February 23, 2011

Monks and Devils: Pizza Diavolo

Pizza Diavolo, Father Dominic's Way

I loved the old CBS News bit Everyone Has a Story. Correspondent Steve Hartman would head off to wherever in America the dart landed, flip through a phone book in a booth with his eyes closed, plop his pointer finger down on any old name, and pay a visit. His premise was that everyone has a story, and I remember several times his difficulty in explaining to the questioning soul clutching the door knob that, yes, s/he too had a story, and convincing her/him to share it. I'd always end up with tears in my eyes, and the intense feeling that people are so amazingly cool.

For most of us, we don't get to do the absolutely random dart throw/ road trip/ meet someone new, but that doesn't mean that interesting people don't cross our paths with frequency. Because, under this premise, everyone we come across is interesting.

But some people are extraordinarily interesting. Take for example, my new acquaintance, Father Dominic Garramone. Papa Dom, as his students at St. Bede's Academy call him, is a playwright, herb gardener, a former PBS cooking show host. And, the author of seven cookbooks, including his latest, Thursday Night Pizza.

I've never known a Benedictine monk before. A Benedictine monk who promotes devilishly good pizza, no less. Check this out. Look for the first very jolly man you see, and it will be Father Dom.

Diavolo (Italian for devil) generally refers to food made fiery with chile peppers, cayenne, or other forms of pepper. In Father Dominic's Pizza Diavolo, peppery heat shows up not only in a little hot pepper sauce added to his flavorful 8-minute Pizza Sauce and a topping of jalepenos, but also in his homemade Hot Italian Sausage. Homemade sausage, dear reader! I had put sausage making in the category of ketchup-making... Why go to the trouble when you can purchase a quite decent product? Make this sausage, and you'll know why. Father's Dominic's delicious and trouble-free recipe takes literally 5 minutes to put together. There is no excuse to ever buy Italian sausage again!

You also know that after decades of experimentation, I'm quite proud of my pizza crust. So proud that I had difficulty budging off of it to try Father Dominic's Basic American Style Pizza Crust recipe. Life is too short to eat even one crummy pizza crust, but I jumped in and did it his way. Absolutely no disappointment whatsoever. We baked half of the dough, froze the other half, and the following week it thawed and performed as wonderfully a second time.

I heartily endorse Thursday Night Pizza with its three crust recipes, ten sauces and a myriad of pizza combos. I even suspect that recipes from this book, like Muffaleta Pizza and Denver Diner Pizza will taste at least as good on our traditional pizza Fridays as it does on St. Bede's Thursday night haustus. And I doubt that Father Dominic will argue with me that in this case, perhaps Diavolo should just be translated to mean "full of personality" instead of full of the devil.

Hot Italian Sausage
with permission
From Thursday Night Pizza by Fr. Dominic Garramone, O. S. B.

1 lb. ground pork
2 teaspoons Italian herb blend
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons black pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt

Mix in a bowl, cover, refrigerate until ready to use.

Father Dominic recommends browning this sausage before putting it atop the pizza. I dropped pinches of the sausage mixture into a lightly olive-oiled skillet over medium heat for several minutes until the pink was gone. I also followed Father Dominic's advice and crushed the spices together in a pestle before adding to the pork. He also recommends grinding them in a spice grinder as an alternative.

Our local Palotai Winery Dolcetto is a pizza night favorite, and was a hit with the Pizza Diavolo.

February 18, 2011

Apple-Rosemary French Toast and Honey Butter Sauce

Apple-Rosemary French Toast and Honey Butter Sauce

I wake up hungry. Sometimes I even wake up in the night with some quick inkling of something nice in the kitchen waiting to be made breakfast, at which point I'm able to settle back into peaceful dreams knowing that come morning, the path to The Most Important Meal of The Day will be swift. And, sometimes, I start dreaming about a special breakfast even sooner than that.

