Friday, August 28, 2009

The Alpha and Omega of Pizza Pi - Pizza Margherita

I have been to the top of the mountain, and it was good.
For I have just experienced the quintessential pizza. I have been waiting patiently all summer long for my San Marzano Tomatoes to ripen so I could do this... I planted Basilico Napoletano (Neapolitan Basil) in preparation... I also grabbed some Mozzarella di Bufala from Trader Joe's and contacted my friend Ken...

For the time had come... Destiny was staring me in the face. The Ultimate of the the 3 recognized Pizza Napoletana - Pizza Margherita was within my grasp. For it is the Alpha and Omega of all that is Pizza.

Pizza DoughLinkOlive Oil (I chose Orange infused - mainly because I used the last of my Sicilian making the dough)
Sliced San Marzano Tomatoes (Although you can use Romas, but the San Marzanos are infinitely better)
Neapolitan Basil
Mozzarella di Bufala
Neapolitan Basil Chiffonade
Optional Toasted Pine Nuts

Place stone in oven and heat to 500 degrees (This can take up to an hour)
Simply press the pizza dough into a round shape and place on a corn meal coated peel.

Drizzle with Olive oil and add tomatoes.

Spread small basil leaves over the crust.

Lay down sliced Mozzarella di Bufala that has been gently blotted with a paper towel to remove some of the excess moisture (or the dough will become soggy during cooking)

Sprinkle with Smoked salt and Freshly ground Green Pepper.

Slide onto a preheated cornmeal covered stone and bake for for 8-10 minutes.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with Basil Chiffonade and drizzle with more Olive oil.

Add Toasted Pine Nuts if desired (My friend Ken LOVED Pine Nuts)

Let set at least 5 minutes to allow the cheese to firm back up before cutting..

Pizza Margherita on Foodista

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Rose, By Any Other Name; Would Taste as Sweet

This may be a little over the top, but they sure were good!

I was in Whole Foods during my quest for Paella rice. Of course, I had to stop by the dessert counter, where they had these cute little tartlettes topped with apple rosettes. I decided "Hey, I can do that". It seemed simple enough, at least at first.

Then I got to thinkin, which is always a questionable past time for me, that they probably poached the apples to make them softer. OK, I had a bottle or Orange Muscat, so that should work well enough. Still not to complicated..... Cool!

BUT apples need cinnamon and stuff.. Or better yet, caramel... So that was when I decided to reduce the poaching liquid and use it to make a caramel. OK, it was starting to get a little complicated, I'll admit it, but still not too bad, I guess.

THEN, I was at Venissimo Cheese shop with my best friend Ken, looking for Mozarella di Bufala, cause I promised to make him the BEST Pizza Margherita... EVER!! With my San Marzano tomatoes, tomorrow. (I have been waiting to do this all summer; ever since I planted the bushes) That was when I saw the Piave Vecchio (pee-AH-vay VEK-ee-oh)

which just happens to be EXCELLENT with tropical flavors as well as apples and pears. I will be the first to admit that I LOVE cheese and apples together, I also love apples and caramel... BUT will apples caramel and cheese go together? I had to find out if it worked.. OK, so NOW it became all kinds of complicated. But this is what I came up with.....

Verdict... WELL worth it... Delicious!!!!

Apple Rosette Tartlettes with Piave Vecchio
in Orange Muscat Caramel

This is a standard "Tassy" crust that my mom use to make, it makes 24 tartlettes shells, but my new mini-muffin pan is slightly shallow compared to my old one, so I had a little left over dough. And I wont lie to you, this dough is REALLY sticky and kind of a pain to work with, but it has an excellent texture and a rich flavor.

1 1/2 cups AP Flour
1 8oz pkg Cream Cheese (softened)
1/2 cup (8 oz) UnSalted Butter (softened)
pinch of Kosher Salt

Beat Cream Cheese and Butter together until light and fluffy.

Work in the flour and a pinch of salt until a soft dough forms

Wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour

Break into small pieces and press into tartlette pan or mini muffin pan.

Cover and Refrigerate until ready to fill.

3 Medium Granny Smith apples.
1 bottle of Orange Muscat
juice of 1 lemon
2 oz Piave Vecchio

Fill a sauce pan with the 3/4 of the bottle of Orange Muscat
Add the Lemon Juice
Peel and quarter the apples and slide them into the wine/lemon mixture to keep them from browning.

Grab your mandolin or a super sharp knife; remove apples, 1 quarter at a time, and slice between 1 & 2 mm thick; returning the slices to the wine/lemon mixture, grab another quarter and repeat.

Move the sauce pan to a low flame and bring the wine and apples to a simmer.
Remove from heat after 2 minutes (that's all it takes) and let the apples soak and cool in the wine for 1 hour.

