Pizza Party Tips

July 27th, 2012

I am planning a pizza party for 14 people.  That is a lot of pizzas to make.  The idea is to set out toppings on the kitchen island and let everyone choose their own.  The biggest obstacle to pulling this off is the pizza dough.  It makes such a mess and frankly I don’t think I have the space for everyone to flour boards and stretch their own.  Thanks to my Daughter-in-Law Kristen, I have come up with a solution.

I start out with Perfect Pizza Flour Blend from King Arthur Flour.  This is such an easy dough to manage when you are forming your pizzas.  It is a blend of golden durum wheat and unbleached flour with an all-natural dough conditioner and baking powder added for an extra-light crisp crust.  I make my pizza dough in my bread machine.  It is so easy.

Four cups of the pizza flour yields four dough balls for 10-inch individual pizzas.

I pull and stretch the dough on a cornmeal dusted paddle.

Now, this is what Kristen taught me that is so valuable.  Before she tops her pizza with ingredients, she brushes olive oil on the dough and sprinkles it with salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese.

The dough is placed on a pizza stone in a 475 degree oven and prebaked for about 5 minutes.

We now have a crust that will be easy to top and for me that means I can make all of the crusts ahead of time and place them in the freezer until I need them.  On the day of the party, all I have to do is defrost the crusts and assemble the topping ingredients and everyone will be able to build their own pizzas.

Of course we had to test the pizzas to see if they were good.  the two on the right have marinara sauce, mozzarella, sausage, peppers, onions and Parmesan.  The two on the left have the same ingredients, but with pesto sauce instead of the marinara.  Kristen likes to add the mozzarella after the sauce, then the other toppings, then more mozzarella and Parmesan.  She learned that from my Son, who worked in a pizza restaurant while in high school.  She also likes to finish her pizzas with a fresh note like a squeeze of lemon juice or fresh basil.  Thanks Kristen.

Pre-Baked Pizza Crust  (Using Bread Machine)

4 Cups Perfect Pizza Flour Blend from King Arthur Flour or bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast or instant yeast

Place all of the ingredients into a bread machine.  Set on dough or pizza setting.  Process until done.  On a floured board, knead dough briefly and cut into 4 pieces.  Roll each into a ball.  Cover with a cloth and let rest for about 15 minutes.

Dust a pizza paddle with cornmeal.  Stretch one of the balls into a 10-inch (approx.) circle.  Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper.

Slide pizza circle onto a pizza stone in a 475-degree oven.  Bake for about 5 minutes.  Remove to a rack.  Proceed with remainder of the dough balls.

When all of them are cooked and cooled. wrap in foil and place in plastic bags.  Freeze until needed.

Allow pizza rounds to thaw to room temperature.  Place your toppings of choice on pizza rounds and bake until browned and bubbly.

Printable recipe

Dinner with New Friends

April 26th, 2012

I don’t often mention it but we have a rental cottage on our property.  When we decided to add a second story to the cottage we knew that we would need a place to live for an extended period of time.  We first had our contractor build a garage for us with an apartment above it.  David and I lived there for two years while the cottage was reconstructed.   We now rent it out on a short term basis from April to the end of October.  I have a link for it on my side bar.

Last year we had a great couple from Iowa staying there for a week while they looked for a place of their own in the Lake Lure area.  They have found a piece of property and are building a log cabin.  You can imagine that supervising a construction from Iowa is not an easy task.  They are back staying in our guest cottage this week.

We have had a dilemma.  We will be on our trip to France for three weeks in June.  I hate to board our dog Daisy for that length of time.  Plus, who would look after our rentals?  Light Bulb Moment!  Tom and Diana need to be here as much as possible and they need a place to stay.  They have agreed to stay in our cottage, manage the guest cottage rentals, take care of our dog and supervise the construction of their own cabin.  They have a dog named Lucy.  Lucy and Daisy like each other.  Perfect solution.

We invited them to dinner Tuesday night to discuss the logistics.  We enjoy their company and look forward to them moving here when their cabin is finished.  But in the meantime, our minds are at ease about being gone for such a long time.

Dinner was Beef Bourguignon, mashed potatoes, Provencal green beans, yeast rolls and this Apple Crostata from Ina Garten.  You can almost never go wrong with one of the Barefoot Contessa’s recipes.  The recipe in Barefoot Contessa Parties!  calls for doubling the pastry amount so that you can tuck one in the freezer for a future crostata.  Guess you know what you are having for dessert Saturday night Penny and K.  Yes, my blogging buddy Penny of The Comforts of Home and hubby will be here for dinner then.

