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 Homemade mayonnaise has been a long overdue project, which originally made the DIY queue to up my sandwich game.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

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 11: Malaysian – Chicken Curry Roti Canai pizza

To slam dunk this week’s challenge, I took on two Malaysian standards that are often served together and used kitchen wizardry to morph the duo into a pizza. Roti canai, a ghee-heavy flatbread designed to trap pockets of air between thin layers of dough, is an ideal base for a pizza. Its usual partner, chicken curry, makes for a topping worth exploration. To begin, I slathered myself with ghee and dove into making roti canai from this very detailed recipe.

Roti Canai

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The formation of the dough is rather straightforward, requiring much kneading to acquire an incredibly smooth texture and a minimum 6 hours of resting time before the shaping begins.

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Each batch produces many sets of roti canai, which are divided evenly before the dough is allowed to settle.

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Each of these puppies has the ability to stretch out mega thin. Malaysian vendors keep some pretty dope moves to slap the dough into shape. Incapable of such performance, I managed to coax out a set of comparably paper-thin dough sheets with some delicate moves.

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Once stretched out, the paper dough is folded over itself to create air pockets and then swirled into a disc. This little creation sees a brief resting period while a pan gets hot on the stovetop.

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These wound-up formations offer some resistance to stretching despite their original malleability. Stretching the dough by hand offers a small amount of give but the final shaping is best accomplished immediately after the dough is placed in the pan. With a ghee-greased spatula, the roti canai is untraditionally smashed and flattened into the sturdy, circular shape that is required of a pizza crust.

After building the roti canai, I turned to a BBC curry recipe for the majority of my cooking guidance.

Chicken Curry

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The process begins with making a curry paste made up of a good majority of the stronger aromatics that will be experienced such as turmeric, ginger, lemongrass and red peppers.

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For those enamored with tradition, a mortar and pestle can do the work of a food processor with the addition of a few extra minutes and intensive upper body labor. I opted for the wine-sipping version of this pummeling session.

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The bulk of the curry consists of chicken thigh, onion & potatoes.

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These additions will be the main pizza toppings and act as a curry delivery system as they will be slathered in it.

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The onions are allowed to soften and become fleshy before adding in the chicken, potatoes and the remaining pieces of the curry, which include coconut milk, chicken stock, soy sauce and final spicing agents. Cinnamon sticks and star anise offer surprisingly subtle but necessary aromatics. To make up for a lack of kaffir lime leaves, bay leaves and lime zest were used after finding this helpful substitution guide in a sea of unhelpful websites insistent that there is no worthwhile alternative to the real thing.

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To keep the curry sauce tight, I reduced this batch down a good amount so that the pizza would not be dripping over the sides when applied.

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The pizza formation was pretty straightforward once the cooking was completed. With every element made fresh, no time in the oven was needed and the dish was served hot.

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The experience of eating this pizza was more satisfying than anticipated, especially in terms of texture and integration of flavors. The dough was so thrillingly soft and chewy while the chicken and potatoes were tender but able to add character. The heat didn’t jump out but rather mingled with the rest of the components, and the sauce was boldly savory without any one aromatic dominating. I devoured two sets of pizza in one sitting, but not without wine.

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To pair with the curry pizzas, Vols – “Vols II,” Riesling, Spätlese, Wiltinger Braunfels, Mosel 2014 had just the right touch of sweetness to combat the heat while its searing acidity cut through the richness of the coconut curry. The nose is flooded with petrol and lime zest while tart pineapple and brilliant slate minerality make up the palate. This is a beautiful wine all on its own but can really complete an experience, as it did here.

It’s successes like this that make me bananas for a group like r/52weeksofcooking.

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Blind Lady Ale House & Aglianico

On the northern end of the 30th Street beer crawl lineup sits Blind Lady Ale House where pizza and brews are served in an indoor beer garden fashion with small jovial crowds lining long tables. Beer is the ultimate fail-safe pizza pairing, making this environment perfect for fostering a pizza eating culture. With Kimmy Schmidt waiting to entertain my pizza-eating face, I opt out of beer and slink back to my Netflix cave, a Spicy Salami pie in hand, to find a wine to pair.

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The pizza is a simple but aromatic wonderland topped with Balistreri salami, fontina and pecorino romano cheeses, and a light tomato sauce. Leading the topping parade, the salami is crafted by San Diego native Pete Balistreri, a Sicilian-American quick to gain a following for his recent venture in artisanal charcuterie. Dense with savory elements, the salami contributes the bulk of the seasoning with classic flavors of chili flakes and fennel.

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The main source of spice comes from the side of calabrese chili oil, which allows for adjustment according to personal preference. The chili oil offers mild peppery heat and a satisfyingly slick texture, finding a comfortable home amongst the salty toppings and juicy tomato sauce. If hotter, the spice would threaten to zap a wine’s more delicate fruit aromas, making a sweeter or less alcoholic pairing more appropriate. Bold, inky and certainly no pushover, wine made from the thick-skinned Aglianico are weighty and capable handling a livelier set of flavors. The red Italian varietal makes the whole of this pizza’s pairing, 2008 Terredora di Paolo, Taurasi DOCG, Fatica Contadina.

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Smooth, finely-grained tannins enrich the wine’s already full body, allowing the wine to match each bite in personality and gumption. The moderately high acidity keeps the oil and cheese from overpowering the palate while aromas of blackberry, plum skin, fresh leather and tar provide a layer of contrasting flavors and complexity. Overshadowed by more northern Italian players of Nebbiolo and Sangiovese, southern Italy’s Aglianico remains under-appreciated despite its ability to thrive in warmer climates while maintaining a robust yet balanced wine. It is a feisty selection to keep around home, well-suited to pair with rich Italian dishes and hilarious Tina Fey productions.

references:

Guild of Sommeliers Compendium

Daring Pairings by Evan Goldstein