Saturday, May 29, 2010

Thin Crust Pizza

Sauteed red pepper, carmelized onion, sausage, and olive pizza

We eat a lot of seafood while we cruise - I mean a LOT of seafood, just-caught and fresh from the saltwater seafood. We catch enough to eat, but don't can or even freeze any to keep long-term. Nothing beats really fresh fish (or crab or shrimp), so we rarely eat any seafood during the winter.  

Ah, but it's a different story with a few other food items, like pizza. Pizza is essential, and I crave it year round - on the boat, at the house, on a trip, it doesn't matter where. But bad pizza is worse than no pizza, so we dine most often on homemade pizza. While afloat we've enjoyed crab pizza, smoked salmon pizza, halibut pizza and of course, the usual vegie, cheese and/or meat varieties. (Note to niece Hilary: I'm still working on the sauce for the halibut version.)

We're especially fond of thin-crust pizza, and have an ever-changing list of  favorite toppings. The toppings may change, but the crust rarely varies. Well, except for the herbs I might add to the dough. The basic dough recipe is simple and can handle a few adjustments with no problem. I keep trying new dough recipes, but haven't converted to another one yet. 

The latest tweak to the dough used garlic and rosemary flavored olive oil and a heaping teaspoon of mixed Italian herbs (oregano, basil, etc.). Other batches have substituted 1/4 cup sourdough starter for equal amounts of water and AP flour, and decreased the amount of dry yeast. An overnight rest, followed by a countertop rise made for a terrific variation. 

The Capt. requires red sauce for a pizza to be real. I'm fond of white sauce, or sometimes no sauce. So we compromise, with a half-and-half or two individual pizzas. Pizza dough doesn't care, it adapts. 

Could there be an anchovy lurking in this mix?

Here's my basic pizza dough, slightly adapted from a recipe by Bonita Atkins in Pasta & Co. Encore, a gem of a 1996 cookbook.

Bonita Atkins's Pizza Crust

2 pkg (1/4 oz each) dry yeast
1 ½ cups warm water (abut 115 F)
1 tsp sugar
1 ½ cups AP white flour
1 ½ cups semolina flour
1 tsp salt
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
Additional all-purpose flour as needed
Olive oil, cornmeal or additional semolina flour, and toppings of your choice for baking pizza

In a mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Add the sugar and the AP flour. Beat vigorously for 1 minute. Dough should be the consistency of a thick cake batter. (A food processor or stand mixer works well here.)

Turn oven to 150 F. Open oven door, pull shelf partway out, and place dough on the shelf to rise for 30 minutes. Do not cover dough. (OR place a cup of water in the microwave and heat it for 3-4 minutes. Place the bowl of dough in the warm oven, close the door quickly, and let rise.)

At the end of 30 minutes, stir down the dough and add the semolina flour, salt, and olive oil (and optional herbs, if used). Mix well. Place dough on a floured surface and knead well for about 8 minutes, adding additional AP flour only as needed to keep dough from sticking (OR use a dough hook and stand mixer). Form dough into two balls. At this point, you can freeze the dough for later use or make it into pizzas immediately.

Each ball should make a thin-crust 13-inch pizza or a thick-crust 7-inch pizza. Knead each ball into a ½-inch-thick (if you are making smaller pizzas, cut each ball in half before kneading).

Makes crust for two 13-inch pizzas.

There's a fork in the photo, but fingers are preferred.

When Ready to Make Pizza:
Peheat oven to 500 F. Lightly brush a heavy-grade baking sheet with olive oil and dust with either cornmeal or semolina flour. (Perforated pans are recommended; lightweight pans won't produce a crispy crust.)

Place dough on prepared baking sheet and press or roll to desired thickness (usually 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick). If dough resists, let it rest for a few seconds, then continue pressing. (If using a pizza stone, place dough on a cornmeal-dusted wooden peel, form dough, add toppings, then slide it onto the preheated stone to bake.)

Add your choice of toppings, spreading evenly and being careful not to overload the center of the pizza. (I typically spread a very light touch of olive oil on the dough, add some meltable cheese like fresh mozzarella, add dabs of red sauce for the Capt, lightly scatter other toppings, and then finish with shreds of Parmesan.

Bake on lowest shelf of preheated oven for 10 minutes, or until toppings are golden and crust is well-browned (be sure to check bottom of crust). Remove to cooling rack, let cool briefly to set up the cheese, slice and enjoy.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Chorizo Clam Chowder

Kitchenette vs Galley

The original, sensible plan was to…
  • book a motel close to the boatyard. Check.      
  • book a motel with a kitchenette so we wouldn’t have to eat out every meal, every day. Check.
  • eat healthy for the two or three weeks that the boat was up on the hard. Check - okay, like the boat, this one is still a work in progress. 
The motel kitchenette reminds me of the kitchen in my very first studio apartment, back in the day when I didn’t cook (or eat) much. This facility has more square footage, smaller appliances and fewer utensils. Note: no microwave and the fridge freezes everything in the produce drawer. It’s a good thing there is a mini bar fridge next to the bed to hold a few vegies. A good grocery is only half block away, through a field and across a parking lot, so it is manageable.

