Thursday, December 2, 2010
Chef Luigi's Italian Feast Magnifico!
Today we produced Italy's most famous export, and for struggling students and single guys everywhere, what represents 90% of their diet: La Pizza. Done and done well, this everyday favourite can easily be transformed from junk food to gourmet extravagance in mere minutes.
Speaking of pizza, I was watching an episode of Alton Brown's Good Eats this morning and of all days and all things he could have been demonstrating, he was making pizza! Not just any pizza, but the thin crust I so love. It's a sign: I'm destined to eat well tonight.
Mise En Place For Sauce & Topping
For the all-important red sauce we sauteed blanched tomatoes, onions and tomato paste in olive oil. I took the liberty to spice things up a bit by adding dried oregano and rosemary and a good pinch of chilli powder to the mix, all of which I cooked down until well and truly disintegrated, as it was smooth sauce I was after, not chunky salsa.
Mornay Sauce For Pide
Just as we did for the Vol Au Vents, we cooked flour and butter to form a roux before adding milk to combine. Last but certainly not least we mixed in cheddar cheese, and you have yourself a rich and creamy Mornay sauce.
Into the mornay goes sauteed chicken and mushroom, mixed well to coat and set aside while we contemplate the bread base.
Customary Italian Flair
Stuffed Crust, Plain & Plentiful
We made focaccia for the base, and I cannot think of any better. I asked for a cheese-stuffed crust pizza which Chef Luigi kindly obliged. He then went on to make pizza as they should be done: meat lovers' on one (yum) and vegetarian on the other (hum-drum).
Now we had some amazing produce for our toppings: bocconcini (Yum-o!), pepperoni, chorizo, baby spinach, fresh basil...as the Americans have showed us through great enterprising bodies such as Pizza Hut and Dominos, the sky's the limit. Not to be taken in the literal sense, you do not, I repeat, do not pile on the toppings sky high like you would at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Tempting as it may be, the load will not cook through in the oven, leaving you with cold and raw toppings and a miserably soggy base. So exercise some restraints here, folks.
Building A Pide
Pide is the Turkish take on the older Middle Eastern pita. The latter a slightly leavened wheat bread dry and malleable with a pocket to fill with, while the former is softer, chewier and pocket less, hence the need to top the top, not unlike a pizza, only with the edges crimped in to keep the toppings from spilling out of the small holding area.
We filled ours with the chicken-mushroom-mornay mix, folded up the sides, tucked in the ends and finished with a good drizzle of olive oil and sesame seeds. More grated cheese and/or parsley to finish if you wish before baking.
Creamy, Voluptuous Bocconcini
Chicken & Mushroom Pide, Calzone
We also made some calzones, built like a pizza, folded in half to seal, the result resembling a giant curry puff or the Philippine empanadas.
Now allow me a moment to demystify a romantic notion for you. Calzone does not mean "crescent" or "half moon" in Italian. Far from its misleading intention, it really means "trousers". Go figure.
My-ma Mia Pizza
What a stunning pizza. :p I stretched the dough as far as it would go for a thin crust base and a large surface area to accommodate more toppings (remember folks, you want more toppings but cannot pile them up high, so you gotta think outta the box) and coz I wanted a cheesy edge but a flat terrain, I sprinkled grated cheddar all around the outside for a crisp finish.