Sunday, January 30, 2011

Homemade Pizza Dough

Oh, how I love pizza. Especially homemade pizza. Remember that whole giant Italian dinner from Christmas (yes, I'm still thinking about it)? Well, as you might imagine, John's Mom also makes some of the best pizza on the planet. And no, I am not exaggerating this time.

You'd be shocked at how easy and delicious homemade pizza is. And I know you're probably sitting behind your computer screen shaking your head thinking, "easy?" Well trust me. It is easy. I didn't believe myself until I tried it.

Here I'm giving you the recipe for basic pizza crust. You can top it however you want, with tomato-based pizza sauce, cheese, meat, anything you want. I use a very basic pizza sauce with cheese most of the time. My newest favorite topping is to add spinach over the pizza sauce and cover with cheese. Yuuuummmmm.

Pizza Dough

This is my mother-in-law's recipe for pizza crust and it's amazing. Thanks Donna!

1 cup warm water
1 tbsp yeast
1 tbsp sugar
3 cups white bread flour
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil

Combine water, yeast and sugar and let proof for about 10 minutes.

In a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, combine salt and flour. With the processor running, add the water/yeast mixture. The dough should form a ball. If it does not, add a little more water. Add the olive oil with the processor running.

Form the dough into a ball and add to a lightly floured Ziploc bag. Press all of the air from the bag and seal. Either set in a warm place to rise for 1 hour, or let the dough rise in the refrigerator for several hours, or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven with a pizza stone set on a rack in the middle of the oven as high as it will go at least 1/2 hour before baking.

Once the dough has doubled in size, divide into two equal balls. On a lightly floured surface, stretch the dough to about a 12 inch round. Transfer to a pizza paddle and top as desired. Bake on the hot pizza stone for about 10-12 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and and the crust is a light golden brown.

Remove from oven and let sit for a couple of minutes. Slice and serve.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sun Dried Tomato Risotto

This is my dutch oven. I cook everything in it from soup, roasted chicken, bread, risotto... everything. This is may "baby" version that I use on regular nights when it's just me and John. When I'm making a giant pot of soup or chili, I break out the big guns with the 7 quart guy. Seriously this is one of the things I use most in my kitchen and if you don't have one I highly recommend it. Also because if you are a risotto freak (like myself) it make the risotto cooking process about 10,000 times simpler.

And no, I never exaggerate.

Why do you ask?

Normally when you're cooking risotto you have to stand there and stir it for about 45 minutes. It's really not bad if you really like to cook, but don't even think about taking a few steps away from your stove during the entire cooking process. When I cracked open by May/June edition of Cooks Illustrated over the summer, I was so super excited when I read the title "No Stir Risotto". Yay.

Sun Dried Tomato Risotto
Adapted and combined from Cooks Illustrated and The Italian Cookbook

3.5 oz sun dried tomatoes
5 cups vegetable broth
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbsp butter
2 cups Aborino Rice
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
1 tsp dried parsley or 1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
olive oil for drizzling

In a small saucepan, boil about 1-2 cups water. Pour boiling water over sun dried tomatoes and cover. Set aside for 20-30 minutes to rehydrate the tomatoes.

Bring the vegetable broth plus 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil on a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low and keep on a simmer.

Melt 2 tbsp butter over medium heat in a medium Dutch oven (mine is a 5 qt and it works perfectly). Add onions and cook until translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add rice and cook, stirring constantly for about 3 minutes, until edges of rice are translucent. Pour the wine in and cook, stirring constantly until it is completely absorbed. Pour in 5 cups of the hot broth water mixture and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring once.

Drain the tomatoes and dry them on a paper towel. Carefully (they will still be warm) cut them into strips. Add the tomatoes to the rice and stir to combine. Continue simmering for another 5-10 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Once most of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice, add another 3/4-1 cup of the broth mixture and remove from heat. Let sit for 5 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed. Add the Parmesan cheese and parsley and stir to combine.

To serve, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and Parmesan cheese.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Roasted Chicken

Ever since I made Thanksgiving dinner and cooked the Turkey upside down I've been wanting to try the same technique on a chicken. I got the idea from reading the roasted Thanksgiving turkey recipe on Simply Recipes. After reading it and thinking about it, roasting poultry upside down actually makes a lot of sense! Normally, when you roast a bird breast side up, all of the juices flow down into the dark meat while it's cooking. Since the dark meat is much more moist than the white meat, you're just saturating the already moist meat with the juices from the drier white meat (did I use the word 'moist' enough times in that sentence for you?). If you flip the whole thing over, viola! The juices from the dark meat drip into the white meat while it cooks. What you end up with is a perfectly cooked, moist chicken. Hooray!

