the_plan: (Kitchen)
James and I have for the past couple years made a habit of Friday night 'Pizza and a Movie Night' - occasionally it gets moved about for something the kids have on, but as a family it's one of our favourite traditions.

For a while it was frozen pizzas, (yuck), then moved on to 'make your own' with pre-made crusts, not bad but it could get expensive with the crusts being $5 each and not the best pizza crust. Then Fleishmanns came out with a Pizza Yeast. It's an instant yeast - no wait for a rise knock down rise again routine. At the time I was still struggling with mastering yeast breads so the whole no wait thing was good. I found the product worked beautifully, with my stand mixer (goddess bless Kitchen Aid) kneading was no longer an issue. The whole weekly Pizza and a Movie night, now expanded into make your own pizza and a movie night. It became a family event - us and the kids (and the dogs - who yes do get their own pizza) gather in the kitchen and build and cook and talk together ... and then watch a good movie complete with theatre popcorn!

Since the beginning of the pizza building I've had a fairly standardized routine of what I put on pizza - a pretty standard pedestrian pepperoni, red onion, roasted red pepper, green olives (I can *never* get the jars of sliced kalmatas), and a mozzarella/edam mix of shredded cheese. However, life being what it is last week my Kitchen Aid died *sob*, she broke a gear and literally came grinding to a halt. Wasn't entirely sure what I was going to do for pizza this week. In the meantime there was a thread running on the Food Network Canada forums about "What's On Your Pizza?", and I started thinking about all the kinds of pizza sorta flavours I like. It threw me out of my comfortable rut (hey there is nothing WRONG with my standard pizza!) and got me thinking about doing something different (just to mix it up).

First the crust. I've had a lot more success with bread recipes of late. In fact I have a few that I'm becoming quite comfortable and even proud of. Some of those are 'no knead' breads. So with the mixer on the fritz and a bit of time on our hands I thought about using a focaccia dough. I'd had a lot of success with that one in the past. Ok well it wasn't a 'no knead' recipe, if I was gonna have to knead anyway why not use my standard pizza crust recipe? Well... I wanted to try something different, and if I can make my pizza crust work with standard yeast then I can forgo at least ONE bottle of yeast in the fridge (we currently have 4 - traditional, bread machine, quick rise, and pizza - I'm thinking I'm gonna drop the bread machine one pretty soon too).

So for the crust I pretty much just copied straight out of the recipe I snagged from Chef Michael Smith's Chef at Home:
2 cups bread flour
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar
1 tbsp traditional yeast
1 generous cup water

olive oil
toppings of your choice

Mix the first 5 ingredients in a mixer fitted with a dough hook. (or mix by hand and knead) till smooth and elastic. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size. (approx 1 hr). Punch down the dough and then roll out on a well floured surface to approx 1/4 inch in thickness. Transfer the flat bread to a baking sheet that's been generously sprinkled with corn meal (to prevent sticking.

Without the mixer it was a 10 minute knead on a floured board (it did pick up a fair bit more flour - it is a sticky dough). I only did a single rise, and then punched it down, cut the dough in half and rolled each half out to fit a 12" pizza pan. I found it a bit stickier and trickier to work with, and the recipe does make a fairly thin crust pizza, (the cornmeal is the shizzle!) there was some stretching and patting and repairage of holes... but all in all it was a very nice crust.

James stuck with his usual tomato sauce, pepperoni, red onion, roasted red peppers with mozzarella/edam shredded cheese. However, this was the point where I really wanted to play. I brushed the crust with a light drizzle of olive oil, rubbed some crushed garlic into it, a couple of tablespoons of hot salsa for a sauce, some chunks of fresh tomato, some hot spanish chorizo sausage sliced thin, a good handful of rough chopped cilantro, some red onion, a bit of roasted red peppers, and some whole pitted kalmata olives, sprinkled the whole thing with sea salt and finally I sliced some mini bocconcini cheese, and just a dusting of shredded asiago.

Bake at 425°F for 16 minutes... and the results were DELIGHTFUL
This was one of the nicest pizzas I've had in a long time. LOADS of flavours, all working well together; there was some heat, but not too much or over powering. It was 'just right'.

Honestly I still like a thick crust pizza, and I will inevitably try this again with more dough for the crust. I'd also like to do this with a pizza stone. Of course I also want eventually to build a big wood/charcoal brick BBQ with a built in bread/pizza oven, but I think the BBQ pizza will be for another day. I think though that my experimentation with pizza has only just begun.
the_plan: (Welcome to the Kitchen)
Last night's adventure in "WHAT DO WE HAVE IN THE FREEZER?"

Chicken thighs are pretty innocuous - you can do anything with them. Sometimes that kind of choice can actually stifle creativity - you can get overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices.

I think I ended up with with a bit of a 'Red' theme, peppers and the port wine comes in a lovely dark red labelled bottle. (Wolf Blass Reserve Tawny Port)

It's been so cool and damp this week I'd been craving something hearty and warm and ... stew like. So I started with chicken thighs, port wine seemed like a nice choice (hey it always is!) and went from there....

Port Wine and Roasted Red Pepper Braised Chicken

6-9 chicken thighs
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion - diced
2 carrots - diced
1 stalk celery - diced (I was out of celery and replaced this with 1 tsp celery seed - it worked but a stalk of celery would be better)
3 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
chili powder
2 roasted red peppers (brush peppers with canola oil and roast in a hot oven, or on a hot BBQ grill, cool, remove skins, and slice thinly)
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 cup port wine

season chicken thighs with salt, pepper, basil and tarragon. Heat olive oil in a heavy (cast iron enamel works wonderfully) casserole or dutch oven. Brown chicken pieces in oil, then remove and set aside. Add onions carrots and celery to the pot and cook till onions are softened and translucent. Add the red wine vinegar and stir to deglaze the pan, add garlic, bay leaves, roasted red peppers, and port wine. Sprinkle a light amount of chili powder on the chicken thighs and add them back into the pan. Roast in an 350°F oven for 1 hr.

Serve over fragrant rice like basmati or jasmine, or a broad egg noodle.

Asparagus - blanch in boiling salted water for 5 minutes or just until bright green. Plunge into an ice bath to stop the cooking and preserve the colour. To reheat heat 2 tbsp sesame oil in a saute pan over high heat, add asparagus and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. Toss in the pan to heat through, add a small squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and a sprinkle of course salt.

For dessert I wanted a bit of warm fragrant spice as well, and reworked a simple Chef Michael Smith fruit pudding.

Place 2 cups of frozen mixed berries in a 2 qt sauce pan, add 1 cup orange juice (or as suits - I had orange guava passionfruit.. *shrug*). Add 1 small dried chili, 1 3" piece of cinnamon stick broken into two, 1 tbsp lemon peel, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 3 cloves, 1/4 tsp all spice, 1 vanilla bean pod (open, scraped and cut into two pieces), and 2 tbsp port wine. Simmer over medium low heat for 5-10 minutes or until berries are soft and disintegrating.

Strain mixture through a fine sieve, reserving the juice, and working the pulp to save as much juice as possible. Set aside 2-3 tbsp of the juice, return the rest of the juice to the pot. Add 2 tbsp of cornstarch into the reserved juice - stir well. Whisk the cornstarch slurry into the pot of juice. Simmer over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and translucent. Remove from heat. Pour into 4 dessert bowls, and cool in fridge. Serve with a small dollop of whip cream, or a spoonful of vanilla ice cream


the_plan: (Default)

July 2011

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