Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Pizza Margherita

I thought I would tackle a recipe from Peter Reinhardt’s Crust and Crumb this week. I kept the toppings simple, since I was primarily concerned with the crust. This dough takes 3 days to make, but fear not because there’s about 20 minutes (if that) of active work for you to do; everything else is waiting for dough to rise, or letting your mixer do the work for you, or baking. I’m pretty pleased with the results; when I initially tasted the dough before baking, it had a very sweet (too sweet) characteristic from the honey. However, this was not present in the final pizza.

Poolish (makes enough for 2 batches):
2 cups (9 oz.) Bread Flour
2 cups (16 oz.) Water at 65 – 70 °F
1/8 teaspoon (0.35 grams, if you have a really precise scale) instant yeast

Add all ingredients into a bowl and whisk for 1 minute, until all lumps are removed. Cover with plastic wrap and leave out for 3 to 5 hours, until bubbly. Refrigerate overnight.

Sauce (makes enough for 2 12” pies):
6 oz. tomato paste
6 oz. water
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
1 tsp fish sauce
¼ tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried oregano

Add everything to a bowl and stir. Seriously, that’s it. Refrigerate, covered, until ready for use.

Dough (makes 3 12” pizzas)
10 oz. poolish (freeze extra for future use)
16 oz. (3.5 cups) bread flour
2 teaspoons (0.5 oz) salt
¼ teaspoon (0.03 oz) instant yeast
2 tablespoons (1.5 oz) honey
½ cup (4 ounces) olive oil (any grade)
¾ cup plus 1 tbsp cool water (65 to 70°F)

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the dough hook attachment, start the machine on low until a dough forms, then increase the speed to medium and knead for 12 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for 3 to 5 hours (depending on how warm it is in your kitchen) until bubbly. Refrigerate overnight.

Turn the dough out on a floured surface and divide into 3 equal sized portions. Unused portions can be kept in the fridge for 2 days or frozen.


Finished dough

Once you’ve taken the dough out of the fridge and portioned it, let it sit out at room temperature in a bowl covered with plastic wrap for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 450°F.

On a well-floured surface, roll out the dough using a rolling pin (you’ll want to sprinkle some flour on the rolling pin as well), rotating a quarter turn each time to maintain an even circle.  You will probably want to rest the dough for 5 minutes in the middle of this process, so it can relax. Definitely do this if you find the dough snapping back too much. Roll your dough out to a diameter of a little over 12” and place in a cast iron skillet. Fold any overhand over itself to create the crust.

Ladle on about ¾ cup of pizza sauce, and top with slices of mozzarella. Place the skillet on a large burner on the stove, and turn the heat on high. Cook for 3 minutes (this gives the bottom a head start so you get a nice crust going), then transfer to the oven for 13 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and place fresh basil leaves overtop. You should let the pizza cool a few minutes before eating, but if you’re like me you’ll just end up chowing down and burning the roof of your mouth. 
Well, it's almost a circle

My skillet's one hot spot

Monday, March 25, 2013

Herb Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic Reduction

This week's theme ingredient is herbs, and since I had a pork tenderloin in my freezer waiting to be eaten, I knew some rosemary and thyme would be making their way onto my plate. I've never cooked a tenderloin this way before - the few times I've made one I usually wrap it in puff pastry and do a pork wellington sort of deal. I didn't get much color on the outside cooking at 425 - I think if I repeat this recipe I'd preheat the oven to 500, put the tenderloin in, and immediately turn off the oven, leaving the meat to cook with the residual heat. 

Balsamic reduction recipe taken straight from:

20 oz. ice water
1 oz (2 tbsp) salt
1 tbsp sugar
½ teaspoon dried dalmation sage leaves
4 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
2 carrots, sliced
½ large white onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, smashed
Olive oil
1 Pork Tenderloin

In a large pan over medium heat cook the onion, cook the onion, carrots and garlic cloves in a little olive oil for about 5 minutes, until softened. Turn off the heat and add the rest of the ingredients. Pour the brine into a large Ziploc bag. If it’s still hot, toss it in the fridge for an hour. Add the pork tenderloin, and brine for 6 to 12 hours in the refrigerator.