Roasted Chicken 

One note, most of the chickens you buy at the large chain super markets are gigantic. I got this little chicken (about 3.5 lbs) from a local grocery store that specializes in natural and organic food. This is the normal size of a chicken, not the 5-6 pounders you see at most places. If you can only find the massive chickens, just remember to increase the cooking time accordingly.

1 3-4 lb chicken
1 medium onion, quartered
1 lemon, quartered
3 sprigs rosemary
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil or butter

About 30 minutes before you start roasting the chicken, remove it from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature. Thoroughly rinse the chicken inside and out and pat dry with paper towels. Place chicken in a small roasting pan or a 9x13 glass dish to roast. Preheat oven to 350.

Salt and pepper the both the inner cavity of the chicken and the outside. Squeeze the juice from half of the lemon all of the surface of the chicken. With the other two lemon quarters, squeeze the juice inside the cavity and then stuff the lemons inside the chicken. Stuff the onions and rosemary inside the cavity. Rub the surface of the chicken with butter or olive oil. Place the chicken breast side down in the roasting pan. Bake for about 1 - 1 1/2 hours, or until a thermometer stuck in the deepest part of the thigh registers 160.

Now, if you want, you can flip the chicken over to get the skin on the breast crispy, remove the chicken from the oven, use tongs to flip the chicken and crank up the temperature in the oven to 450. Return the chicken to the oven and cook only until the skin is crispy and slightly browned. If you cook it too much longer, the white meat will dry out. 

Remove the chicken from the oven and tent with foil. Let it rest for about 10 minutes.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes

John has this recent obsession with Brussels sprouts. I swear, dude asks for them almost every week. Luckily they're super easy to cook, really tasty and full of vitamins and all that jazz. Besides roasting and sauteing with bacon, this is one of my favorite ways to cook Brussels sprouts.And it only uses just a handful of ingredients. It makes me happy when simple easy recipes like this are so good.

Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes 

3 cups Brussels sprouts cleaned and cut in half
3 red skinned potatoes cut into ½ inch cubes
2-3 tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 350. Melt butter in a large oven-proof skillet over medium heat (I would use either cast iron or a large stainless steel skillet). Add potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally until they are lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add Brussels sprouts and cook for a few minutes to brown. Add salt and pepper to taste. Put the whole pan in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender. Be careful when taking the pan out of the oven - the handle will be HOT!


Monday, January 10, 2011


 John brewed another batch of beer this weekend! Hooray!

This was the first time he brewed from grains instead of the beer brewing kit in a can. I can't wait to try it!

Here are the grains, steeping away. And now I have all of those grains to make another batch of spent grain bread! I'll let you know how it goes!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

No Knead Bread

 I know at one point I said that John is the yeast man, in charge of all things yeast related in our house. And while he's still in charge of beer making, I have (almost) taken over making bread. You can read about my other adventures in the land of yeast here, here, here, and here. And now I'm trying one more.

For the insane, giant and amazing Christmas dinner, my sister-in-law made this delicious and deceptively easy bread. I know this recipe is on so many other food blogs that it's almost silly to add yet another post about how wonderful it is to the general blogoshpere, but I'm doing it anyway. Because this is hands down my favorite bread both to bake and to eat. I've made it at least 3 times since we've been back from the holidays. It's the perfect recipe: easy to make and easy to memorize so you can throw it together without a thought.

Seriously, make it for your next dinner party. It will impress all. Just don't tell them how ridiculously simple this is. Or just make it for yourself... that's what I'm doing right now.

No Knead Bread
Source: Smitten Kitchen, originally from Mark Bittman at the New York Times 

3 cups flour
1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 5/8 cups water

Mix flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Add water and mix until combined. The dough will be wet, but never fear. This is a good thing. A very good thing. Now cover with plastic wrap and walk away. Walk away for 12-18 hours. I usually make the dough sometime the day before I want to make the bread. Then at some point the next day I continue on with the recipe. I haven't worried about the 12-18 hours timeline yet and each time I've made this it has been perfect.

Lightly flour a work surface and turn the dough out onto the surface. Quickly fold the dough twice with lightly floured hands. Cover the dough with a towel (not terrycloth) and let it sit for 15 minutes. Quickly form the dough into a ball and place it on a towel dusted with cornmeal. (Cornmeal works better, but flour will be OK in a pinch.) Cover the dough with another towel and let rise for another 2 hours.

At least 30 minutes before the dough is done rising, put a 5 quart dutch oven or a similar sized Corning Ware dish with a lid in the oven. Preheat to 450. Once the oven is preheated, carefully remove the dutch oven from the oven. Carefully slide you hand under the towel with the dough and quickly turn it into the dutch oven. Shake the dutch oven a little to spread the dough out a bit. Replace the lid on the dutch oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and continue baking for 15-30 minutes until bread is lightly browned. Remove from the oven and carefully turn bread onto a cooling rack. Let cool for at least 30 minutes.