Thursday, November 5, 2009
Pantry Weeks and Pizza Patate
This coming weekend is my husband's 35th birthday. Birthdays are a huge deal for him and I always try to plan something really special. A birthday that ends in a 5 or a 0 is particularly important and must be celebrated with extreme gusto. As I've mentioned before on this blog, he works incredibly hard and I'm taking him away in hopes he can really rest and relax. To make it more fun, I've kept our destination a surprise. I'm quite proud of myself, 8 weeks of surprise self control. :)
So, you might ask, how does this all relate to pantry and pizza? Well, knowing I'd be taking him out of town I decided I needed to be very budget conscious in the weeks leading up to the occasion. I'd heard of pantry weeks from many sources and after trying it, I highly recommend it. Basically, I cooked almost entirely from my pantry, fridge and freezer for two weeks, from stockpiles of frozen chicken, veggies, beans, stocks, canned tomatoes, hard cheeses and baking products. Of course you'll need some fresh items like milk and some veggies, but for the most part it worked out really well and I spent less than a quarter of what I normally do at the grocery store. I actually got a big kick out of this. It requires some recipe searching, modification and substitution, but it was a fun challenge. I also found that by making fresh breads I could elevate some pretty simple things to a nice meal.
Some of the items we had were vegetable risotto, Sourdough BLT's and beet salad, butternut squash curry, potato, bacon and corn chowder with buttermilk biscuits, tomato soup with chickpeas & Irish soda bread, and sausage & pepper calzones. Nothing fancy, but Zack and I were happy as clams and everything was yummy, though I certainly didn't feel inspired to blog. Pizza Patate changed that. What a case of something being more than the sum of its parts! It is creamy, crispy, savory delight. You must make it. I bet you have all the ingredients in your house RIGHT now. In your pantry.
Adapted from My Bread by Jim Lahey, reprinted in November 2009 Gourmet magazine.
Makes 1 large pizza, 8 slices. Serves 2-3 for entree OR cut in small squares for a great appetizer!
BASIC PIZZA DOUGH (you could use store-bought dough, but this is cheap and easy.
Start this 3 hours before you want to eat.
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp kosher salt or 1/2 tsp table salt
1 tsp sugar
2/3 cup room-temperature water
extra virgin olive oil for the pan
1. In a medium bowl (I used my kitchenaid with paddle attachment), stir together the flour, yeast, salt and sugar. Add the water and mix until well blended. The dough is quite stiff, not wet and sticky. Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature until the dough has doubled in volume, about 2 hours. Then, start the potatoes for the topping.
1 quart lukewarm water
4 tsp table salt
2 lbs russet potato (or any kind of potato you have)
1 cup diced red onion (or any onion you have)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 tbl extra virgin olive oil
2-3 tsp chopped fresh rosemary (I have this in my yard, if you don't, take a walk, you'll find some to "borrow")
Optional, but really adds a lot: 1/2 cup gorgonzola cheese (or whatever you may have in your fridge going unused - feta, goat cheese would be great here)
1. In a medium bowl, combine water and salt, stirring until the salt is dissolved. Use a mandoline or knife to slice the potatoes very thin (1/16 inch thick) and put the slices directly into the salted water so they don't oxidize and turn brown. Let soak in the brine for 1.5 hours at least, until the slices are wilted and no longer crisp.
2. Drain the potatoes in a colander and use your hands to press out as much water as possible, then pat dry with a clean dish towel. Now, toss together the potatoes slices, onion, pepper and olive oil.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees and position a rack in the center.
1. Oil a 13 x 18" rimmed baking sheet. Scrape the dough across the surface of the pan, use you hands to press it evenly out to the edges. If the dough sticks to your fingers, lightly dust it with flour or coat hands with oil. Pinch any holes together.
2. Spread the potato mixture evenly over the dough, going all the way to the edges of the pan; put a bit more of the topping around the edges of the pie, as the outside tends to cook more quikcly. Sprinkle evenly with rosemary & a little kosher salt (not much, the potatoes are already salty.)
3. Bake for 18 minutes, remove and sprinkle with the cheese. Bake another 8 minutes until topping is golden brown and the crust is pulling away from the sides of the pan. Serve hot or at room temperature.