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Homemade Pizza Part III – assembly

26 Dec

mozzarella & mushroomsOnce you have the dough and sauce ready, homemade pizza is a cinch. I often make both components well in advance and store them in the fridge for up to two days in advance, a trick that allows this dinner to come together relatively quickly.  The recipes for pizza dough and tomato sauce that I posted previously make two medium thin-crust pizzas, enough to serve two to four people. I would suggest using at least 8 oz of shredded mozzarella (e.g. one cheap grocery store block) per pizza if you want to make a pie with the cheese-to-sauce ratio shown above. More cheese, however, it always welcome, and I have topped that mozzarella base with goat cheese and fresh mozzarella slices with great results. Adding fresh basil just after the pizza comes out of the oven provides a great burst of traditional pizzeria-style flavor, and I highly recommend it. However, if you can’t find any fresh herbs, it’s hard to go wrong with the magical equation of bread + tomato sauce + cheese…

prosciutto & arugula

Ingredients

  • Two prepared portions of pizza dough (e.g. one batch of the dough recipe)
  • One batch of tomato sauce
  • 16 oz mozzarella cheese
  • Cornmeal (enough so the dough doesn’t stick to the counter)
  • Parchment paper
  • Fresh basil
  • Other toppings of your choice

olives & basil

Instructions

1. Preheat your oven to its highest temperature, which is normally ≥500F. If you’re using a baking stone, make sure to preheat it in the oven so it can get hot gradually.

2. Take the dough out of the fridge, cover lightly with plastic wrap or with an overturned bowl, and allow to rise for 15 minutes.

3. Sprinkle the counter with cornmeal, then roll the dough out until it is quite thin, at least 12″ in diameter. If you prefer a thicker crust, make the necessary adjustments.

4. If you are using a pizza pan, transfer to the rolled-out dough to the pan at this stage. If you are using a baking stone, flip a 9×13 baking sheet over and cover with parchment paper. Transfer the flattened dough to this makeshift pizza peel.

5. Top the dough with tomato sauce, using the back of a large spoon to spread it out relatively evenly over the dough. Leave a 1/2″ to 1″ margin around the edges of the crust.

6. Sprinkle the sauce with the shredded mozzarella and whatever other toppings you choose. If you have fresh basil, tear it into chunks but wait to add it to the top of the pizza until it has just come out of the oven.

7. If you are using a pizza pan, bake in the preheated oven for 7-10 minutes, until the cheese has browned slightly. If you are using a baking stone, open the oven and carefully slide both the parchment paper and piza onto the stone, baking for 7-10 minutes.

I always check my pizzas constantly as they cook, because cooking times vary depending on the temperature of the oven and what implement you’re cooking the pizza on. Better safe than sorry, as wasting an entire pizza would be a tragedy of near unspeakable magnitude.

Homemade Pizza Part II – the sauce

24 Dec
poached tomatoes

poached tomatoes

I know that this is not traditionally the time of year for pizza, but perhaps at some point in the coming week of yuletide withdrawal you will have a hankering for something that involves no roasted meat, no mashed potatoes and no elaborately decorated cookies. Should that be the case, I strongly suggest you top your pizza with this sauce, original recipe found here.

finished_tomato_sauce

If you want to flaunt your kitchen know-how, make sure to open all of the doors in your house so that the smell can waft freely from room to room. The mingled scent of olive oil, sauteed garlic, simmering tomatoes and the sweet hint of wine and spices in this recipe will revive any appetites that have been overcome by holiday excess. In fact, I once sherpa-ed all of these weighty ingredients  over to a friend’s house instead of making it in advance, just so that her condo would absorb the smell of this as it was cooking. I know, I know – I’m generous enough to deserve some kind of medal.

Until one is minted, I am prepared to accept pizza as adequate recompense for my selflessness.

garlic

This makes around two cups of sauce, give or take, enough to cover two medium-sized thin crust pizzas. Garlic, wine and red pepper flakes can be adjusted to taste. I always make my sauce extra garlic-y, and no one has complained yet. As a caveat, this recipe produces a sauce with a distinctively orange hue, so do not panic if you don’t get the familiar deep red colour you were no doubt expecting. While not as aesthetically appealing as the pre-made jarred stuff, this tastes a heck of a lot better, and once the pizza is baked you won’t be able to tell the difference.

