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Smoked chicken, caramelized pears and camembert white pizza

Smoked chicken, caramelized pears and camembert white pizza

So whenever I visit the parents for the weekend, my mom always tries to pawn off her groceries on me. Like I’m a just-out-of-the-nest, starving college student or something. Never mind that I’m in my 30’s and fully able to grocery shop for myself. On a recent visit, I arrived back at my condo toting a wedge of Camembert, a bundle of asparagus, shredded Parmesan, mango salsa, and cut-up fruit salad. All courtesy of my mom. Not that I’m complaining, but sometimes I have to come up with ways to use things that I might not otherwise have sitting around. Case in point – the Camembert. I tend towards super-duper aged cheeses myself. Fresh, double cream cheeses are not really my thing.

When in doubt, throw it on a pizza

At least that’s my motto. A google search on camembert told me pears go well – so I figured Camembert, caramelized pears and the smoked chicken from the previous day’s indoor smoking debacle would go nicely. I thought a white sauce would be too heavy, and olive oil alone too boring. So another Google search unearthed a versatile garlic herb pizza sauce that I also used on pasta later in the week. Finally, I threw a little arugula on top – just cause I always wanted to do that.  The result was damn tasty if I do say so myself!

Pizza

Parts:
Pizza crust – my standard Mario Batali
Smoked chicken – maybe 1/4 lb (see Smoked Chicken Indoors for more info. Otherwise, leftover rotisserie or roast chicken would be great)
White pizza sauce (see below – I used maybe half that recipe)
Caramelized pears (see below)
Camembert – maybe like 4 oz sliced thin (this is pizza people – use your best judgement!)
Arugula or some sort of lettuce – a small handful – this goes on AFTER the pizza comes out of the oven

I put it all together and baked at 450 degrees for 13 minutes or so on a pizza stone.  Throw your arugula on top and serve!

White pizza sauce

(really – garlic herb infused oil – great as a pasta sauce too)
From:http://www.recipekitchen.com/Pizza/pizza21.html

Ingredients:
3 T butter
3 T olive oil
1 T white wine
1/2 t rosemary (I used fresh)
1/2 t basil (I used fresh)
1 garlic clove, minced

Steps:
1. Sauté garlic in butter and olive oil.
2. Add all other ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes. Set aside. Can be refrigerated maybe for a week – bring to room temp to use.

Caramelized Pears

Ingredients:
1 pear – cored, seeded and sliced
1 T butter
1 T brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Steps:
1. Melt butter in saute or cast iron pan over medium heat.
2. Saute pears for a few minutes on medium heat
3. Add brown sugar and continue sauteeing to caramelize the pears till your desired doneness (I did maybe 10 minutes total).
4. Remove from heat. Salt and pepper (very important! don’t forget the pepper! freshly ground please!) to taste.

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A little booze in the dough makes a crispy crust.

A little booze in the dough makes a crispy crust.

Speaking like we are best buddies or something. Sadly for me, we do not run in the same circle. Shoot, I’m not sure I run in any circle. 🙂

Anyway… Michael Ruhlman declared this week National Homemade Pizza week or something of the sort. While I don’t think his declaration carries as much credence (sorry! I mean that in the nicest way possible) as the government’s declaration of April as National Grilled Cheese month, I am certainly willing to play along.

Amending previous pizza fail

Alright, I need to save face cause awhile back I posted a disasterous recipe for Mario Batali’s pizza dough. Due to my errors in translating fresh yeast to dry, I somehow managed to invent a pizza dough that mysteriously disappeared before your eyes. Too much yeast literally ate away at the dough. Perhaps I could learn something from Ruhlman’s new Ratios book?  Oh wait, was that what I was SUPPOSED to do for this challenge? There I go again – not following directions!

