Happy Veterans Day! Happy 32nd Anniversary Mom and Dad! Last night we were going to go for free pizza and trivia at Crocodile Bar, but instead I decided to stay in, make homemade pizza for Matt and Laura, and watch Love Actually. I decided to try out a new recipe that had been stewing in my brain for awhile now. The inspiration for this dish came from a pizza I had in Westport, Connecticut when Matt and I were spending the weekend at a nearby B&B. We went to this amazing restaurant called Gabrielle’s and if you ever find yourself in South Eastern Connecticut I would highly recommend hitting it up. For our appetizer that night we ordered a bacon and clam pizza. It practically jumped off the menu when I saw it, “apple wood smoked bacon and little neck clams over a chowder sauce” (I can’t remember to pick up my dry cleaning but I can remember the exact description of a dish I had last Valentine’s Day?) “It’s like clam chowder on a pizza!” I exclaimed. My mom always makes her New England Clam Chowder with thick-cut pieces of bacon and it’s to die for. I was beyond excited to try this version of my Mom’s chowder on a doughy piece of heaven. It was fantastic and I have been craving it ever since. So last night it was time to see if I could give the folks at Gabrielle’s a run for their money.
For the dough, I am a loyal fan of Ina Garten’s recipe. It produces a crust that’s the perfect balance between soft and crunchy. It also calls for a tablespoon of honey which makes the dough slightly sweet, and that’s exactly how I like my pizza. I use her measurements but instead of using a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, I knead the dough by hand. Not because I like the artisanal quality of wielding my own dough, but because I don’t have a Kitchen Aid yet (much to my surprise there was no “I moved in with my boyfriend” registry and shower…bummer.) Oh well, I’ve done it with a stand mixer before and the by-hand results are pretty much the same. Now, making your own dough may seem complicated and unnecessary, but it’s actually really easy and fun to do. Besides, store bought dough is just sooo Sandra Lee “Semi Homemade.” When you make the dough from scratch it feels like you really accomplished something, and you aren’t just arranging toppings on someone else’s product. So while your hands can substitute for a mixer, you do however need a rolling pin. Now, I could have sworn I owned a rolling pin, because A. I have an extensive kitchen collection (minus a Kitchen Aid and a Dutch oven..hint hint Santa) and B. I can even remember using one to make homemade pies in my apartment junior year. I guess in all of my moves it got lost along the way. I discovered this right before I needed to roll out the dough so…I improvised. Good thing my drinking habits leave a lot of empty wine bottles lying around, because if you cover that thing in tin foil and dust it with flour you’ve got yourself a rolling pin! It worked great, but I will be stopping by Bed Bath and Beyond tonight on my way home to get a real one to roll out the leftover dough…even Sandra Lee wouldn’t be caught dead with a ghetto tin foil rolling pin.
Now, onto the toppings. First of all, Laura is a very um…specific…eater. Laura and I went to high school and college together, studied abroad in Australia together and now live thirty blocks apart (we kind of have separation issues). Needless to say, I know her eating habits. I know she doesn’t really eat shellfish (except crab legs), but that she is a big fan of bacon (who isn’t really). So I made her pizza clam and clam juice free. First, I fried the bacon while the dough was rising and then got to work on the chowder sauce. I added diced onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes to the bacon fat and let the onions soften. Then I added some half and half and mozzarella cheese and reserved a ladle full to serve as the base of Laura’s bacon only pizza. Then I chopped up three cans of these big beautiful cherry stone clams and added them to the sauce along with the clam juice from only two of the cans (I didn’t want the sauce to get too salty especially since it would be topped with parmesan cheese and bacon.) I let the clams cook and the sauce reduce for a few minutes. If you over cook the clams they will get very chewy.
Next, I rolled out three pizza rounds and built the pizza’s starting with the sauce, then the bacon pieces, a handful of Parmesan cheese and finally, a sprinkle of dried oregano for some color and aromatics.The pizzas go into a 500 degree oven, which my smoke detectors were not very happy about. Even though nothing was burning and there wasn’t any smoke being produced, I guess just the heat of the air rising when I opened the oven set off the alarm multiple times. But the silver lining is that now our moms will read this and they can rest easy knowing we have working (and overly sensitive) smoke detectors. We popped a bottle of wine, turned on Love Actually and had a lovely little Wednesday night meal. Here’s the recipe!
Bacon and Clam Pizza
Barefoot Contessa Pizza Dough
1 1/4 cups warm (100 to 110 degrees F) water
2 packages dry yeast
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons good olive oil
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 lb. of bacon, cooked, fat reserved.
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups half and half
1 cup shredded mozzarella
20 oz. clams in juice, chopped
1 cup shredded parmesan
Mix water, yeast, honey and olive oil in a large bowl. Add the salt, and then flour, a cup at a time, mixing with a wooden spoon after each addition. When the mixture becomes dough-like, knead it with your hands. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface, knead and stretch for five to seven minutes until smooth and elastic. Place in a well oiled bowl and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Let rise for 30 minutes. Then divide into 6 equal sized balls and let rise for an additional 10 minutes.
While the dough is rising, fry bacon, crumble into pieces. Add onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes to the bacon fat and cook for five minutes of until the onion is soft. Add the half and half, mozzarella cheese, chopped clams, and 2/3 of the clam juice. Cook on medium stirring frequently for five minutes, until the sauce has reduced and the clams are heated through.
Roll out pizza dough into 10 inch rounds. Cover a cookie sheet with a thin layer of bread crumbs to keep the pizza from sticking. Place dough on a cookie sheet, top each pizza with 3 tablespoons of sauce, bacon pieces, shredded parmesan and a pinch of oregano. Drizzle each pizza with olive oil and bake at 500F for 10-12 minutes until the crust is golden brown.
Also on my cooking roster this week I needed to find a use for the half of a Butternut squash leftover from my tomato soup. So on Monday I whipped up some bow tie pasta with Butternut squash in a brown butter sauce. It was a very easy “use what you have” kind of meal. Here’s the recipe.
Butternut Squash Pasta with Brown Butter Sauce
1.5lb Butternut Squash
24oz chicken broth.
1 lb. bowtie pasta
4 tablespoons of butter
Grated parmesan cheese
Peel the Butternut squash and remove seeds and pulp. Cube into 1 inch pieces. Heat chicken broth over medium high heat and add the squash. Cook for twenty minutes until the squash is fork tender. Remove from chicken broth using a slotted spoon. Meanwhile bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add pasta and cook until al dente. In a frying pan melt 4 tablespoons of butter and cook until it turns light brown and smells very nutty. Add the cooked squash and pasta to the frying pan, toss to combine and top with parmesan cheese.
The next few days will be spent preparing for TURDUCKEN 2010 on Sunday. Not only will be stuffing a chicken inside a duck and then stuffing that inside a turkey, I will also be doing the butchering myself. In years past I would get the already de-boned birds from the butcher, but I wasn’t able to find one that could do it in time. Ok full disclosure: I didn’t really look that hard for a butcher that could do it, and I kind of secretly wanted the challenge. Plus I think it will make great material for the blog. I also really enjoyed the fact that when someone asked me to go out Friday, I got to say, “I can’t I’m de-boning birds all night.” I’ll be chronicling my Turducken preparations LIVE right here on What’s Elizabeth Cooking Now. Get excited people this is going to be like the Super Bowl of blog posts. Well, until Thanksgiving. Well, also until the real Super Bowl, but you get the idea.