Ingredients

  • 8 medium tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 – 4 tbsp white wine
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1/8 – 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Instructions

1. Boil a pot of water and poach the tomatoes for one minute only, then drain in a pasta strainer and allow to cool. After they have cooled to the point that you can touch them, use a paring knife to split the sides of the loosened skin, and peel it off.

2. Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium heat and then add the garlic, stirring for a minute.

3. Before the garlic begins to brown, add the wine, sugar, salt and red pepper flakes and tomatoes. Break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon or spatula.  Simmer the sauce for around half an hour so that it thickens, checking on it every ten minutes or so.

Homemade Pizza Part I – the dough

19 Dec

ImageI am of the opinion that pizza is one of the great human universals, up there with birth, death, and procrastinating on the internet. I’ve met people with odd and frankly baffling food aversions over the years, (Mushrooms? Check. Onions? Check. Bacon? Check. Eggplant? Check.) up to and including a friend who is currently a line cook at one of the most touted restaurants in the country… who would not eat tomatoes until her early twenties. However, I have yet to meet anyone who shies away from the great Italian equalizer that is pizza.

Unsurprisingly, I have a completely homemade pizza recipe handy in my arsenal, one traditionally used when I invite people over to dinner to repay them for some kindness they have bestowed upon me. Or because it is a Sunday.

dough

In the next three posts, I outline how to disrupt the global economy by hacking into the IMF mainframe*, I mean, how to create your own pizza from scratch. The dough recipe is relatively low maintenance, but the tomato sauce, while worth it, takes a little more coddling. If you’re the sort of person who prefers the destination to the journey itself  (i.e. you just want some tasty pizza and you want it NOW goddamit), the tomato sauce can easily be swapped out for a jarred sauce of your choosing. I will readily admit that I have willingly used this crutch when lazy, starving, or both.

I’m not budging on the homemade dough though. That’s a dealbreaker, ladies.

*Just checking that you (and/or any governmentally-sponsored keyword searches that may be scanning this post) are paying attention.
olive oil, yeast, honey, salt, water & wine

This makes enough dough for two medium-large thin crust pizzas. The original recipe, found here, produces only enough dough for one pizza, a quantity that seems infinitesimally small in relation to my gluttony. As a result, I have always doubled it. The pizzas themselves will serve two people, with leftovers, or four people, if served with a side. Don’t expect leftovers if you serve this to more than two people – I have never been able to have pizza for breakfast when this was enjoyed by that many souls.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cups flour

    This is the appropriate level of "shagginess" to expect from your dough. Do not panic. Do not add extra liquid. This is what it is supposed to look like.

    This is the appropriate level of “shagginess” to expect from your dough. Do not panic. Do not add extra liquid. This is what it is supposed to look like.

Instructions

1.  Whisk together water, wine and active dry yeast. Let this mixture sit for a few minutes while you assemble your other ingredients.

2. Add in honey, olive oil and salt. Whisk to combine.

3. Add in flour and stir together with a large wooden spoon, until the dough comes together into a shaggy, poorly delineated mass, as outlined in the photo above. At this point, feel free to plunge your hands into the bowl until the dough starts to behave itself, or turn the whole mess out onto a lightly floured counter and knead it for a few minutes until it falls into line. Either way, make sure to knead it until it becomes smooth and elastic.

4. Lightly coat the inside of a large bowl with olive oil (for better flavor), or spray it with Pam (for greater efficiency). Cover the bowl with saran wrap, a lid, or a damp dish towel, and let it sit for one to two hours, until the dough has doubled in size.

5. After the dough has completed its first rise, divide into two equal portions using a large knife or dough scraper/

Alternative Rise Methods: This whole process can also take place overnight in the fridge, during a “cold rise”. The same technique works over the course of an eight-hour work day, if you want to make the dough before you leave and bake the pizza upon your return. The dough will keep in the fridge for up to two days if wrapped tightly in saran wrap, or in the freezer for up to a month. To use after freezing, simply place it in the fridge for eight hours or over-night so that it thaws, and then roll it and prepare it as outlined in the “assembly” post, which will come soon!

unassuming dough....

Three Cheese & Roasted Butternut Squash Galette

14 Dec
Purportedly feeds eight people...Unless they share my enormous capacity for food, in which case it feeds about five.

Purportedly feeds eight people…Unless they share my enormous capacity for food, in which case it feeds about five.

A few weeks ago I was given The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook as a gift.