Keeping it simple today

Sooo…we had already planned to have pizza on the menu this week due to an open bag of pre-shredded mozzarella (yeah, that’s right) so stepping up to Ruhlman’s request was no problem. Alas, no interesting toppings this go around. I mean, I COULD slap a fried egg on top just to be trendy. But I’m not dying to be part of the in-crowd. So it’s strictly pepperoni today because I have to make it to my 7pm spinning class.  

Tips

I learned a neat trick from Sarah Moulten whilst watching PBS this weekend that I was wanting to try out – she rolls out her dough on a board using a little bit of olive oil under the dough instead of flour. AND she uses a rolling pin. Hey, this is new to me. I keep trying to convince myself that I can be part of a pizza dough tossing contest, but my results are usually disasterous.  Since one of my biggest hurdles is stretching out the dough without it snapping back in my face, I thought I’d give the rolling pin method a shot. Lo and behold, it works pretty well. 

She also parbakes her crust. Of course, this is only possible when baking in a pan. I used to do this before I got my pizza stone. But now I have a stone and the world is a different place.

New and improved (well, for me) recipe:

Mario Batali’s Pizza Dough

This makes a nice, crisp, thin crust (2 big, 4 individual). I usually do an overnight rise cause when I get home from work, I want to eat PRONTO.
Ingredients
 1/4 cup light red wine or white wine
 3/4 cup warm water
 1 package dried yeast (converts to 2.25 t)
 1 tablespoon honey
 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
 2 1/2 cups double zero flour and 1/2 cup AP flour, sifted together

Steps

1. Combine the wine, water, and yeast in a large bowl and stir until dissolved. I usually let it sit for 5-10 minutes.

2. Add the honey, salt, and the olive oil and mix thoroughly.

3. Add 1 cup of the flour and mix with a wooden spoon to make a loose batter. Add 2 more cups of the flour and stir with the spoon for 2-3 minutes to incorporate as much flour as possible.

4. Bring the dough together by hand and turn out onto a floured board or marble surface. Knead for 6 to 8 minutes, until you have made a smooth, firm dough.

5. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a towel. NOTE: this is the point where I put it in the fridge for an overnight rise. If you do this, bring to room temp the next day. OTHERWISE: Set aside to rise in the warmest part of the kitchen for 45 minutes.

6. When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F for at least a half hour.

7.Cut the risen dough into 4 equal pieces if you are making individual pizzas or two for larger ones. Knead each portion into a round. Cover again and let rest 15 minutes.

8. Shape, top and bake for about 10 minutes at 450 degrees.

Enjoy!

Ms. Pantry Raid

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The best France has to offer!      

French influenced pizza

Vacation memories

Back when the economy was booming (well, right about the time it started to crash and burn), we took our honeymoon to Tahiti. All the stars were aligned in the sky – which is the only way we were ever able to afford it (in reality, it was Chase Bank -known to me forever by another, more colorful moniker –  messing up our property tax escrow for a full year and supplying us with a hefty refund when they finally got it right). The French influence abounds in the local cuisine. Of course, fresh fruit and Tahitian vanilla were everywhere. But so were Croque Monsieur and Crepes.

Our first night, we walked to a nearby restaurant on Moorea called Le Sud. My husband had a chicken curry and I had a personal pizza. Cracker-thin crust was layered with creme fraiche, thinly sliced potatoes, herbs, olives, caramelized onions, and topped with gruyere. Hot and bubbling and intensely flavorful, it was my new favorite food. I’ve been trying to recreate it ever since.  How could something so simple be so hard to produce? Perhaps it was the romance of the islands that had me under its spell.

Where to start?

Suzanne Goin has a wonderful recipe for a Wild Mushroom Tart with Onions and Gruyere in her Sunday Suppers book that seemed like a good jumping off point. From that recipe, I came to understand that her influence was the Alsatian pizza, Flammekueche. The base is puff pastry layered with creme fraiche and gruyere. What could be more French than that? While a little different than the pizza from my memories, it was pretty close.

