Week 50: Umami – Mushroom Parmesan Pizza

I’ve been hoping for a pizza assignment like this since I first began this challenge. Umami is an attractive force in my food world with tomatoes ruling the majority of my cravings. While tomato finds its way into the sauce here, mushrooms are the focal point of this pizza.

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Shiitake and crimini mushrooms, while making up the whole of the toppings, remain just a portion of the umami bomb that was dropped.

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Tomato snuck in with a hearty rendition of my usual sauce. Parmesan was shaved over top.

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Oh and then a quick spritz of black truffle salt, a drizzle of white truffle oil and then a dash of MSG just for kicks.

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Fearing another salt overload as seen in last week’s pizza, I added a moderate amount of salt and chose to apply truffle salt to each individual slice.

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Then I ate the whole pizza.

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With a good burgundy nearby, this is not a difficult feat.

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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 48: Leftovers – Pizza Bread Pudding

Having to work every Thanksgiving evening and rarely getting a chance to indulge in a hot turkey meal, let alone leftovers, I’ve opted to take this challenge in a different direction and offered leftover pizza a chance at metamorphosis.

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First it begins with a pizza.

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And a metric fuck-ton of willpower.

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After some lonely time cooling down, that tasty-looking pizza got packed away to become way less sexy leftovers.

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Even without that fresh oven glow, this pizza still looked so tasty. Working quickly to fight off taking even a nibble, I cut each piece into small pieces.

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I whipped together a big bowl of eggs, cream and parmesan.

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After stuffing muffin tins with pizza cubes, I poured the cream over until each was just full and applied a quick hit of parmesan over top before placing these confused beauties in the oven.

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So foreign and alluring at the same time.

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A bottle of Taurasi made for a killer pairing with all the leathery, meaty, dark fruit characteristic of Aglianico complementing the heartiness of each marinara-coated morsel. The wine is rich and structured but really comes alive in front of flavors that can match its intensity.

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Judge me if you must but I found much joy in these little pizza desecrations. They’re definitely worth a revisit.

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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 42: Homemade Pasta – Langostine, Beet Cavatelli, & Lemon-Poppy Seed Creme Fraiche Pizza

This week’s reddit challenge of homemade pasta was a bit of a nightmare to get through, but one worth the experience of making pasta by my onesie. While leapfrogging to a beet-flavored pasta may have been unwise considering how many new elements were already being introduced, I couldn’t resist the chance to shed one more item in the fridge so beet pasta it was.

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The initial dough making seemed straightforward enough to imbue me with the confidence to tackle a brand new Kitchenaid attachment without reading the instruction manual.

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My attempt at producing spaghetti seemed to be a manageable struggle, especially when compared to my macaroni attempts, which were an all out disaster. These first tries were fruitful enough to work with but for the fact that mold took hold of the pasta before the drying process could offer protection.

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This is when I turned to a more traditional apparatus for pasta shaping. Cavatelli seemed to be the only shape I was capable of producing, which happened to also be a shape that was satisfying to try to perfect.

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But handmade pasta isn’t an appropriate vehicle for perfection, it seems.

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The pasta boiled for just a couple minutes before drained and staged for pizza.

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Meanwhile, creme fraiche was enriched with lemon zest and juice to create the sauce.

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While the concept of carb on carb pizza might seem ridiculous, the layering of interesting textures could be enough to make the entirety make sense.

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Langoustines and poppyseed also added texture of complementing flavors.

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Fresh chives made for a zippy little addition after the pizza cooked.

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And while together the whole pie looks grand, the experience of consuming each piece was underwhelming, mostly due to the delicate textures of langostine and fresh pasta being marred by the intense heat of the oven. Thus, completing the final phase of nightmare pizza. Bonus: also dreamt about the nightmare pizza, thus actualizing the experience.

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The one purely positive outcome of this challenge was the wine selected, Matthiasson Chardonnay. Not only was the pairing a solid match, but the wine by itself was tits. That I will highly recommend.

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 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.