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.

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Week 34: Fire – Coal-Fired Pizza with Blistered Shishito Peppers, Sesame & Sriracha Cream

This week’s challenge of Fire was all too fitting for the long-ignored grill attachment sitting quietly in the corner that transforms my humble Weber into a coal-fired pizza oven.

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Assembly took up the majority of my efforts whereas the rest of the day’s work was spent fixing up simple set of ingredients for some pizza nibblings.

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Before caging the coals in for their oven setting, I grated the grill for the shishito peppers to take on a quick blister over the flames before using them as the featured topping with a glaze of sesame oil to finish them.

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While the coals fired up, the dough and cream sauce were prepped on parchment paper for easy travel in and out of the backyard.

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Sriracha mayo acted as the base sauce here. Cheese was a forgotten afterthought that could have operated well but was not wholly necessary beyond helping adhere the topping neatly onto the dough and a heavy hand of black and white sesame seeds finished the pizza.

 

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While the pizza was just undercooked, for the first undertaking of the grill attachment, this pizza was a big, big win.

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The whole ordeal was paired with a Basque region Txakolina rosé sparkler by Ameztoi. The style is super dry and lower in alcohol (12%) making it a refreshing summer pairing for anything, but especially a zesty little number as the pie that popped out of the backyard’s new coal-fired oven.

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While a double-punch of spice like the one featured on this pizza is hard to pair well, the spice was short-lived overall and didn’t keep eaters suffering. Something as buoyant and light as the Txakolina rosé, regardless of its dry nature, was suitable and refreshing.

Week 32: Inspired By Video Games – Golden Beet, Parsnip Puree & Duck Leg Pizza with a Raspberry Gastrique

For this week’s rather frustrating theme asking for a dish inspired by a video game, I took on a rather loose interpretation of “inspired by” and decided to make a killer duck pizza to honor Adult Swim’s super rad Duck Game.

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This “frantic fowl-shooting four-player quacktion” won my heart immediately, despite my tendency to not survive the first 10 seconds of each round. Even still, that silly game is so much damn fun to play. If you haven’t yet, get it.

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The resemblance my be lacking but the two are made of the same basic yummy stuff.

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A little sweetness brings out the best of the duck’s personality so golden beets and parsnips make up the supporting toppings…

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…plus a raspberry gastrique made with cider vinegar and Mancino vermouth.

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In my second crockpot adventure, I tossed everything onto a low heat for 6 hours.

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The lengthy cooking session may have leeched some vibrancy of color but the flavors are quite rich, especially with the duck fat soaking the root vegetables as they cooked.

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The raspberry gastrique made up the base with fresh mozzarella to follow. After the beets, parsnips and duck went down another layer of mozzarella went on top to protect the precious duck followed by a spritz of balsamic vinegar for giggles.

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The resulting pizza was fantastic. It was almost as good as playing the game itself, especially with getting to split the experience amongst 4 people.

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And for once I didn’t fail miserably.

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Meanwhile, Chinon rosé made for a delightful little pairing here. Refreshing and dry, the wine added a summertime charm to the wintery flavors.

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On a second pass, the smell of duck definitely caught some canine attention. But there’s nothing new about that.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 15: Brazilian – Cast Iron Chicken, Requeijão & Heart of Palm pizza

To knock out a killer Brazilian-themed dish the week of my wedding, I decided to make a quickie cast-iron pizza using ingredients sourced from a gem of a shop selling all things Brazilian cuisine. Using shredded roasted chicken, requeijão and heart of palm, I constructed a delicious tortilla pizza, which was then paired with Provençal rosé that was to be served at my wedding two days later. The picture parade to follow will have just a brief overview the details of each step involved.

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Requeijāo cheese is a gooey, mild cheese adored in Brazil with many uses. Heart of Palm seem to have a fanciness to them I don’t yet quite understand. Working with both is a treat since I really don’t know what I’m doing even a little bit.

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The heart of palm seems to break apart in a rather satisfying way. The goal here is to blend it alongside the pulled chicken for a streamless sense of texture.

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With chicken and heart of palm combined, a little cheese is added and the whole is mixed for consistency.

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The tortilla is placed over a well-warmed skillet and topped immediately: first with a coating of requeijāo cheese, then the bulk of the payload, then a sprinkle of cheddar.

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Once dressed, the skillet is taken off the heat and placed in a pre-warmed toaster oven of 400 degrees F.

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For funsies (and tasty green notes), fresh chives are chopped for the final plating.

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Meanwhile, rosé is popped to accompany such a quick, light meal.

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Mmmm.

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There’s no other way to be.

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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Nailed it.