Oh my, how I take for granted the ease of cooking on board, surrounded by home-sized appliances and generous storage. Compared to our previous vessels, this galley is heaven. The warm glow of the cherry cabinets and the ever-changing views out the windows also contribute a lot to the enjoyment. 

It’s been a week of challenges, with some ingredients at the motel, and my spices, mixing bowls and favorite pans and knives on the boat. We can eat breakfast and lunch on board, but any dirty dishes go the motel each evening for washing up. After two weeks, it is becoming routine.

The biggest challenge has been cooking simple or one-pot meals in the evening. Now it really feels like I could be living the life in that studio apartment of old! 

A search through the boat cabinets and freezer last week yielded some frozen chorizo, a variety of spices and a few cans of clams. With some onions, potatoes, parsley and dairy from the grocery, the chowder almost made itself. The recipe was a riff off of Julia Child’s New England Chowder, my usual go-to recipe when I have fresh seafood. Julia might not recognize or claim this version, but it was popular in my kitchenette.

Chorizo and Clam Chowder 
very loosely based on New England Chowder, From Julia Child’s Kitchen. 

2 or 3 links of Spanish chorizo sausage
1 large onion, chopped
1 sweet pepper, chunked
1 heaping tablespoon flour
1/2 cup hot water
2 cups fish stock or chicken stock or clam juice (or a combination)
several boiling potatoes, chunked
1/4 teaspoon thyme or sage
1 bay leaf
Freshly ground pepper
Salt as needed (none, if clam juice is used)

2 large cans clams
1+ cups milk or half and half
Sour cream
Fresh croutons, cut large, toasted & tossed in butter, salt & pepper
Handful of roughly chopped fresh parsley

Saute the chorizo for several minutes over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pan; brown very lightly and render its fat. Add the onions and peppers; stirring frequently, cook until tender but not browned. Pour the sausage and vegetables into a sieve set over a bowl to drain out the fat, then return them to the pan. Blend in the flour, adding a bit of the pan drippings if the mixture is stiff; cook slowly for 2 minutes, stirring constantly; remove from the heat. Vigorously blend in he how water to incorporate all of the flour; beat in the stock (or clam juice), blending thoroughly. Add the potatoes, herbs, pepper and salt(if using). Boil slowly until potatoes are just tender.

Add the clams, then pour in the milk - it tends to curdle if added sooner. Let it come to a simmer, then taste and correct seasonings. (I added some green tabasco at this point)

Ladle chowder into big soup plates, top each with several large croutons, a big blop of sour cream, and sprinkle the parsley over all.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Cranberry Orange Cookies

Baking cookies for the boatyard crew has become an yearly tradition, whenever we’re hauled out or having work done. It's easy enough to do when we are up on the hard. 50 amp power is available, so the oven is functional and the fridge is running. The cabinets are well-stocked with staples, and several grocery stores are within walking distance.

OK, what’s the problem? It’s a time and scheduling issue… but that’s nothing new. I could haul supplies, baking sheets, etc. to the motel and bake there late at night. But instead I have been baking on board, in spare moments between projects and distractions. I’ve baked Chocolate Chip and Cowboy Cookies in the past weeks. What's next? Overnight Sticky Buns take two days and too much pre-planning; dainty girly cookies are not a great choice, so I turned to the computer for ideas.

Skimming through my recipe files I found a basic recipe for Slice and Bake Refrigerator Cookies, attributed to Dorie Greenspan and downloaded from a favorite website, SteamyKitchen.

Aa a bonus the recipe came with suggestions for a handful of add-ins to transform the basic cookie into something entirely new. I opted for the grated orange zest and chopped cranberry version - no contest, really since I already had clementines and cranberries on hand and could avoid running to the store… again.

The office staff at Discovery Harbour Marina enjoyed a plateful, and Dave and Ian, teak refinishers extraordinaire, had positive comments about another dozen or so. RL just smiled, and ate the rest himself. 