Goodness Awaits

Sara Kate over at The Kitchn had recently posted a recipe for Rosemary Apple Turnovers with Honey, an intriguing flavor combination. You may have read about our Seduction Dinner marking Valentine's Day, and the great loaf of bread that supported our cheese plate. Simple called Rosemary Loaf, this Trader Joe's find gave me a new inspiration. Crusty and chewy, flecked with just enough fresh rosemary for a gentle flavor and big holes for soaking up an egg custard, this bread was destined for more greatness. So, here's what I did:

Can you tell which eggs were purchased from neighbors and which came from the grocery store?

Apple Rosemary French Toast with Honey Butter Sauce
6 thick slices Trader Joe's Rosemary Loaf (If you can't find this, just add two pinches of finely chopped fresh rosemary to your cooking apple compote and the same flavor profile will result.)
3 Fuji or Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped into 1/3" pieces
3 eggs
3 tablespoons cream
6 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons honey

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter. Add chopped apple and two tablespoons honey. Saute for several minutes, stirring frequently. Place a lid on the saucepan and lower heat to medium-low. stir frequently for several minutes, until apples have softened and have given up some of their juices to the pan. When apples are quite soft and tender, use a slotted spoon to remove them to a bowl, leaving their sweet juices behind. Over medium-high heat, reduce the juice/butter/honey in about half, until quite syrupy and thickened. Remove pan from heat. Whisk in remaining tablespoon honey and two tablespoons butter. The sauce should be quite syrupy and rich.

Whisk eggs and cream in large mixing bowl. Melt one tablespoon butter in heavy skillet over medium-high heat. In two batches, soak bread slices briefly in egg mixture and place in skillet until golden brown on each side and just beginning to puff in the center.

Remove French toast to plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired. Spoon apples down center of toast and drizzle honey-butter sauce over top. Serve immediately. A mug of hot coffee and a sparkling Mimosa completes the dream.

The Stuff of Dreams

February 14, 2011

Seduction Dinner

Roasted Lobster Tail with Champagne Vanilla Reduction

It's no secret how much I adore My Baby, and I wanted to treat him to something mind-blowingly unique for Valentines Day. I'd been dreaming up this dish for months, ever since I surfed across the 1995 New York Times recipe for Lobster in Vanilla Sauce. I could image a few adjustments to the recipe (I'd want to swap the the white wine for a more romantic champagne, and would rather roast a lobster tail then a whole lobster, for example) and set to planning the rest of the meal, wines and champagnes around this centerpiece.

Oregon and French Cheeses, Rosemary Bread and Toasted Oregon Hazelnuts

Like any good American, I opted for an inside-out Euro-Oregon experience, choosing to serve dessert first: A beautiful cheese plate. From France, lush St. Andre triple-cream and barnyard-y Tomme de Savoie, made urbane with a drizzle of dark honey and a freshly cracked white peppercorn, along side an Oregon Rogue River Blue with a twangy, musty flavor that gives way to an unusual sweetness. The cheeses were surrounded by a wonderful rosemary loaf (from Trader Joe's, this was a really nice bread that you'll see again soon on these pages) and freshly toasted local hazelnuts.

Meriwether 2005 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley

Nothing could have been a better match than the Domaine Meriwether 2005 Pinot Noir. Oregon is so very blessed with our impressive selection of classic world-class Pinot Noirs, and this one fits right in. And, this was a good warm-up to the Domaine Meriwether Sparkling Ros


that I had planned for the main course. Still or sparkling, Meriwether produces delightful wines.

Warming Up

Sipping this wine brings to mind dark, ripe cherries, damp peat and mushrooms on a composting Douglas Fir log. A great Valentines Day start!

Rich and Silky Meriwether 2005 Oregon Pinot Noir

Yes, these are the types of things we do for fun out here in the country. Even on Valentine's Day.

Blood Orange and Avocado Salad, Dressed with...
We then moved on to a salad course, again out of step with our European friends.

Champagne Honey Dressing
I wanted champagne and honey to be a gently reoccurring theme throughout the meal, and incorporated both into the salad course.

Using these ingredients...

And these.

Honey Champagne Salad Dressing
2 tablespoons champagne
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
juice of half of a lemon
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dark honey
sea salt and coarsely ground white pepper to taste
6 tablespoons good quality olive oil

Place all ingredients in a recycled jam jar, screw the lid on tightly, and shake well. This is great over a salad of baby greens, sliced avocados and supremed blood oranges.