(Pause while we all think about this means for my academic productivity of late. Very similar to this scenario, only replace ” eat bacon” with “open the cookbook”).

Within a week I had tried out four of the recipes (this galette, the eggplant calzone, the sesame turkey meatballs, and the vanilla sheet cake, for the curious). Most of its pages are already heavily bookmarked. Any of my friends who have had access to it recently have added their own suggestions, so it is currently weighted down with no less than four different colours of post-it notes, expressing a two-level system of urgency, which ranges from “I am intrigued by this” to “You must make this immediately or we are no longer friends”.

Initially I was surprised by my interest in the “vegetarian” section of the volume, until I realized that all of the recipes I had bookmarked also incorporated copious amounts of cheese. My slightly-adapted version of Perelman’s galette is actually something of a pastiche – I used her cheese combination from the eggplant calzone, replacing the more difficult to find fontina (which stumped the deli-workers at my local grocery store) with a mixture of shredded parmesan, goat cheese and ricotta. In true graduate student fashion, I also tweaked it to make it more logistically feasible and economical, incorporating dried herbs instead of fresh ones and swapping out the cayenne pepper, which I did not have on hand, for smoked paprika, which is one of my favorite spices.

This is a relatively versatile recipe, and the proportions of cheese and spices I have suggested here could easily be adjusted. I think fresh mozzarella and basil would work quite well in place of the sage and three cheese combo, while the butternut squash could easily be swapped out for crumbled sausage or ground beef or turkey for a more carnivorous twist on the recipe.

Morals of the story:
(i) If you haven’t purchased this cookbook, go do so immediately,
(ii) Three cheeses are often better than one,
(iii) Almost anything tastes better in a pastry crust.

Finished Galette

Serves 4 – 8, depending on appetites. If you’re serving 8, include a side salad, dessert, copious amounts of beer, or all of the above. Preheat the oven to 400F before starting to make the filling.

Ingredients for Crust

  • 2 & 1/2 cups AP Flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Two sticks unsalted butter, cold
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup very cold water

Instructions for Crust

1. Whisk together the flour and salt together in a medium-sized mixing bowl.

2. Using a pastry cutter, incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients.

3. Whisk together the sour cream, white wine vinegar and cold water. Incorporate these wet ingredients into the flour-butter mixture, using a spatula and your hands, if necessary. You can also turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it a bit until it comes together.

4. Shape the dough into a disk. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least one hour, and up to two days.

This is a good demonstration of both the spacing of the filling and the pleating technique used to shape the free-form galette.

This is a good demonstration of both the spacing of the filling and the pleating technique used to shape the free-form galette.

Ingredients for Filling

  • One medium roasted butternut squash, cubed into 1-in squares (To roast: spread two tablespoons of olive oil on a baking sheet. Sprinkle squash with 1/2 tsp salt and black pepper to taste. Bake for 30 minutes at 400F, flipping pieces every ten minutes or so to ensure that they roast evenly).
  • Three medium sweet onions, caramelized (To caramelize: Cut the onions in half and thinly slice them. Melt 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil in a medium sized pan, then add the onions. Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp sugar and 1 tsp salt, then cook for 25 minutes until softened and browned. Finish by sprinkling with 1/4 tsp smoked paprika).
  • 8 oz total of crumbled goat cheese, ricotta and shredded parmesan ( I used around 100 grams of goat cheese, 100 grams of ricotta and 30 grams of parmesan, but you can certainly tweak the preparations relative to your preferences).
  • 3/4 tsp dried sage
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • One egg

Instructions for Assembling Galette

1. Mix together roasted squash, caramelized onions, cheese mixture, sage, salt & pepper together in a medium sized bowl.

2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out chilled dough into a 17-inch circle. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper

3. Spread filling in the center, leaving a 2.5 inch margin for pleats. Using the technique in the photo shown above, pleat the edges of the galette so that they surround the filling.

4. Brush the sides of the galette with egg wash (one egg mixed with one tsp of water). Bake at 400F for 30-40 minutes, or until the edges of the galette are golden brown.

5. Serve to people you want to owe you a favor in the future….

Delicious. Keeps well when refrigerated too!

Delicious. Keeps well when refrigerated too!

Chicken Paprikash

14 Sep

nestled, simmering chicken

A few days ago I decided that I desperately needed to make Chicken Paprikash. I wasn’t quite sure what chicken paprikash was exactly, but I adhere to the rule that anything Hungarian tends to be pretty damn delicious.