2 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Combine all ingredients in a small food processor and blitz a few times to work everything together. Rub all over the tenderloin. Roast for 15 minutes, or until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 140-145°F. Let the meat rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Balsamic Reduction:
1 tbsp chopped shallots
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1.5 teaspoons sugar
Olive oil

In a small pan over medium heat, cook the shallots and garlic in olive oil for 2 minutes. Add the vinegar, rosemary and Dijon. Add the sugar in ½ teaspoon increments – you may not need the full amount, as different balsamic vinegars have different acidity levels. Taste as the vinegar reduces, and add additional sugar in ½ teaspoon increments as needed. Bring the mixture to a simmer, and reduce for about 20 minutes, until reduced by 2/3rds.

Quinoa Pilaf:
1 cup quinoa, rinsed in cold water
2 cups chicken stock
1 shallot, chopped
Peas (frozen)
1.5 tablespoons fresh basil, cut into chiffonade
Olive oil

In a medium pan over medium heat, cook the chopped shallots in olive oil for a minute, then add the quinoa and toast for 2 minutes. Add the stock, season with salt, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover for 15 minutes, until the quinoa grains open up into neat looking spirals. Meanwhile, blanch the asparagus in a pot of well salted boiling water for 5 minutes, adding the frozen peas during the last minute. Drain, and add to cooked quinoa along with basil.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Winter Beet Salad with Goat Cheese Mousse and Orange Vanilla Vinagrette

I was all excited when daylight savings time hit, because that means its spring, and that means warm weather and fresh vegetables and baseball. Well it snowed this weekend, and it’s too early to plant my modest balcony garden. Plus, spring training games don’t really cut it. I don’t really know how this ties into this post, other than to say it is still definitely winter in my area of the world, so here’s some winter vegetables in the form of a salad.  This recipe makes a lot of vinaigrette and goat cheese mousse. While you could easily trim down the amount of mousse you make, there’s not much of a way around ending up with a pretty hefty amount of vinaigrette.

This overall dish was heavily inspired by a similar beet dish in the Eleven Madison Park Cookbook. The vinaigrette is straight from the cookbook that comes with Vitamixes.

Orange Vanilla Vinagrette (makes 3 cups)
2 oranges, peeled, halved, seeded
1 lemon, peeled, halved, seeded
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon honey
1 dash hot sauce
1/4 teasoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil

Add all ingredients but the olive oil into a blender, and process until liquefied – for a Vitamix, start on setting 1, increase speed to setting 4 and process for 20 seconds. Reduce the speed to low (setting 1) and open up the plug on the lid. Slowly pour in the olive oil with the blender running until all is emulsified.

Goat Cheese Mousse:
4 oz. goat cheese
½ cup (4 oz.) heavy cream

Add both ingredients to a food processor and process until smooth.

Salad (for 2 servings):
1 golden beet
1 carrot
1 black radish
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
1 tbsp butter

Preheat your oven to 400°F. Peel the beet and slice into ¼” thick slices. Place in a roasting dish and season with salt and pepper and pour on a little olive oil. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel the carrot and slice into ¼” thick rounds. Place in a 10” pan, and pour in cold water until it comes about halfway up the carrots. Add in the 1 tbsp of butter and some salt. Turn the heat on medium, until the water comes up to a simmer, turn down to low/medium low and let cook for 10 minutes, until the carrots are fork tender, the water has evaporated, and the carrots are glazed.