Slice and Bake Cookies

Adapted loosely from Dorie Greenspan
Makes about 50 cookies

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

2 large egg yolks, at room temperature

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoons vanilla or almond extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

My Add-in Items 
Grated zest of 2 oranges 
1/2 cup dried cranberries (finely chopped)

1. Put the butter in a mixing bowl and beat at medium speed until it is smooth. Add the sifted confectioners’ sugar and beat again until the mixture is smooth and silky. Beat in the egg yolks, followed by the salt and any dried fruits, zest, nuts or seeds. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, beating just until it disappears. It is better to underbeat than overbeat at this point. Turn the dough out onto a counter, gather it into a ball, and divide it in half. Wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

2. Working on a smooth surface, form each piece of dough into a log that is about 1 to 1 1/4 inches (2.5 to 3.2 cm) thick. (Get the thickness right, and the length you end up with will be fine.) Wrap the logs in plastic and chill for 2 hours. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and kept refrigerated for up to 3 days or stored in the freezer for up to 1 month.)
3. Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

4. While the oven heats, roll cookie logs in sugar or any coatings of your choice. Then, using a sharp slender knife, slice each log into cookies about 1/3 inch thick. (Make the cookies thicker if you’d like; just bake them longer.) Place the cookies on the lined baking sheets, leaving about 1/2 inch space between them.

5. Bake the cookies for 12 to 14 minutes, or until they are set but not browned. Transfer the cookies to cooling racks to cool to room temperature.

Do ahead: Packed airtight, the cookies will keep for about 5 days at room temperature, or in the freezer for a month. 

Unbaked logs can be frozen for longer.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Arroz con Pollo

Och tamale! no wait, that's the Univ of Redlands chant! Happy Cinco de Mayo instead.

It's almost Cinco de Mayo and that's reason enough to enjoy a Mexican dinner - as though we need a reason! May 5 is usually an excuse to host a party, but not this year. The boat will be in a shed on dry land, and I'll be cooking in a motel's small kitchenette. We enjoy so many Mexican, Tex-Mex and SouthWest dishes that it's difficult to choose just a few for our dinner for two.  

It's been a long time since I've made Arroz con Pollo, and a SeriousEats post about rice brought it to mind. I know we'll welcome the leftovers for quick lunches of burritos, quesadillas and the like, so it's a good choice for several reasons. With MexiCorn Salad and braised kale as sides, it will look like a fiesta on a plate.

Note: brace yourself for way too many photos in this post. I got a little carried away... but I've recovered. 

Arroz con Pollo     
Loosely adapted from Real Kitchen, Tyler Florence
Serves 6 to 8
Prep time: 30 minutes              Cook time: 1 hour 15 min

Ingredients, grouped by process
1 3-lb fryer, cut into 10 serving pieces (I used 8 thighs)
4 TBS olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 tsp ground cumin
1 ½ TBS dried oregano
2 tsp sweet paprika
½ tsp cayenne pepper (I substituted Chipotle Tabasco sauce)
1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 LB dried chorizo sausage, cut into 1-inch chunks (or another hot link sausage or  linguica)

1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red pepper, seeded and diced (roasted is good)
1 poblano pepper, seeded and diced (roasted is good)
2 bay leaves

2 cups long grain white rice
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes with liquid
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth, warmed 
1 cup pimento stuffed green olives, halved

¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, rough chopped
¼ cup blanched almond slices, toasted
1 lime, cut into wedges

1. Rinse the chicken pieces and dry thoroughly. Skin left on is tastier, skinless is healthier - you choose. In a small bowl, combine 2 TB oil, salt and pepper, cumin, oregano, paprika, cayenne and cinnamon. Rub each chicken piece with the spicy paste and chill, covered, for at least 20 minutes to develop the flavor.
It's definitely messy, but worth it!

2. In a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven with lid, heat the remaining 2 TB oil over medium-high heat. Fry the chorizo until it is brown and crispy and renders its fat. Remove the chorizo with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

3. In 2 batches (so it doesn't crowd), place the chicken in the pan skin side down and cook until it is browned and moves easily. Turn it over and brown the other side, about 10 minutes total. Remove from the pan and set aside. At this point I remove all but a tablespoon or two of any fat in the pan.

4. In the same Dutch oven, saute the onion, garlic, peppers and bay leaves; cook until the vegetables are very soft, but not dissolved. 

5. Stir in the rice so the grains are well coated. Add the tomatoes and broth, season with salt and pepper.(I skip the salt since the sausage and tomatoes are fairly salty ingredients.)

6. Return the chorizo and then the chicken to the pan. 

7. Bring the mixture to a boil and let simmer for a minute or two. 

8. Cover and transfer to the oven. Bake for 20 min or until chicken is done and the rice is tender and has absorbed the liquid.

9. Scatter the olives on top just before serving. Plate with cilantro and olives on top, lime wedges alongside.
10. Open the beer or pour the wine and enjoy. Ole!
Note 1: There are always leftovers! The rice and meats make excellent fillings for stuffed peppers, burritos, quesadillas, tacos, or even omelets or savory crepes. 

Note 2: Next time I'll recreate these disassembled, cooking the chicken separately for a crispier finish, to get a toothier bite on the rice. One-pot Arroz con Pollo is good, but using a pot and a grill pan might be even better. Any thoughts on this?

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