APPLE CROSTATA

FOR THE PASTRY  (2 Tarts)

2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated or superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 pound very cold unsalted butter, diced
1/4 cup ice water

FOR THE FILLING ( 1 Tart )

1 1/2 pounds McIntosh, Macoun, or Empire apples
1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated or superfine sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1/2 stick), diced

For the pastry, place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Pulse a few times to combine.  Add the butter and toss quickly with your fingers to coat each cube of butter with the flour.  Pulse 12 to 15 times, or until the butter is the size of peas.  With the motor running, add the 1/4 cup of ice water all at once through the feed tube.  Keep hitting the pulse button to combine, but stop the machine just before the dough comes together.  Turn the dough out onto a well-floured board and form into 2 disks.  Wrap with plastic and refrigerate one of the disks for at least an hour.  Freeze the rest of the pastry.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Roll the pastry into an 11-inch circle on a lightly floured surface.  Transfer it to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

For the filling, peel., core and quarter the apples.  Cut each quarter into 3 chunks.  Toss the chunks with the orange zest.  Cover the tart dough with the apple chunks, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border.

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and allspice in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly.  Pour into a bowl and rub it with your fingers until it starts holding together.  Sprinkle evenly on the apples.  Gently fold the border over the apples, pleating it to make a circle.

Bake the crostata for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the apples are tender.  Let the tart cool for 5 minutes, then use 2 large spatulas to transfer it to a wire rack.

Printable recipe

Bacon Maple Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

March 24th, 2012

If you want a KNOCK YOUR SOCKS OFF dinner entree for your next party this is definitely it.   And believe it our not, this dish came about because I was cleaning the kitchen out in preparation for our return to Lake Lure.  I had a pork tenderloin in the freezer, dried figlets and apples, pecans, pear nectar and pure maple syrup that I did not want to take back with us.  I remembered a similar recipe from a blogger who is no longer blogging but who had great recipes.  Do any of you remember A Nod is as Good as a Wink to a Blind Horse?    George is missed by many of us.

I butterflied the pork tenderloin, mixed the stuffing ingredients together, rolled it up and wrapped bacon slices around it.  I drizzled more maple syrup on top of it, added pear nectar to the roasting dish and baked it for an hour, basting occasionally.  It came out looking like glazed perfection.

This is one of those dishes that I will make again and again.  The stuffing was sweet and moist and the pork was tender and tasty with it’s cloak of bacon.

This is a real winner.  I can hardly wait to make it again.  That will happen in my Lake Lure Kitchen.  We are leaving the first of the week.  I will be posting again at the end of next week.  I have a lot of organizing and paring down to do before we leave.

Space will be tight.

BACON MAPLE STUFFED PORK TENDERLOIN

For the stuffing:
2 apples, chopped
2 cups chopped dried fruit ( I used a combination of figs and dried apples)
1 cup dried bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
4 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 apple cider or pear nectar

For the pork:
2 pork tenderloins
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon cardamom (Optional)
8 slices of bacon
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 to 1 cup apple cider or pear nectar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix stuffing ingredients together and set aside.

Butterfly pork tenderloins by cutting down the middle of each one 2/3rds of the way through.  Place each between sheets of wax paper and pound out to a 1/4-inch rectangle.  Place as much stuffing as will fit easily on each one.  You will have extra to put in small casserole to cook separately.  Roll up pork starting at a long end and place seam sound down in baking pan or casserole.  Wrap each tenderloin with 4 slices of bacon.

Drizzle tops of each one with maple syrup and pour 1/2 cup apple cider or pear nectar into pan.  Place in oven and cook for 1 hour basting occasionally and adding more liquid if pan starts to caramalize too quickly.

Remove from oven and let rest covered for 5 minutes.  Slice and serve.

Printable recipe

Spiced Cabernet Boneless Beef Ribs

February 9th, 2012

I have blogged about this recipe before, but since it is one of my favorites and because I am always changing recipes to improve them, I thought it would be a good idea to update it.  Lots of people make short ribs on the bone.  Although I love the flavor that the bones impart to a slow roasted dish it does make it harder to cut and eat.  When you are feeding a crowd I prefer boneless, succulent, fall apart beef short ribs.

Variations of this beef casserole have become popular at our large family celebrations.  But it occurred to me that it would also make a great alternative to steak for that Valentine dinner for two.  Just cut the recipe in half.

The ingredients combine to produce a very unique flavor.  Along with the wine and beef broth the sauce is flavored with orange zest strips, dried ancho chile for heat, cinnamon for a hit of spice and chocolate for a smooth lusciousness.  The vegetables are added, not only for their flavor, but for their thickening quality when the sauce is pureed.  Best of all,  the short ribs can be prepared and assembled in advance, giving you more time to make that decadent chocolate mousse for your special Valentine.

SPICED CABERNET BONELESS SHORT RIBS

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds Boneless Beef Short Ribs (about 14)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 onions, chopped
3 carrots, cut into small chunks
2 cups Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfindal
1 cinnamon stick
1 dried Ancho Chile, stemmed and halved
2 cups beef broth
The zest of one orange, cut into thick strips
1 ounce good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Season short ribs with salt and pepper.  Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven.  Saute short ribs in batches.  Remove them to a plate when they are browned.  Add additional olive oil to Dutch oven if necessary.  Add chopped vegetables and saute until onion is softened.