Peel and slice the black radish as thinly as possible. Before assembly, you’ll want to cut everything into rounds. A ring mold is the weapon of choice here; I actually used the cap of a Gatorade bottle. If you have different sized ring molds, even better. Cut the roasted golden beets, pickled red beets, and black radishes into circles. Nature already took care of the carrots being the right shape for this dish, so no need to do any additional reshaping there. Lay out the vegetables on a plate, top with vinaigrette and goat cheese and a little black pepper.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Bangers & Mash with Beer and Onion Gravy

With St. Patrick’s day right around the corner, what better time to make an Irish pub classic? I wanted to try something different with the mashed potatoes, so instead of using a potato masher I worked my spuds through a china cap. It was a lot of physical work, but the potatoes came out restaurant quality, with not a lump to be found. Makes me think I should invest in a potato ricer. For the gravy I used a bottle of Avery Old Jubilation – an English Old Ale with nutty/toffee notes to it. Any stout or porter would work well here, with a Guinness being the obvious choice. Adapted from:

Bangers & gravy
1 1/3 lb. pork sausages (6 to 8)
½ large white onion, sliced
12 oz. beer (I used Avery’s Old Jubilation)
1 cup stock (I used chicken because that’s what I had in my freezer)
3 tbsp butter, divided
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp Worcestershire
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper

Mashed potatoes:
2 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes (or russet)
¾ cup heavy cream
2 cloves garlic
4 tbsp butter, softened

For the bangers:
Heat a 12” skillet over medium high heat, toss in 1 tablespoon butter and add the sausages, letting them get some good color for 30 seconds to a minute. Cut the heat down to medium, and cook most of the way through – they don’t have to be completely done at this point. Set aside. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, add the beer and stock to a sauce pan and heat to a simmer.

Push the onions to one side of the skillet, and melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Add in the 2 tablespoons of flour and whisk to form a roux, cooking about 1 minute until lightly golden. Add the simmering beer/stock mixture ½ cup at a time, whisking everything together to avoid lumps. After all the liquid has been added, add the sausages back in the pan along with the Worcestershire, mustard, and salt and pepper. Simmer the sauce for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until you reach the desired consistency – the sauce should coat the back of a spoon, and you should be able to wipe a line down the back of the spoon with your finger that stays put.

Mashed potatoes:
Peel and cut the potatoes into 1” square (approximately) chunks. Add to cold water to a pot (along with your potatoes) and salt generously. Taste the water – it should be a bit on the salty side. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, uncovered and cook until the potatoes are fork tender (but not falling apart tender), about 15 to 20 minutes.

Drain, and place the potatoes into a china cap. Use a ladle to work the potatoes through the holes of the china cap, into the pot you used to cook them. Meanwhile, heat the cream along with the garlic cloves to a simmer. Remove from heat and keep warm. When all of the potatoes have been passed through the china cap, strain the garlic/cream through a strainer into the pot with the mashed potatoes. Discard the garlic. Fold the cream into the potatoes gently – pretend your baking – so as to add air to the mixture. Add the 4 tablespoons of softened butter, and continue to fold until incorporated. Season with additional salt if you think it needs it.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Cannoli Cheesecake

This was my first time making an actual cheesecake - I've made cheesecake cupcakes and brownies before, but never the real deal 'if you don't do this right you're going to crack it' cheesecake. I referenced a number of recipes for cannoli/ricotta cheesecake variations, and none of them mentioned using a water bath/bain marie setup. Maybe I'll give that a try the next time around and report my results. Adapted from:

1/3 cup (1 oz.) sliced almonds
7 oz. vanilla wafers
7 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

1 16 oz container plus 1 cup (7 ounces, for a total of 23 oz.) ricotta
10 oz cream cheese, room temperature
2 tbsp flour
Pinch salt
1 ¼ cup sugar (~9 oz.)
2 tbsp orange zest
1 tbsp vanilla extract
½ cup mini chocolate chips (plus more for garnish)
4 large eggs, at room temperature

For the crust:

Preheat oven to 350°F, and position the oven racks so your cheesecake will cook in the middle of the oven. Add almonds and wafers to a food processor, and pulse several times to crush into small pieces. The original recipe calls for adding 3 tbsp granulated sugar here- The “Nilla” brand wafers I used had plenty of sugar in them already, so I chose to omit any additional sugar. Add the melted butter to the crumb mixture, and pulse once or twice to incorporate.

Prepare a 9” springform pan by rubbing butter all along the inside and tossing flour on top of the butter layer. Transfer the crust mixture to the pan, pressing down and up the sides. Place a layer of plastic wrap overtop the crust while you do this to make life easier. Bake for 9 to 12 minutes. Remove and let cool on a rack.

