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Monthly Archives: July 2012

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Pizza Catharsis

Homemade pizza

It’s been a long week. First, I was up working until 1am three days in a row, which sucked pretty hard. Second, I partied pretty late on Friday. And third, I woke up Saturday morning only to pay witness to a television commercial advertising a wireless cable box that lets people watch their TVs on the patio and in the kitchen and presumably on the crapper. Wireless cable boxes. A notion so grotesque that it made me vomit all over the place.

Well, not really. But I nevertheless needed to get some relaxation. Since my personal masseuse has Saturdays off, I opted to occupy my day of repose with cooking. I had a bunch of tomatoes, a ball of fresh mozzarella, and some lamb merguez sausage from Corridor Sausage sitting around, so en route to Eastern Market that morning I decided to make pizza.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been visiting the Grown in Detroit stand, acquainting myself with papalo, an herb that apparently grows wild across Mexico and some of the southwest United States. It’s not quite as concentrated as cilantro or basil, but it nonetheless packs an awful lot of flavor in a single leaf, simultaneously bright, earthy, and green. The plants can get as tall as 6 feet in prime conditions, and the leaves themselves are about 1 or 2 inches across. The Wikipedia page says it’s also popularly known as Bolivian Coriander. And in its native Mexico, it’s ostensibly served similarly to cilantro, as a fresh herb to accent pork tacos or spicy sandwiches.

I had put it on sandwiches and in eggs last week, so last night, I opted to throw it on a pizza. But not, like, literally throwing or anything. Because that mess would have made a shit hole out of my kitchen.

Papalo from "Grown in Detroit"

With onion, papalo, cheese, and sausage in hand (If you’re so moved by the phrase “sausage in hand,” please stop reading, snicker, and take a breath before moving on. No one’s judging.), I moved on to consider an appreciate sauce for my burgeoning pie. Given the Latin-inspired flavors in the meat, I briefly flirted with the idea of a BBQ sauce-based pizza. I definitely like a well-made BBQ chicken pizza as much as the next dude, but I knew wanted to write a blog post so I could mention the papalo. And if I used something as cliche as BBQ sauce for a southwest-style pizza and then wrote about it, I’d have to hurl myself into traffic.

So instead, I threw some tomatoes and a red bell pepper on the grill and charred the living shit out of them, setting them aside as the base of my sauce (more on that later). As I’d hoped, the char gave it more depth than it might have had otherwise.

I mixed together some pizza dough from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day, a blend of 50% bread flour and 50% whole wheat flour, assembled most of my pie, and slid that shit onto my blazing hot pizza stone in an oven that’d been sitting at 475 degrees. After 4 minutes, I rotated it, added the papalo (I often add leafy toppings a bit late in the process so they don’t get burnt ), and then finished it up.

The results?

Pretty damn good, I’d say. I didn’t get the crust totally perfect, but it was my first time with that particular recipe. And the toppings were totally killer: As always, the products from Corridor Sausage are delicious, the papalo worked out really well, and so on. Nothing revolutionary by any stretch but tasty to be sure.

Should you want to make something similar in the future, I’d recommend starting with the sauce because (a) it’ll be a big ego boost for me personally and (b) it tasted pretty damn good.

To begin, get a single red bell pepper and enough tomatoes to make a couple overflowing handfuls once chopped. Before you go cutting on things, fire up your grill, put the tomatoes and the pepper on it, and cook until the pepper is nice and charred and the tomatoes are soft but not falling apart, kind of like a teenage girl watching Sleepless in Seattle for the first time ever. Skin the pepper entirely and skin most of the tomatoes, leaving some blackened yumminess in the mix.

Then chop them until you’ve basically made a pile of goo. Cook about a quarter of a small onion, minced, and some garlic, also minced, in your sauce pan using some olive oil. Add the tomato goo at the appropriate time, throw in a bay leaf, add maybe a teaspoon or so of vinegar to your liking, add a bit of salt and pepper, and then heat until it has the consistency of a tomato sauce. If you don’t know what any tomato sauce looks like, how the hell have you read this far? Just stop now.

Taste the sauce at this point, removing the bay leaf and being absolutely certain to not to scald your tongue like a buffoon. I rather enjoyed it on the tart side, but I still added a bit of sugar, stirring it in until it dissolved. I cooled it then used it on the pizza few hours later. I had barely any left, so consider this a single serving recipe.

Also, check out the papalo at Grown in Detroit if it’s still around for the next couple of weeks. I’ve enjoyed playing with it quite a bit and the flavor, while not notably powerful, lingers on your palate for a long time.

* * * * *

And in conclusion, I leave you with this pizza making tutorial and a friendly reminder that when you put stuff on the internet, people will find it and may laugh at you.

Posted in GUD Blog | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

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