Thursday, October 16, 2014

Thoughts on homemade pizza

By Paul Briand
This isn’t the first time I’ve featured homemade pizza here.
My niece’s husband (does that make him my nephew-in-law?) wrote about his Late Night Pizza in December 2011. And my daughter, Elizabeth, in August 2011 described her Grilled Pizza as “our new favorite Sunday dinner.”
I made pizza the other night, with a wheat-based crust, using store-bought dough.
A lot of folks struggle to get the dough in the shape they want. Here are a couple of tips I found helpful to getting my dough to shape perfectly into a large cookie sheet I used:

  • First, get the dough to room temperature;
  • Press it into a disk shape and use a little flour on your hands and on the dough;
  • Let gravity help you do the work of stretching the dough - hold the dough at the edges and just turn, turn, turn to let gravity stretch the dough toward the floor;
  • I placed the dough over the cookie sheet, draping about a half inch over the four edges;
  • And it rested for a few minutes;
  • Then I rolled the edges of dough over to build an edge for the crust.
This worked real well for me. I had a great looking crust with nice edging, and to the edging I brushed on some olive oil and sprinkled on some Parmesan cheese.
To the body of the pizza, besides store-bought pizza sauce and a package of mixed Italian cheeses, I added cut up pieces of chicken sausage that I had cooked on the grill, sweet onion and sweet pepper that I had grilled, and mushrooms.
It was a big hit, so big that my wife Jane said we can’t do take-out pizza anymore.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Shredded Spare Ribs Over Penne

By Paul Briand

Often when I shop for groceries, I have no clue what the meals will be for the coming week.

I simply go up and down the aisles and let inspiration decide. I do a mental calculation of what’s already at home, what we haven’t had in a while, what looks good, what might go together in combination, and what ingredients I’d need to pull it off.

The boneless spare ribs looked particularly good the other day, but my thought process wasn’t to barbeque them as I normally might. I wanted to do something different and I settled on a version of pulled pork involving tomato-based pasta sauce and penne pasta.

Shredded Spare Ribs Over Penne

2 pounds boneless pork spare ribs
24 ounce jar of prepared pasta sauce
16 ounce box of penne pasta
1 green bell pepper
1 medium sweet onion
3 cloves garlic
8 ounces of sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup low-sodium beef stock
Olive oil

1. Chop the onion and pepper into bite-size pieces and saute with chopped garlic in pan heated to medium high heat with 3 tablespoons of olive oil;
2. Just as the vegetables are getting translucent, transfer them to a large baking dish;
3. In the same pan used for the vegetables, sear the ribs on at least two sides until browned;
4. Remove the ribs to the baking dish and spread among the vegetables;
5. Pour the contents of the jar of pasta sauce evenly over the vegetables and ribs;
6. Use the beef stock to rinse what’s left in the jar and pour that into the mixture;
7. Cover the baking dish with a tight seal of aluminum foil and place in an oven pre-heated to 350 degrees;
8. Bake for an hour then remove from oven and remove foil to use two forks to shred the ribs into small piece of meat;
9. With the foil removed, return the baking dish to the oven and bake another half hour;
10. Remove from the oven and use the forks to shred remaining larger chunks of meat;
11. Spoon a generous helping or two over the penne pasta that’s been cooked to an al dente texture;
12. Top with Italian cheese such as romano or parmesan or mozzarella or, even better, a mixture of your favorites.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Meaty Penne

First off let me say that my cooking game has been way off over the last several weeks. It’s not that I’ve stopped eating, certainly, it’s just that my effort to record some of what I’ve eaten for Eats@Home has been undermined by some changing circumstances in my professional and personal lives.

That said, here is a recipe for Meaty Penne from Giada De Laurentiis that caught my eye.

On Fathers Day, I was lounging with my daughter Elizabeth in the Connecticut home she and her husband John recently bought. She lounges by watching the Food Network (like father like daughter) and Giada was putting together this wonderfully rich red sauce that included chorizo sausage and Genoa salami.

“I’ve got to try that,” I said to Elizabeth.

The combination of the cherizo (a Portuguese pork sausage) and the salami caught my attention, but so did the mix of carrot with onion, as well as the topping of arugula that wilted into the steaming mass of cooked penne and red sauce.

A note about the arugula: Known for its pungent, peppery flavor it is a classic topping in traditional northern Italian dishes. But it’s strong and can be a put-off to some people. I’d suggest spinach as a substitute for those folks. Also, I added a diced green pepper to this dish - can never have too much green.

Here it is courtesy of and as prepared by Giada:

1 pound fresh chorizo sausage, casing removed
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped (about 2/3 cup)
1 large celery stalk, finely chopped (about 2/3 cup)
1 small onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)
One 3-ounce piece Genoa salami, diced
One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups baby arugula
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
1 pound penne rigate pasta
1 cup finely grated Parmesan

In a large nonstick skillet, cook the chorizo over medium-high heat until cooked through, breaking up the chorizo into 1/3- to 1/2-inch pieces with a wooden spoon, 12 to 14 minutes. Drain on paper towels and cool.

Heat the oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, carrots, celery and onions. Cook until the vegetables are tender but not at all brown, stirring often, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the salami and tomatoes. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook gently until the flavors blend, stirring occasionally, 15 to 20 minutes. Season with the 1/4 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the arugula and basil. Stir until wilted.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water. Place the pasta into a serving dish.

Add the chorizo sauce to the pasta. Toss to combine, adding the reserved pasta water, if needed, to loosen the sauce.

Top with the Parmesan and serve.

Here’s a printable form of the recipe.

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