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Posts Tagged ‘Dinner’

Ahh, pizza.  On my list of the top 5 favorite foods, I would say pizza is either number 1 or 2 on the list.  If you asked me any day of the week what I wanted to eat for dinner and I could have anything I wanted, chances are good it would be pizza.  Hot, melting mozzarella, perfectly seasoned sauce, light, crispy and slightly chewy crust, garlic, any manner of cured meats – how can you not just love something like that?

I was really excited when Rosa of Rosa’s Yummy Yums announced this month’s challenge was Pizza Dough – hand tossed, no less.  My mind started dancing around ideas for pizzas.  The challenge left a lot of room for interpretation of your final pizza, as long as you hand tossed the dough and used some kind of sauce.

Unfortunately, this month has been so busy, I just couldn’t get to the challenge until the end of the month.  That’s just not the best way to do things – being rushed is a recipe for some kind of failure.  And, failure is what I experience (at least, in part).

It wasn’t a monumental failure, things just didn’t go how I had planned.  First, tossing the dough was an exercise in futility.  The first one started really well, but it wasn’t getting big enough.  I finally had to resort to kind of letting the dough fall over my hands as I rotated it to get the right size, shape and thickness.  Second, I thought I had liberally dusted the pan with semolina, and I was just going to slide the pizza right onto the hot stone in the oven.  It wasn’t to be.  The pizza would not move from the pan.  So, I ended up baking it on that pan, which took twice as long as the recipe called for, resulting in a new delicacy – blackened sun-dried tomatoes.  These tomatoes look like they were sun-dried on the surface of the sun itself.  Thankfully, even burned, they actually tasted good, hey, maybe I’ve discovered something I may try again.  Third, one piece of dough just wouldn’t work for me.  I had split my dough into 4 pieces and froze 1.  I pulled out 3 for the evening. 

I had planned 3 pizzas that night.  We were having guests and I decided, against my better judgment, to violate one of my rules about baking:  Never try a new recipe on guests, always test bake it at least once first.  Well, this was the only night I had available, and the guests were added after I made my plans.  Soooo, they get to by my guinea pigs.

For the savory pizzas, I made a simple pizza sauce I’ve used before.  Pizza #1 was topped with mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes and roasted chicken breast.  Pizza #2 was topped with mozzarella, turkey pepperoni, sliced mushrooms and sliced olives.  So, back to problem #3 – one of the dough balls just wouldn’t work at all for me.  It tore, it formed a weird shape.  I let it rest and tried again, same problem as before.  I let it rest once more and it wouldn’t move, it was all seized up with gluten.  I tried to roll it out with a pin, but it wouldn’t budge.  I finally, out of desperation, trashed that piece of dough – I just didn’t have time to deal with it.

My dessert pizza was going to be a caramel apple crisp with a cinnamon cream cheese sauce.  I think it would have been great, and I’ll probably try it again sometime, but I just couldn’t get to it that night.  Unfortunately (or, perhaps, fortunately), I had already sliced up 5 apples and sautéed them with butter and brown sugar.  Now I had this pan of nicely cooked apples in a sweet buttery sauce and no dough upon which to which to mount my culinary creation.  But, this post is about the Daring Bakers, so if you want to see what I did with this, just scroll down to the next post or click here.

All in all, this challenge was only OK for me.  I really wanted to like this challenge, but I just didn’t have the time, the patience or the technique to do it quite right.  My guests were pleased and they ate up the 2 pizzas I did make, along with my dessert ‘punt’.  The dough wasn’t quite to my taste, though.  It just wasn’t quite the taste and texture I like.  While pan pizza isn’t my favorite (I prefer a thinner crust), I do really like this recipe I’ve used before.

You’ll notice that there is no photo of me tossing the dough.  Because of the last minute guests, I didn’t have another set of hands available to photograph me tossing the dough.  Sorry to bug out on that one.  I did try it, though I made larger pizzas and the dough kind of fell apart.  One other problem.  I’m 6′ 1″, and my ceiling is just a bit higher than 7′ – it doesn’t leave much room for tossing – the whole time I pictured a moment that might be like something out of an old I Love Lucy show – either pizza dough stuck to the ceiling, or draped all over my head.

Thanks again to Rosa and the Daring Bakers for the challenge.  It was a fun one.  I’m looking forward to checking out all the other DB creations out there, I can’t wait!!