Grate the Piave Vecchio.

Divide between the 24 tarlettes.

Recover and chill.
Line the counter with Wax Paper (It just makes it easier to clean up later)
Lay down 8 apples slices, overlapping about 1/4 inch.

Begin rolling the side closest to you, tightly at first, but becoming more loose as you come to the end.

Tip the roll upright and fluff the slices to create petals. (I usually make about 6 at a time)

When you have several made, remove the tartlette pan and place the rosettes atop the shredded cheese, fluffing the petals again if necessary; recover and chill while making more rosettes.

When you have made all the rosettes (you may have a few apple slices left over)

Filter the poaching liquid and add the remaining 1/4 bottle of wine.

Place over low heat and reduce to about 3/4 cup. (this is for your next step which is the caramel)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Orange Muscat Caramel
3/4 cup Sugar
Pinch of Kosher Salt
2 TB Water
3/4 cup Wine Reduction
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
2 TB Unsalted Butter
4 TB Heavy Cream

Add Cinnamon to the Wine Reduction.

Place Sugar, pinch of salt and water in a sauce pan and warm over medium-low flame

until the sugar melts and becomes dark amber in color. (The wine reduction is going to add sweetness back in, so darker caramel is preferred)

Remove from heat and carefully add the wine reduction.
Return to low flame and stir until the hardened caramel melts.

Add Butter and Heavy Cream, stirring until the butter melts.

Remove from heat and cool enough (but still warm) to pour into a squeeze bottle (it just makes things easier)

Drizzle caramel sauce over the rosettes, being careful not to overfill the tartlette shells. (Cause it will seep down when baking)

You just want to catch as many of the apple petals as possible...

Bake the tartlettes in the oven for 30 minutes. (See what happens when you over do the caramel sauce?)

Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes before moving to a wire rack.

The Savory Saltiness of the Cheese, the Complex Sweetness of the Caramelled the tang of the Apple with hints of Wine, Cinnamon and Orange... Awesome! The apples has a gentle tooth to them, not over done, but not still crispy either... Gonna be doin this one again... Very soon :)


Monday, August 24, 2009

Spanish Fare with Italian Flair - Paella Coast to Coast

Cooking Coast to Coast part 2

The Dish today was originally Paella a la Valenciana.

This was an interesting recipe for me in many ways. My approach kept changing. In the beginning I was cooking not only for people who, for religious reasons, cannot eat pork, but also for people who were allergic to seafood. (sigh) As a result, it became a very Chicken-centric dish…

Then as people canceled, I was suddenly able to add pork, (Yay!) but still no seafood (Aw!). With the pork ban lifted, I started hunting for Spanish Chorizo. This presented other issues.

Let's face it, San Diego is awesome for Mexican cooking ingredients; not so great for actual Spanish items though. In the end, I decided to just simply give up and cook what I know... Jamón Serrano became Speck; the Chorizo became Hot Italian Sausage; and the Chicken.... Well, it stayed chicken; and sans ANY seafood.

Then another person canceled and the seafood was back on... SO, with half the ocean in tow... I made a somewhat Italian-esque concoction, even though I DID finally find "Paella Rice" (although I have my doubts, since the bag doesn't actually say what kind of rice it is)

The best part about the Paella is the "socarrat" that forms on the bottom. This is similar to the Grossmutter that forms in the bottom of a fondue pot. Although in this case, instead of crispy caramelized cheese, it's crispy caramelized rice.... YUM!!!! I am SO looking forward to that.

AND I even found a Paella pan. Which was totally AWESOME!!

Because neither my cast iron nor copper skillets were big enough. Paella pans have fairly low sides; as the amount of paella you are making increases, the diameter of the pan increases. Mine has an aluminum core, which I guess is OK, but from what I have read, simple Carbon Steel is the preferred material.

Paella a la Valenciana (alla Italiano?)

Here is the recipe we used, with my changes in Parenthesis... As far as instructions, I have changed them according to what I did, replaced the ingredients... For the original ingredient list and instructions, check out Paella a la Valenciana

Servings: 6-8

6 cups of very strong chicken Stock (4 cups Chicken, 2 cups Vegetable Stock)
1/2 tsp of Saffron threads (Kashmiri not Spanish)
1/4 tsp of Smoked Spanish Paprika
1 small onion, peeled and cut in half

Heat the broth with the saffron, smoked Paprika and the whole onion.

Cover and simmer 15 – 20 minutes.

Remove the onion and strain the broth -- you need exactly 5-1/2 cups.