Deglaze the pan with the wine.  Add the cinnamon stick, Ancho chile, and orange zest strips.  Bring to a boil and simmer until the wine is reduced by half.  Add the chocolate.  Stir to incorporate.  Return the ribs to the pan and add enough beef broth to just cover.  Bring to a simmer.  Cover and place in the oven.  Bake for 3 hours.

Remove meat from pot and place in serving casserole.  Strain the sauce, discard the cinnamon stick and puree the strained vegetables, chili and orange zest.  Bring the liquid to a boil and cook for 5 minutes to reduce it slightly.  Add the pureed vegetables and stir to combine and thicken the sauce.  Pour sauce over short ribs and serve.

Printable recipe

Company Chicken

September 24th, 2011
I have had a lot of company lately.  We have eaten well with everyone pitching in to help.  But I haven’t thought to do a dish such as this.  This is one of those meals that you would serve at a dinner party like we used to have.  I am speaking for myself here.  At the lake we do not have a formal dining room.  We either eat on the screened in porch overlooking the lake or in the kitchen.  But this is also the kind of dish that I still like to make when time permits.  The chicken is not really complicated or time comsuming.  It can actually be prepared ahead of time and cooked when you are ready.  So no more excuses.  I am adding this to my list of company dishes.
The chicken is elegant with a savory stuffing under the skin.  I asked the butcher to bone the chicken breasts for me since it is impossible to find boneless breasts with the skin on.  The fillet strip is ground up in the food processor with spinach, cream, fennel seeds, lemon zest, and nutmeg to make the stuffing.  A spirited sauce is made with Madeira and chicken broth.
 
With the chicken I served Saffron Rice Timbales and Provencal Green Beans.  The two of us enjoyed it immensely.  Maybe next time I will actually share it with company. 
COMPANY CHICKEN ( Gourmet Magazine 1986)
For the stuffed chicken:
4 chicken breasts, boned but not skinned
1 1/2 tablespoons crushed ice
3 tablespoons chilled heavy cream
1/4 cup firmly packed cooked, squeezed, and chopped spinach (about 1/2 pound fresh)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
For the sauce:
1/2 cup Madeira
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon arrowroot dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
Arrange the chicken breasts skin side down on a cutting board, making sure the skin is evenly stretched over the breasts, and remove the fillet strip from each breast discarding the white tendon.  In a food processor grind the fillets.  Add the ice, blend the mixture until the ice is absorbed, and with the motor running add the cream.  Add the spinach, the salt, the fennel seeds, the zest, the nutmeg, and the pepper and blend the filling well, scraping down the sides.  Turn the breasts skin side up and beginning at the pointed end pull the skin back carefully, leaving the thin trasparent membranes attached along a long side and leaving the skin attached at the opposite end.  Spread 3 tablespoons of the spinach filling evely over each breast, smoothing it, and stretch the skin over the filling to cover it.  Chill the chicken, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, for 1 hour.  The chicken may be prepared up to this point 24 hours in advance and kept covered and chilled.  In a large ovenproof skillet heat the oil over moderately high heat until it is hot but not smoking, add the chicken, skin side down, and season it with salt and pepper.  Saute the chicken for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the skin is golden brown, turn it skin side up, and bake it, covered, in a preheated 400 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Mine took longer because the breasts were large.  Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let it stand, covered loosely with foil, for 5 minutes.
Make the sauce while the chicken is standing:  Pour off the fat from the skillet, add the Madeira, and boil it, scraping up the brown bits, until it is reduced to about 2 tablespoons.  Add the broth and boil the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute.  Stir the arrowroot mixture, add it to the skillet, whisking, and simmer the sauce, whisking for 1 minute.
Holding a knife at a 45 degree angle slice the chicken crosswise and arrange the slices, overlapping them slightly, on a platter.  Spoon some of the sauce around the chicken and serve the remaining sauce separately.  Serves 4. 
SAFFRON RICE TIMBALES (Gourmet Magazine 1986)
1/3 cup minced onion
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
2/3 cup long-grain rice
1 1/4 cups canned chicken broth
3 tablespoons drained and finely chopped pimiento
In a small saucepan cook the onion in the butter over moderately low heat, stirring, until it is softened, add the saffron and the rice, and cook the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute, or until the rice is coated well with the butter.  Add the broth, bring the liquid to a boil, and simmer the rice, covered, for 18 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed.  Stir in the pimiento, remove the pan from the heat, and let the rice stand, covered, for 5 minutes.  Pack the rice into 4 buttered 1/2-cup timbale molds (or small ramekins) and invert the timbales onto heated plates.  Serves 4.
PROVENCAL GREEN BEANS (Provence the Beautiful Cookbook)
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound small tender green beans (haricots verts), trimmed
salt and freshly ground pepper
handful of dried bread crumbs
Warm the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic cloves and when they begin to sizzle and color, add the beans.  Cook, tossing repeatedly, for 4 to 5 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add the crumbs and toss or stir with a wooden spoon only until the crumbs are crisp and begin to color.  Serve.

© Penny Klett, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen. All rights reserved.