I’ve posted a copy of the recipe for the dough and the sauce here.  Click on any of the photos below to view a larger version.

     

     

     

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One of the things I find frustrating is that for all of the restaurants out there, it seems like the ones I like the most manage to close up shop just when I really start to like them.  We’re don’t live in a large town, so we get mostly fast food places and the usual small pub type restaurants.  I’m not complaining, some of those little pubs/bars have some great food.   We do have the chance to go to quite a few good restaurants if we don’t mind driving awhile, but when we want the opportunity for a regular sit-down style family restaurant, we appreciate the chance to stay closer to home.

We’ve had restaurants come and go here before.  It seems they just couldn’t keep the doors open with the amount of business they could get in our area.  One such case was Cucina Fresca, an Italian restaurant that opened in our town some years ago.  They were in business for maybe 2 years before they closed.  Now, we have access to other Italian restaurants, but this place was a little different.  They had dishes we didn’t found at the other Italian joints.  My wife and I each had our personal favorites.  For me, it was the Spicy Chicken Alfredo – unlike any other I’d had before – it was hot, but not too hot and that heat mixed very well with the creamy sauce.  For my wife, it was a dish they called Balsamic Beef.

When the restaurant closed, we both lamented the passing of yet another nice place to eat in town.  Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, but these dishes were unique, and we just couldn’t find them anywhere else.  While I could (and probably should) live without the Spicy Alfredo, my wife was sorely lamenting the loss of her dish.  I decided to set out replicating that dish myself.  And so my quest was on.

I’m a fair cook.  I can follow a recipe fairly well and can even improvise from time to time.  But developing a recipe from scratch is not a particularly strong talent of mine. 

Balsamic Beef consisted of strips of beef, marinated and sauteed in a balsamic vinegar sauce and served over a bed of creamy risotto.  I wasn’t sure exactly where to start, so I started with the obvious – the Balsamic Vinegar.  Prior to sampling this recipe, I hadn’t even heard of Balsamic Vinegar before (I’m not exactly cultured when it comes to food).  I did some research and found what I was looking for.  I sampled some straight from the bottle and realized I needed to temper the acidity and bite of the vinegar.  I couldn’t decide what to use, so I went to the cupboard and started grabbing things.  I tried sugar, salt, honey, soy sauce, sweet and sour sauce – nothing worked.  I finally came very close to the taste of the sauce in the original recipe when I mixed 1/2 Balsamic vinegar with 1/2 Kikkoman Teriyaki.  Kikokkoman is not a particularly sweet teriyaki, but it was sweet enough to calm the flavor of the vinegar.  The taste was very similar to the sauce in the original dish.  I figured the meat must have been marinated, so I took some strips of beef (pre-cut stir fry beef from the store) and marinated it for about 1 hour in the balsamic/teriyaki sauce.  Next I cooked the beef in the marinade (yes, in the marinade) as that was the only way I could fully duplicate the taste of the beef and the sauce they used.  I checked a few sources and found that it would be okay to use the marinade as long as it was well cooked.  I succeeded in duplicating both the beef and the sauce, now I just needed to replicate the pile of carbs it was sitting on.

              

As I mentioned before, I’m not particularly cultured when it comes to food, so at the time, I could not figureout what they were serving with the beef.  It looked like rice, but tasted like pasta and was creamy in texture.  I looked around and asked questions, but didn’t get much help (this was before we had access to the internet).  I tried what seemed to be close, some cous cous I had in the pantry.  It was good, but it just wasn’t the same.  I kept looking around and came across a show on television where they were talking about risotto.  I’d never had risotto before, so I wasn’t sure what it was or how to make it.  Bobby Flay to the rescue.  He talked about stirring this stuff for the better part of 30 minutes.  Sounded like a lot of work, but it was worth a try.  Once I found that what I needed to buy was Arborio rice, I quickly snatched some up and hit the kitchen.  You know, it wasn’t too hard – it just needs some attention and tender loving care.

I combined the ingredients together and voila, I had managed to recreate, as closely as my wife could tell, the recipe from our dearly departed eatery.  Now if I could only muster the guts to try and re-make that tasty alfredo – maybe some day…

If you’d like a copy of my recipe, click here.

 

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