Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pizza for forgiveness.

Long delay. This blog is getting off to a shaky start and I won't begrudge you your angry fists, your barely disguised sighs nor your disgust. I can only hope this small offering of pizza will stave off your ire a bit longer as you become more patient with me.

Please continue to frequent this blog! It'll be a sensation, I'm sure of it. Or something. Anyway. On to the building of this pizza. Last time we built the foundation. And now we get to the good stuff. Not that crust isn't good, it just... well its incomplete.

Before you start anything else!


You want that bad boy piping hot. I suppose you can start in the middle of the process, perhaps once the sauce is done, but for your first time, I recommend an earlier start time to eliminate the need for waiting or a badly heated oven.

A pizza stone and a paddle are also pretty essential.Mise en place for the tomato sauce. Look at the assorted goods: Black pepper, garlic, onion, italian seasoning, Kosher salt, olive oil, and tomatoes. Fresh tomatoes from the market. These are called "seconds" as they aren't perfect. A bruise here, a blemish there, perhaps a bit overripe, they don't sell for as much. And absolutely perfect for sauce.

My methodology for tomatoes is simple and perhaps brutal. A simple V cut to take off the top, then cutting off the flesh from the big "top" so as not to waste overly much, and perhaps a slice off the bottom if the brown nub at the bottom is too big. Slice into big chunks and through into a blender.

I'm fortunate enough that my cousin hooked me up with this glorious machine. One half a horsepower of blending power. Power I don't really need for this delicate operation, so just a few seconds of pulsing and the tomatoes were into a lovely pinkish puree.See the small chunks? That's good. If you don't have a blender, you can chop the tomatoes by hand. I do that sometimes when I want a slightly coarser sauce.
Action shot!
Here's my blender protip. I like a bit of wine in my sauce, but instead of directly adding it into the sauce, I use it to slosh up the bits of tomato that stubbornly cling to the blender.
Finely minced garlic.
Quarter a cup of olive oil. Heat this over medium heat, we don't want to brown anything too much.
Onions first! Once they're barely translucent....
Add in the garlic. Cook through but avoid browning once again.
Then throw the mess of puree into the pot.
Small palmfull of italian seasoning, salt and pepper to taste.
Tonight's topping of choice was spicy Italian sausage. Here's my methodology.. first slice the casings off.
Then put them right into the pan. I should have used less sausage for more room but darnit I was eager.
Check on the sauce while the sauasge is cooking! I bring it to a boil then simmer.
You see the yellow bubbling and liquidy areas? That's the acid from the tomatoes, and you'd be well served to skim it off to lessen any heartburn. Youch. An old tomato can is great for dumping it in!Here's what the acid looks like.
Oh right, the sausages. Flipped over, pressed flat with a spatula and "cut" it into chunks with the spatula. Very uniform and simple. Don't worry about cooking them all the way through, the pizza making process will handle that. Ok, toppings are done, lets start building this sucker.

Remember this? Good and ready to go.
And the mise en place for the pizza. Sausage! Sure, I'd have loved some mushrooms, canned artichoke hearts, perhaps some peppers, but sausage on its own is fabulous.

Sauce! The essential layer of moist savoriness that separates cheese from crust.

Cheese! Well, its cheese!

Dough! The absolutely necessary foundation to this fabulous dish.

The corn meal? ESSENTIAL. We'll get to that later.
Take a piece of dough (I use half) and start rolling it out with your fingers or a pin. If its too big, well, cut it down and make more smaller pizzas.
Relatively round! Not bad, not bad.
Look at it! Stretchy and pillowy! This isn't just for show though, I needed to put the corn meal on the paddle. Don't have a paddle? I suppose you could make a pan pizza, which would require a greased pan. The results won't be as great though.So, why is the corn meal essential? Keeps you from getting into... a sticky situation. That is, without this layer, the dough is going to stick to the paddle and you'll have a really really rough time getting the pizza off and onto the stone. SO DON'T FORGET IT. In the absence of corn meal, a thick dusting of flour works, but you have to work fast.
The sauce is a bit wetter than I want it. I used a slotted spoon later to drain out some of the liquid before putting more of it on.

Nicely sauced! ...Why is my spatula there?
Sausages. Putting them in the sauce means the cheese helps hold it in place. Keeps them from flying off the pizza when you roll it in.

