Running from the Law: February 2010

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Missing Jackson

I don't know why, but the last two nights I've had dreams about Jackson Hole.  I miss it!  It's calling to me to come back.  I'm in a bit of a sentimental mood today and this is really working on me.  For those of you that may have recently tuned into this little blog, my husband and I got married in Jackson Hole this past July, so it has a very special place in our hearts.  And it's just about the most beautiful place in the world.  It was around this time last year that Ryan and I headed out there to finalize some wedding stuff and get a bit of skiing in.  We fell in love with JH all over again.  The whole place was covered in snow and twinkle lights.  All the pine trees and fireplaces and moose.  Le sigh.  I want to go back.  I need to go back.  I felt like I was cheating on Jackson when I was in Breckenridge.  But Jackson knows my heart will always be there.   I love you, Jackson Hole. 

Does anyone else have a "special place" that they miss when they're not there?  Somewhere that means more to you than you could ever explain? 

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

10 Most Difficult Recipes to Make

Oh yeah? Prove it.

I recently saw this post on another blog I read. It's the Top 10 Most Difficult Recipes to Make. I've never made a single one of them! So, I feel like this is a personal challenge that I need to take on. Here is the list:

1. Savory souffles
2. Coq au vin
3. Mole
4. Beef Wellington
5. Napoleons
6. Paella
7. Puff pastry
8. Baked Alaska
9. Croissants
10. Sourdough bread

Intimidating, huh? I'm not even sure that I've actually eaten all these things, so this should be interesting. Although I've got to say that I love puff pastry, croissants, beef wellington, napoleons and paella, so this could turn out to be a real treat! I know the Kitchen Conservatory has classes on all these things, but I'm going to see what I can do on my own first. Although, I will be taking a Crusty Breads class with Alice next month, so consider the sourdough mastered. Boo-ya.

So, I think I'm going to give these recipes a try. I love a good challenge! It's going to take some time to get through them all, so be patient with me. I think I might need to devote an entire Saturday to each recipe....Remember on Top Chef Masters when Rick Bayless said it took him 20 years to perfect his negro mole becasue it had about a million ingredients and three million steps? Uh...yeah. I'll try to blog about the recipes, the process and what I discover along the way. If anyone wants to join me in this challenge, I'd love some company and we can compare notes (and link blogs).

So, what do you think I should try first?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Take a Pizza My Heart

Last night, Jessica and I took a hands-on pizza class at Kitchen Conservatory. The class was taught by Chef Mark Sanfilippo, who trained at Mario Batali's Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles, CA. This class was designed to show us how to make our own pizza dough from scratch, as well as make a classic Margherita pizza, Pizza Bianco with sage and fontina cheese, plus Pizza Fiama with Chef Mark's own fiama sausage, red onions and fresh mozzarella. Mark currently owns/runs Salume Beddu, a Tower Grove Park area business dedicated to producing authentic salume, fresh salisiccia, and other seasonal products like dips and relishes. He brought some of his own sausage and guanciale di maiale (cured pig's cheek) for us to use on the pizzas.

This was one of the most fun classes I've taken at the KC. Jessica and I both loved it! After my frustration with the chaos in the crab class, I was a little nervous that I might not get to make the dough, or see how everything was done, but that was nut not the case in this class. We literally had our hands in everything. Plus, the chef, Mark, was great. He was funny and kind of a smart-ass (and pretty adorable - Ryan just ignore that part). And it was also really cool to talk to him about his experience working with Mario Batali. He had nothing but nice things to say about the master chef.

We started out making the pizza dough. There were 4 different types of flour (bread flour, Companion Bakery's "secret" flour, all-purpose flour and 00 flour), which we all used to make about 6 doughs (which each make 2 pizzas). Jessica and I had bread flour, which was pretty easy to work with (although I will say that she was much better at handling the dough than I was). We made a "mashed potatoes and gravy" style pit in the middle of our flour and dumped in the yeast/water/sugar combo. Add a dash of evoo and start to blend it all together, starting from the inside and working your way out.
Before you know it, you've got dough. Wet slimy dough at first. Make sure to add flour gradually. If it add it too fast, the dough turns tough too quickly and isn't easy to work with. The people next to us learned that the hard way (although in the end, it didn't taste too bad!). The proper way to knead dough was smash it down, flip it up onto itself, and then smash it down again. And again. And again. For about 10 minutes. Your dough will get harder and then eventually softer the longer you knead. The more kneading, the stronger the dough...and pizza dough needs to be strong.
The final product is a pretty doughy ball of goodness. At this point we put the dough in a stainless steel bowl, covered it with a thin coat of evoo (which made it look like slimy brains), and covered it with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel.
While we let the dough rise, we got all the rest of our ingredients ready. First up, pizza sauce. The chef taught us to make a very simple (yet amazing) sauce that would work on a variety of different pizzas. Simple is always better in my book and this sauce was super simple and easy. We started with San Marzano tomatoes, which are apparently the only "proper" tomato to use when making Italian pizza. They come from a small town of the same name near Naples, Italy, and were first grown in volcanic soil in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius. The volcanic soil is believed to act as a filter for water impurities. I had no idea Italians were so picky when it comes to this type of thing! The tomatoes were added in with some evoo, salt, pepper, and a dash of sugar. Easy peasy.

Jessica got to run the tomatoes through a food mill to get them nice and smooth. And we had a world-class stir-master there to make sure that the sauce was properly stirred for the hour that it cooked. Hi Gerry!!
Next, we had to prepare the rest of the ingredients. We cut up the mozzarella and the fontina cheeses. We grated the pecorino romano. We blanched the rapini (broccoli rabe). We sliced and sauteed the red onions in olive oil. We fried the sage leaves in butter.
And then it was time for the meat. First there was the Fiama Salsiccia. We took it out of the casing and formed it into small dollops on a baking sheet and baked it in the oven for 10 minutes or so.
Next was the pig's cheek. I can't say that I was at all interested in trying this meat. It kinda looked like crispy bacon (which I love) and fatty ham (which I don't love). And the thought of eating pig face slightly bothered me. However, my curiosity got the best of me and I had to take a was delicious!! Who knew I liked pig's cheek?! It made me smile.

Once all our ingredients were prepared, it was time to start forming our pizza dough. Each dough ball was cut in half and ready to be stretched into the round flat pizza shape. We did this with our hands, not much tossing or flipping involved. Jessica was way better than I was. My pathetic attempt produced a pizza dough that had a couple holes in it and was a funky-looking shape (whatever, it still tasted good!), but Jessica's turned out lovely.
And now we're ready for our toppings...
And into the oven they go! Baked at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes on a pizza stone.
And the end product was amazing! Good to the last bite!
At the end of the class I had to buy a pizza stone and a peeler. Jessica bought a peeler and a food mill. And we both bought San Marzano tomatoes so we could make ourselves some pizza this weekend. Thank you Jessica for spending such a great evening with me! Let's do it again soon, ok?