Champagne and Lobster

I won't bother you with too many details about the lobster dish, other to say that it looked better than it tasted. I usually reserve these pages to pass on only the best of the best, and this didn't hit that mark. Why? Too much vanilla, a poor choice to serve it with saffron pasta, and our lobster tails were overdone. The lobster wasn't stellar, but let me wax on about the champagne.

Domaine Meriwether 1999 Prestige Brut

Rosé Cuvee

Domaine Meriwether's 1999 Prestige Brut

Rosé Cuvee has a lilting strawberry fruit and warm, toasty caramel notes, all wrapped up in a creamy texture. Its elegance is hard to suprass at this price-point.

I've told you how lucky we are to have such culinary and enological delights practically at our doorstep, and Domaine Meriwether is one such joy. Precisely 44 miles from our house, Domaine Meriwether is an easy country drive on a Sunday afternoon, and provides our main source for bubbly. Making sparkling wine via Methode Champenoise is highly labor intense and costly. Only a handful of Oregon wine-makers produce "champagne" (or to be legally accurate, sparkling wine methode champenoise) and it just so happens that we are neighbors with one who makes some of the best. Happy Valentines Day to us!

And Happy Valentine's Day to You!!

February 4, 2011

Merry Birth-mas Paella

Michael's Paella

A person gets only one chance to choose how she (or he) will spend her (or his) 5oth birthday, and I chose well. But I didn't know how well until the day actually came.

My birthday happens to fall on December 25. My family of origin always made a wonderful splash of it sometime the week or two beforehand (thanks, Mom,) and for many years after moving away from home the tradition carried on, no complaints whatsoever from me. Hey, we're all a little busy on Christmas Day, right?

It so happened that this year would be the first in over 30 that My Baby, his three siblings and his mother would have the chance to all spend Christmas together. One of his sisters had just completed a fantastic house remodel in San Francisco and had graciously opened up her doors to the tribe, which meant we'd, food lovers all, be able to give her ne plus ultra kitchen its maiden voyage together. Marti's branch of the family would be flying in from Belgium, with Luc on holiday from his post in Afghanistan, and niece Jessica on holiday from her school in India.

And, Stewart and Michael had promised paella on Christmas Day.

Out of complete deference and adoration, my new husband wanted to be absolutely certain that I had the birthday celebration befitting of a woman of "a certain age," so our conversation about how we'd spend it (therefore Christmas) went a little like this:
November 5: "Baby, when are we going to tell your family that we'll be there for Christmas?"

"Not yet. I want you to really think about how you want to spend your birthday this year."

"But I want to go. Let's call them."

"Please, think about it some more. You know how much I want to see my family, but it's your 50th."

November 15: "Sweet Baby, I think I'll email Nan and tell her we're coming for Christmas, OK?"

"Wait a little first, Pam. I really want you to have your special birthday wherever you want to have it."

"But I want to go. Let's email them."

"Not yet; think about it some more."

November 30: "Dear Sweet Handsome Baby, in 26 days I'm going to go spend Christmas with your family in San Francisco and I'd really like it if you'd join me, this being our first married Christmas and everything."

"Are you really, really sure?"

"YES! I've been saying yes!"

"Okay, good. I'll let them know."
Birthday Girl

So, the day was sublime, and I'm pretty certain it was the very first time in my life that my birthday was celebrated on my birthday other than the day I was born, and that I don't remember. There was a shower of special birthday presents, none of which were wrapped in Christmas paper, but rather flowery, colorful, ladylike wrappings. Birthday candles blazed on Belgian chocolate mousse prepared by Marti. Nancy had poetically described Christmas in San Francisco as being like the inside of a pearl, and she was right. Her new house (and outstanding kitchen) were full of warmth and hospitality. Besides that, I had none of the Christmas Day meal chores to attend to, and instead enjoyed the sheer theatre of Stewart and Michael working in absolute choreography to create the ethereal scents and sights that they did.

Did I mention? I chose really, really well.

And here, in yet one more generous gift to me (and to you as well, Dear Reader) are Michael and Stewart's instructions for creating the best paella you've ever had. Michael's been making this dish for over 30 years, and his refinements make it more than memorable. Do try it.