2 small chickens, about 2-1/2 lbs each (2 1/2 lbs of Chicken Thighs)
1/2 cup dry white wine (Soave – but would have preferred Pummelo or Dancing Bull Sauvignon Blanc)
1/2 cup olive oil (Sicilian Olive oil)
1/4 lb of cooking chorizo, in 1/4 inch slices (Hot Italian Sausage)
1/4 lb piece jamón serrano ham, diced (Speck – Smoked Prosciutto)
1 medium onion, chopped (1 Large Shallot)
4 scallions, chopped (1 Leek)
4 tbsp chopped garlic
2 roasted piquillo peppers (Roasted Red Bell pepper)
1 lb small or medium shrimp, shelled (1 lb Jumbo Shrimp, Cleaned & Peeled but with tail-on)
2 (Optional) Live lobsters, boiled, split and divided into tail sections and claws; discard or keep the head and small claws; or (Nope)
4 (Optional) Lobster tails, split lengthwise; (Nope)
8 (Optional) King crab claws; or (Nope)
8 jumbo shrimp, in their shells, preferably heads on; or (Nopity, Nopity, No)
2 North Atlantic Lobster tails, split Lengthwise.. (Yeppers)
3 cups Bomba or Calasparra rice or other short grain Spanish rice (Mine just said "Paella Rice")
5 tbsp chopped Italian Flat-Leaf parsley
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1/4 lb fresh or frozen peas
18 clams and/or mussels, scrubbed (16 mussels, 8 clams)
Lemon wedges for garnish (Meyer Lemon Wedges)
Italian Flat-Leaf Parsley for garnish

OK, I sliced, diced and chopped everything this time, which I normally don't do, cause I usually kind of wing it a little... There was a lot of stuff on this one and everything happens very quick, I was glad I was fully prepared this time....

Dry the chicken thighs with paper towels and season with salt.

Begin reheating the stock with the wine added to it.

In a metal Paella pan, with about a 15 inch base, heat the oil.

Add the chicken thighs and fry over high heat until golden; then remove to a warm platter.

Add the Italian sausage and speck to the pan and stir fry about 5 minutes.

Add the chopped Shallot, Leek, Garlic, and Roasted Red pepper and saute until the Shallot is wilted.

Add the Shrimp and the Lobster and saute about 3 minutes more, or until the shrimp and lobster barely turn pink (the lobster will cook more in the oven.) then remove the shrimp and lobster to the platter with the chicken.

Add the rice to the pan and stir to coat it well with the oil.

Sprinkle in the 5 TB of chopped parsley and the crumbled bay leaves.

Stir in the hot chicken stock/Wine, peas and salt to taste, then bring to a boil and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, over medium high heat about 10 minutes.

Bury the shrimp and the chicken in the rice.
Add the clams and the mussels, pushing them into the rice, with the edge that will open facing up and place the lobster pieces on, cut side down, then bake at 325 F, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let sit on top of the stove, lightly covered with foil, for about 10 minutes.

To serve, decorate with lemon wedges and chopped parsley. Oh, and I threw a pre-cooked Crayfish (crawdad) on top, just for fun... A tribute to Jambalaya if you will (even though it isn't Italian)

I had to cook mine a little longer... 15 minutes longer to be exact.
I removed the mussels, clams, chicken and lobster and put the rice back in because it was still crunchy after the initial 20 minutes.... and even with the extra time, some of it was still a little crunchy, while other portions had become gummy. More like a badly made risotto than a paella. Which kind of makes me wonder about the rice I was using. The most disheartening thing though, was that I didn't any "socarrat" on the bottom of my pan... :(
I was SO looking forward to that. (
sigh) Oh well.

Then again, it's a first try... so we shall see what happens when I try again. Oh yes, let there be NO doubt about that. I am gonna try it again. Sans seafood though, cause it gets a little spendy. But it
WAS definitely still tasty even if the texture was questionable. Which only proves the point (Never fear the kitchen, even a "disaster" is more than likely still edible) Although I have discovered that, while I love mussels, I am not fond of mussels and saffron together... Clams, Yes... Scallops, Yes... Mussels, not so much...

Regardless of my somewhat mixed emotions over this dish, I had promised people food. So I boxed everything up.

And put it all in my Thermal Carrier for delivery. ;)

As of yet, I have only heard that it does not survive reheating very well. Mostly because of the seafood.

For many more Paella Permutations, check out what my bloggin' BakeSpace buddies all came up with. Inspiration is just a click away.

Just click a pictures below: (the blog links will take you to their most current posts)

Spryte from Spryte's Place in Pennsylvania

Michele from My Italian Grandmother in Jersey

Danielle from Cooking for my Peace of Mind in California (with Guest Blogger, Cathy in Minnesota)

Moni from Alaskan Dermish in the Kitchen in, well, Alaska of course

And Martha in upstate New York