to the mix.

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This pizza is a definite summertime hit with sparkling rosé by its side.

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Also a big win as a foil-wrapped lunchbox treat for those who pack lunches and want t o include a little midday thrill.