I formulated this particular rule a few years ago during a Christmas visit to my family, when my parents took me to their favourite little hole-in-the-wall Hungarian restaurant, nestled on a side street right off the Graben. They had warned me that the place was popular, but small and “cozy” – their euphemism for “crowded”. We strode out of the bitterly cold Viennese streets into a hot, bustling little room where tiny tables and customers’ elbows jostled for space with the rapidly pirouetting waiters and ever-swinging kitchen door.  After we ordered the waiter brought a small basket of round golden biscuits to the table. Unprepared for the transcendental experience that was about to occur, I grabbed one.

homemade pogacsa

I’ve never really fully recovered. It was what the French refer to as a “coup de foudre” or  “lightning strike”, though the term is traditionally reserved for the process of falling in love with another human being rather than a baked good.  I was so instantly smitten by the scone that I tore off a piece of the table cloth and jotted  down the Hungarian name, pogásca. Once I got back home I dredged up a recipe online, and the resulting “Hungarian Bacon Biscuits” are pretty much a guaranteed success at any event.

All of this provides a rather long backstory to my immediate and all-encompassing need to make chicken paprikash as soon as I stumbled upon the recipe. A cursory examination of the ingredients confirmed my suspicions concerning Hungarian culinary genius. Chicken. Butter. Onions. Salt. Spices. Sour Cream. All of this boded well.

Fortunately, it was a cinch to throw together. Melt the butter, brown some chicken, sautee your onions in browned chicken bits and the rest of the melted butter, add spices and chicken stock, and then let everything simmer for awhile. Add sour cream and then impress the pants off your guests/boyfriend/Hungarian exchange student/bewildered parents.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs of onions (either three enormous onions or four more reasonably proportioned onions)
  • 2 & 1/2 pounds of bone-in chicken thighs or drumsticks (I used eight large drumsticks)
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 3/4 tsp hot paprika
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • Coarse salt and pepper to taste
not even two pounds of onions

Don't fret, they'll cook down...

Instructions

1. Salt the chicken pieces and let them sit at room temperature while you prepare the onions. Slice onions into long strips, moving from root to tip.

2. Melt the butter in a large sautee pan (if you are an impoverished graduate student you may substitute an Ikea wok) over medium high heat. Add the chicken, and cook until skin has browned on one side, 5-6 minutes. Use tongs to turn over the chicken pieces, cooking the other side for 3-4 minutes, until the skin has browned. I will say, the one downside to using the wok was that not all of the chicken browned easily. In the future, I will make this in a larger, flat-bottomed pot and hope for the best.

onions with butter and paprika

3. Remove chicken from heat and set aside. Add your mountain of sliced onions to the remaining butter, taking care to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan to add more flavour to the dish. Continue to cook over medium heat until lightly browned, 6-8 minutes.

4. First add the sweet paprika, hot paprika and black pepper to the onions, stirring to incorporate the spices. Then add the cup of chicken stock (pausing again to scrape up the delicious bits of browned chicken from the bottom of the pan). Nestle the browned chicken on top of the onions, cover* and cook on a low simmer until the chicken has cooked through, 20-25 minutes.

*If you are an impoverished graduate student you can use another frying pan as a lid for your wok, as a functional yet ridiculous solution to your dearth of wok lids.

5. While Elise claims this step is optional, I disagree. Continue simmering until the chicken becomes tender and falls off the bone,  an additional 15-30 minutes after the chicken has cooked through.

6. When the chicken is done to your taste, remove the pan from heat. Remove the chicken from pan and stir the sour cream into the onion/stock/paprika amalgam. (I actually forgot to remove the chicken before stirring in the sour cream, and nothing disastrous or apocalyptic came of it, so if you’re pressed for time I assume you can just dump in the sour cream).

I made the dish when we had some friends over for dinner – clearly my new favourite social activity. I stored the finished Paprikash in the fridge for a few hours before hand, since I had prepared dinner in advance in anticipation of enjoying a few beers with our friends (genius). About 20 minutes before we were ready to eat, I simply put the whole kit & caboodle back on the stove over medium-low heat until it reached an appropriate temperature, and then served it over white rice. Seconds were had by all, though some chose to simply douse their rice in the sauce on the second go-around.Which meant…leftovers!

God Bless Hungary.