For the filling:

In the bowl of a stand mixture fitted with the paddle attachment, add the ricotta, cream cheese, flour and salt. Beat on medium until very smooth and the cheese is devoid of lumps, about 5 minutes. Stop once or twice to scrape down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the sugar, zest, and vanilla, and continue to beat on medium for another minute until completely blended and smooth.

Add the chocolate chips and mix on low until the chips are incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, with the mixer on low, until each is just incorporated. Don’t overmix.

Pour the mixture on top of the crust, and place the springform pan on a baking sheet (you can also place tinfoil over the bottom of the pan, if you’d like). Bake for 55 to 65 minutes. The cheesecake should be puffy around the edges, and jiggle like jello when you tap the side of the pan. Remove and set on a rack, allowing to cool completely. Transfer to the fridge, and chill it overnight. Garnish with mini chocolate chips to serve.

Yep, I cracked it

Monday, March 4, 2013

Tacos de Pabellon Criollo with Jicama Slaw

Pabellon is the national dish of Venezuela, so putting it on a taco is probably sacrilege to many, but I like to live dangerously. This version comes from Gran Cocina Latina, and is a bit different than what I’ve had before. The Venezuelan food truck down the street from my office was where I first had this dish, with long stringy strands of tangy braised beef. I don’t know their recipe, but I assume they do a typical braise; this recipe uses flank steak, which is boiled and then shredded before being “quick-braised” (if that’s a word). Since that thing about pabellon that really struck me was the tangy flavor imparted with the beef, I decided to double down on that characteristic and serve it with a Jicama slaw, which is adapted from

A note on oil: This recipe calls for achiote-infused corn oil. This can be made by adding annatto seeds (they look like little red rocks and can be found at Mexican groceries) to corn oil in a small saucepan and heating for a few minutes until infused. Strain out the solid seeds and discard. The book calls for ¾ cup to be added to the pan before frying the beef, and doesn’t mention discarding excess oil after this step. This seemed off to me, so I reduced the oil by a good bit, but still added more than I normally would (I guess on the off chance that there was some reason I was missing for using this much oil). The result ended up on the greasy side, so in the future I’ll just be adding a bit of oil and sautéing the beef.

Jicama Slaw:
1 Jicama, Grated
½ head of napa cabbage, grated
2 carrots, grated
¼ lemon juice
¼ cup lime juice
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp brown sugar
1.5 tbsp ancho chili powder
1 tsp cumin
Pinch cayenne
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup canola oil
Salt and pepper

Grate the jicama, napa cabbage and carrots and add to a bowl. I used a food processor to save time. In a separate bowl/pyrex measuring cup, add the lemon juice, lime juice, cider vinegar, brown sugar, ancho chili powder, cumin and cayenne (phew). Slowly pour in the olive and canola oil, whisking to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper, and pour over veggies. Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.

Pabellon Criollo
2 lbs flank steak
1 large yellow onion
1 red bell pepper, deseeded
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Cut the flank steak into sections approx. 2 inches wide. Add 2 quarts of water to a dutch oven, along with steak, onion, pepper, black peppercorns, cumin, oregano and red wine vinegar. Season with salt as needed. Bring to simmer and cook for 2 hours. Remove meat, strain broth and reserve. Shred the meat with 2 forks into thin pieces.

Achiote infused corn oil (see note in introduction)
1.5 teaspoons salt, or to taste
8 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced (1.5 cups)
1 red bell pepper cut into ¼” strips
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
¼ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Heat a 12” pan and add about a 1tbsp of oil until whisps of smoke appear. Add the shredded beef and cook until crisp, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove to plate. Add garlic to the pan, and cook for about 40 seconds until golden. Add onion and bell pepper along with black pepper, cumin and oregano, and cook for 2 minutes more. Add meat back in the pan, and cook 2 minutes more. Add 1 cup of reserved broth (save the rest for another use) and 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce and cook for 15 minutes. Heat corn tortillas on a cast iron skillet. Top with pabellon and jicama slaw.