One last comment: I have not fancied up this recounting, as it is full of the exact types of things we all want when reading a recipe that we've never made before that seems daunting. This, in my opinion, is an absolute treat to get all the tried and true tips and tricks. Besides that, it is extremely entertaining and will give you insight as to one more reason the day was so terrific!

Michael's Paella
as recited to Stewart, then told to Pam, now being passed on to you

First, tell Stewart to buy fresh seafood. My preference is for "wild caught" shrimp, as opposed to the "tiger" or "grass" shrimp that are farmed and shpped from Asia. Actually, they would be fine, but all things equal, the American variety has better taste and texture. The cherrystone or small little neck clams came from the Asian markets on Clement Street. In San Francisco, we are fortunate to have Clement Street nearby with lots of fresh shell fish. Next time we might get the shrimp there and, we might even try a lobster which would work well cut into bite sized pieces.

Gorgeous Clams from Clement Street in San Francisco

Second, tell Michael to get up at 5:00 a.m. to prep the materials in advance (actually he was still on east coast time.) Most everything can be prepped in advance so that start to finish you can be social while cooking. Plan on 45 minutes start to finish.

All Prepped and Ready to Go

Michael's comments on paella pans: He uses a paella pan with lid, but a lid is not absolutely necessary. A large brazier or similar skillet would be fine as long as it is oven safe.
Pam's comment on Michael's paella pan: Michael's paella pan is large enough to serve as a bassinet for a small child. It's that big; a happy signal no one was going to go hungry.

Serves 10-14

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

2 sweet red peppers, coarsely chopped
French green beans - perhaps 25 or so- ends removed then cut in half.
2 sweet onions (Vidalia) coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
12 shitake mushrooms thinly sliced in strips (decidedly not Spanish, but they have less moisture than other varieties, making it easier to control the amount of liquid as the rice cooks)
4 - 5 cups chicken broth, heated and ready to add as required (your may not use all of it)
3 generous pinches of saffron threads
24 cherrystone clams
20 scallops
20 16/20 count shrimp
12 small chicken thighs, skin on, trimmed (Michael is very particular about trimming all excess fat “any thing yellow doesn’t belong on it”)
2 slices of ham steak ½ thick, cut into strips about 2” long and ¾” wide (Stewart and Michael prefer Virginia ham. Some prefer smoked ham or sausage.)
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 ¾ cup Arborio rice
Here, Here! to No Yellow Parts Left on the Chicken!

Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Add olive oil to to pan and sauté chicken thighs starting skin side down, medium high heat until browed on all sides. Set aside and reserve. Leave oil in pan.

Add onion and garlic to pan, stirring a few minutes until onions begin to caramelize. Add rice and stir until rice begins to become transparent on edges but NOT brown. (1 or 2 minutes, perhaps?) Add 1 ½ cup hot chicken broth. Stir. Add crushed saffron threads. Stir again.

See the Flavor Already Building in the Pan?

Add sweet red peppers, mushrooms, green beans, and ham strips. Season lightly with salt & pepper. Stir well again.

Add back the chicken thighs and another cup of hot chicken broth. Place in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Check after 5 minutes to ensure that rice absorbing broth. The idea is to keep checking from here on out to make sure that you are adding broth as slowly as the rice can absorb it.
After cooking for 10 minutes, remove from oven and add 1 cup broth and stir.

Add the seafood on top. If rice is dry you may need to add more broth but keep in mind that the clams will release more moisture and, herein is the trick. To monitor and balance the amount of juice and broth necessary to bring the rice to a nice texture – fully plump, without splitting, just beyond “al dente”.

Return to oven, cover with lid or foil. (Not totally necessary to cover but this might affect the time necessary to open clams and cook seafood.) Cook another 15 minutes but peek every 5 minutes to gently stir rice (without disturbing shellfish) to help distribute moisture to enable the rice to suck it up. It might be necessary to add broth in judiciously to obtain the correct texture.

Intent Paella Chefs Michael and Stewart

Many thanks to my family, old and new, who have made all of my years rich and wonderful. Love to all!

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