Sunday, December 20, 2009

il pizza patate

Last night we had a holiday party. A success: we started with a case of Red Stripe and some $10 rosé, and this morning we woke up to a fully stocked wine rack and a fridge overflowing with beer. Because 2009 was such a shit year, I didn't bother to come up with anything different to serve and went with last year's menu, the mainstay of which was potato pizza. When we lived in New York we were right around the corner from the original Sullivan Street Bakery, which among other things makes these really simple pizzas: rectangular, with a single topping. (They're also the folks behind the no-knead bread recipe that Mark Bittman turned into a bakery world watershed a few years back.)

I'm no baker, so as simple as the recipe sounds they're quite difficult for me. I always make too much or too little dough, and I can never lay it out very evenly in the pans. The result looks intentionally paisano and "charming," but I assure you the effort is amateur. Allora, la ricetta! (Which is from a book I picked up in Oregon called Artisan Baking Across America, full of intense discussions of yeast varietals, which is why I'm no good at baking.)

Hey Giovanni! You makea due pizzete, you needa:
3.5 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2.5 cups lukewarm water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Olive oil

1. Put the yeast into a 1/2 cup of tap-hot water, stir it up and let it get going. Put the flour in yr KitchenAid and start mixing it, on low, with the paddle attachment. Add the yeast water slowly, then add the remaining 2 cups of water, also slowly. Mix just until the batter "comes together," the book says, about three minutes. Up the speed to medium and mix until the dough starts cleaning the bowl, about 20 minutes. Add the sugar and salt and mix for another 3 minutes.

2. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. (I rubberband the edges, too, just in case.) Let it ferment until it's very light, 4 or 5 hours. I ferment mine in the laundry room, which is warmer and darker than the rest of our house.

3. Coat two half-sheet pans with olive oil -- not too much, you're not trying to fry the damn things. Pour one half the dough into each pan. Cover your hands in oil and gently spread the dough to the edges, giving it time to recuperate between stretches; try not to rip it. Set it aside and let it proof for another hour.

In addition to the potato version, I like to make one with just plain tomato puree with a little bit of salt, oil and rosemary, which is why I make two pizzas. For the potatoes, you'll need:
5 Yukon Gold potatoes or a bunch of fingerlings, peeled
1 yellow onion, sliced into half-moons
Fresh chopped rosemary
Slice the potatoes with a mandolin into paper-thin bits, toss them with a little salt and let them drain their moisture in a colander for 20 minutes or so, then toss them with the onions, rosemary, and more salt.

Preheat the oven to 425°, placing one rack in the top third and one in the bottom third. After the dough is proofed (meaning it has risen again, like our Lord Jesus), spread the potato mix over one pan and the tomato mix over another. Before I put them in the oven I'll also drop a few unpeeled cloves of garlic over the mix as well. Potato goes on bottom rack, tomato on top; switch them midway through. In my shitty oven the tomato takes about 35-40 minutes; the potato closer to an hour. The tomato is done when the pie's edges start rising up from the pan; the potato is done when the potatoes are brown or almost black; serve at room temperature.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

rilletes, 2me parte

This morning (having potted and covered the meat late last night), it's looking like a failure. Way, way oversalty, even though I followed (by eye) Larousse's direction for quantity of salt. I even felt like I undershot it a little since I was using kosher, but it's possible I vastly overseasoned. We'll see if a few days in the fridge mellows it or makes some magic curative fluid exchange for to happen, but as of now, it's a few pots of porky Bovril.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Pork Rillettes

For a New Year's Eve appetizer (and to start the blog off totally contrary to what its title suggests), I'm faking the pork rillettes from Bourdain's cookbook. The recipe wants shoulder, belly, and an undefined "pork fat," plus bouquet garni and s&p. My man only had some Berkshire pork belly along with various fatty bits cut off the same pig. Since, with the requisite time for it to get to know itself, this had to happen either tonight or next year, that's what I'm working with. Like single-malt scotch, but swine, it will either be sublimely delicious or a uniquely concentrated failure.

Other recipes I'm reading suggest that this is something that approximations are not going to ruin. It was the meatier end of the belly, so I think the meat/fat balance will be okay. I'm just a little worried about all the meat being from the same area, and also the fact that I have no clue what it's really supposed to come out like. "Pig jam" is a pretty evocative description, so that's what I'm going for. The other question is whether the belly in the recipe was intended to be already cured or salted. I'm assuming it was, and since mine was fresh, I'm adding about 1T salt at the beginning and then adjusting at the end.

Finally, after it was somewhat underway, I took a look at Larousse, who thought cloves and peppercorns might be nice to make it Tours style, and I agreed. It said we should use cheesecloth, but I figure I'll just fish these out later one by one, since they're the only non-grey things in the pot and also I have no cheesecloth.
Here's what it is:
2.5 lbs meaty pork belly
1 lb fat cut from the back of a standing rack of ribs, with some of the meat attached
.5 lb random fat scrap
Bouquet garni
A few whole cloves and peppercorns
Salt and pepper

Here's what I'm doing:
1. Separating meatier bits from fattier bits (which ended up being roughly 3:1)
2. Cutting larger meatier bits down to about 1.5" cubes
3. Dicing fat 1/2"
4. Throwing everything in a pot w/ bouquet garni and 4c. water, bringing to a simmer, then keeping covered on a low flame until the meat is fork-shreddable
5. Tonight, pull the meaty bits out and put it all in to chill overnight (since it'll be ready around midnight), and tomorrow shred the meat with forks
6. I'll let you know how it goes. I think I'll pour it in rocks glasses.