Cheese is good. Learn it, love it.After throwing it into the oven for 10-15 minutes, it should look like this.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Pizza Dough.

In today's therapy session I figured it was time to address the crusty nature of the everyday... by creating some of my own! Specifically a pizza crust! I am so cheesy. Wait, that's the next post. Anyway I'm getting ahead of myself.

Mise en place: salt, Italian seasoning, flour, yeast, olive oil, lukewarm water.

2.5 teaspoons of yeast into the lukewarm water.

Oh almost forgot. What I like to do, perhaps out of superstition is to add a bit of sugar... of the non granulated variety. Typically I use a dab of honey, but today I went with maple syrup.
Notice the shockingly different color.
Gradually work in a 1.5 cups of flour and add enough water to obtain a relatively shaggy mass.

After that, add a tablespoon of olive oil, a tablespoon or two of salt, and two tablespoons of Italian seasoning.
At this point you can start kneading it and eventually you want to get a lovely little ball like this below. Add flour if its too sticky, water if its too dry and still shaggy.

Ah, look at that lovely just slightly tacky ball of dough.

Let rest and rise for an hour, and it should look like this!

Punch it down and.... ok it doesn't look that great now, but don't worry, the end result is far prettier.

Next post, we'll get to the good stuff. Pizza!Til next time folks.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Being honest with you all - home made pasta, deep fried.

I have to be honest with all of you. I make some really really terrible stuff sometime. Not as in terrible tasting (at least not in a long while), but just really bad for you. Or perhaps an outright affront to cultural sensibilities.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and deep frying is one way to invent yourself a dish out of nearly anything. Take for example my clunky home made pasta noodles.

If that's not evidence I need a pasta maker, I don't know what is. Anyway, they do take in flavor well and seemed right in essence, its just the texture was definitely compromised by the thickness of the pasta. But hey, waste not right?

BEHOLD!My creation. Home made pasta a la deep fried monstrosity. I soak the noodles in tomato sauce to take in more of that pasta like feeling for a while, then fry it up. Add a marinara and ranch sauce and you're good to go!

I'm really sorry to anyone who thinks I'm insane for doing this.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Bolognese Sauce - First try

Ok, its been over a week, but here it is, my first foray into blogging. I put in special effort on Sunday to make something grand to make up for it! This is "Pastor Ryan's Bolognese Sauce," which came from that wonderful woman, the Pioneer Woman. I had carrots in the freezer, lots of beef and onions, so this seemed like an ideal time. I know, the carrots would have been better fresh, but money is tight, and I'm very much a waste not, want not kind of guy, at least when I can help it.

This won't be as glamorous as the pictures on PW, but at least you get to see me fumble through it all!

Start off with garlic. I think I like this recipe.

The good old knife smash technique always gets the job done.

I like to put my small ingredients into punch cups. Namely because I have a lot of them, and little reason to serve punch.

An onion! Fantastic. I had these in the fridge instead of red onions.

Slice in half, leave the root ends on to keep it together.

Slice through, keeping the slices attached, then cut through like so to get an easy diced onion.

Errrm, here's my carrot mush. Ok, I guess I shouldn't have compromised.

Mmmm, beef. I think a fattier mix would have actually worked better. This was a pretty lean mix.

Getting to the cooking, heated up the olive oil and tossed in the carrot and onion.

Prepping a little bit in advance! The red wine for the sauce... and a glass for me.
Edit: Oh right, the PF Chang's bag. Delicious meal. Anyway, that was a few days back, and I'm using the bag to throw away odds and ends during the process.

In goes the beef. I can't tell you how good this smelled. Goodness.

Italian style tomatoes! I think I'll have to try with fresh tomatoes later, if I can find some "seconds" at the farmer's market.

Tomato paste! Its pasty.

Finally, the garlic.

And then the tomatoes!

Milk.... ok Pastor Ryan, I'll trust you on this. I guess non fat wasn't the best choice... its all I had on hand though.

Action shot! Anyway, simmered this for two hours...

Before serving it on a bed of fresh pasta. I really need to get a pasta machine, but still, it wasn't bad. A great depth of flavor. I think the omitted Worcester sauce had a lot to do with it as well. I still think the recipe needs salt, though the Parmesan cheese recommended probably would have helped there. Its a work in progress!