Mexican Crema  =/= Creme Fraiche

Cause I’m cheap, I thought I could use Mexican crema in place of the creme fraiche. It worked out ok in a pinch, but I wouldn’t recommend it cause it curdles pretty easily. In the recipe below, I replaced the crema with the creme fraiche.

Don’t forget to caramelize the onions!

The recipe also requires caramelized onions. Easy to make, just takes awhile. The longer you let them cook the better they are. I lightly sauteed onions in a combination of butter and olive oil. Then I reduced the heat and let them cook down for maybe 10-15 minutes. Finally, I popped them in the oven while I was cooking something else and let them go for another 45 minutes.  

Alsatian Pizza

Serves 2 for dinner, more as an appetizer

Ingrediants

1 sheet puff pastry – thawed
1/4 cup creme fraiche
1/4 cup caramelized onions
2 pieces bacon – crumbled
sprinkle of fresh thyme
handful of olives, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup grated gruyere

Steps

1. Preheat oven 400 degrees F.

2. Unfold puff pastry. Score the edge with a knife – so, about 1/4 inch from the edge, run your knife parallel to the edge all the way around all four sides of the sheet of puff pastry. This will make the edge rise up nicely.

3. You could brush the edges with an egg wash, but I didn’t…

4. Spread the creme fraiche evenly along the surface – up to the scored edge.

5. Sprinkle caramelized onions, thyme, bacon, and olives across the creme fraiche.

6. Sprinkle the gruyere on top of the other toppings

7. Bake in 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Cut into pieces and serve.

Enjoy!

Ms. Pantry Raid

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Food Books

 The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn

I actually rather enjoyed this story of woman in her mid-30’s, recently fired from her office job, on a quest to “find herself” by enrolling in Le Cordon Bleu cooking school for a year. What did she have to lose? So even though this book might scream Eat, Pray, Love, it, thankfully, is not.  Instead of complete vapid narcissim (oy, the ENTIRE India section, anyone?), it’s a fun little tome of one woman’s day to day life at the school – an experience she’s always wanted to have, but career and life got in the way in the past. It’s not glitz and glam – it’s a lot of hard work (and some of it is quite graphic surrounding the gutting of fish and other creatures) and the author seems to spend a lot of her time shuttling herself back and forth to the school instead of enjoying the city. Still, it’s a fun, light read and a bit of a glimpse into what it’s like attending the school – for those of us mere mortals who do not have the where-with-all (i.e. funds) to spend a year of our lives learning to be better cooks.

The dough had a lot of flavor, but was too chewy for me.

The dough had great flavor, but was a little chewy for me.

An added bonus in the book is the handful of recipes Ms. Flinn has included in the work. Today, I’m attempting her Pizza with Herbs recipe, although I’m not grilling it as she suggests. I also wish to try out her Tomato Provencal Spread and of course, the Nutella Crepes – she sprinkles brown sugar over the top and pops them under the broiler. How good would that be??

Anyway, here’s the pizza recipe as I’ve made it. Check out her book for the exact recipe (I’ve kept the crust pretty much intact – just didn’t grill it).

Pizza Grillee from The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry

Ingredients for the Dough:

1 package active dry yeast

1 cup warm water

2 cups all purpose flour

1 T olive oil

1 t Italian seasoning

2 t sugar

1/2 t salt

1/4 t garlic powder

Extra flour for kneading

Steps

  • Dissolve yeast in warm water – set aside for 10 minutes or so. 
  • Mix flour, oil, seasoning, sugar, salt and garlic powder in a large bowl.
  • Add water mixture to flour mixture. Stir to mix.
  • Gently knead for a few minutes on a lightly floured surface.  The dough will be very soft and elastic. 
  • Shape into a ball and place in an oiled bowl.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot for an hour – or until doubled.
  • Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.
  • Punch down, divide dough into two balls.
  • Stretch dough into circular shape. If you have a peel and a stone, you know what to do. Otherwise, stretch on a pizza pan.
  • Top and bake in your pre-heated 450 degree oven for like 10 minutes. 

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