Sunday, October 18, 2009

Grilled Pizza Confidential

Lately, seems like nearly every other with it food blog does grilled pizza.
It's been covered thoroughly on cooking sites as well as blogs.
I'd been tempted to do this, but it seemed daunting. So many things could go wrong. My confidence was shaky.

Fortunately, my blogging buddy, Constantino, has had experience with this technique, and was present to help and give good tips. Most of all, he gave me confidence to proceed. (And two good bottles of wine to go with our lunch.)
(By the way, Constantino doesn't look a bit like the old guy represented in his avatar.)

The problem with baking pizza in our Mexican GE gas oven is that it just doesn't get hot enough to consistently brown the bottom of the crust and quickly cook the toppings. I do use 16 inch, dark colored perforated pizza pans and occasionally get a decent crust bottom, but it's unreliable.

What I'd read about grilled pizza was that you are almost guaranteed a crisped, brown bottom crust. There are, however great differences in the technique from that of oven pizza.

•Basically, the grilled pizza crust is parcooked on one side, turned, toppings added to the cooked side, then finished at somewhat lower heat to amalgamate.
•Different heat zones are required for optimum results.
•Because the pizza is not assembled all at once, but in stages, it's inportant to have all ingredients ready and close by.
•A major doubt in my mind was how to keep the raw dough from sticking to the searingly hot grill bars. Some videos on the Web advise stretching out the dough round on a heavily oiled baking sheet. This turned out to be unnecessary for us. A light brushing of olive oil was all that was needed.
•Constantino gave good advice when he said to slide the half cooked pizza bottom off the heat in order to assemble the toppings. As we lack a proper pizza peel, I used a rimless cookie sheet. That worked quite well for transfers. This halts the cooking of the underside and gives you breathing space in which to assemble.
•Details are important. I'd sliced the cheese into thin strips, but it melted slowly. If I'd shredded it, it would have worked better.
•It's best to use few topping ingredients, and they must all be precooked (except for the cheese) because of the short baking/grilling time.
(One website used simmering, cooked pizza sauce, but that was unacceptable to me. Pizza sauce, IMO, should be uncooked. Mine was a simplified version of my standard, and at ambient temperature.)

In the end, the two pizzas we made were somewhat irregular in shape. One had a scorched bottom, but still tasty. Both were very good eating. Now, with restored confidence, I'd do it again some time.

With great restraint, I'd confined my creative urges to making two kinds of pizza; a Margherita; tomato sauce, cheese and lots of fresh basil.
The other was Bacon and Caramelized Onion, sauce and cheese.
They both were very tasty, had characterful, crisp yet chewy crusts, infused with a little smoke, plus savory toppings. What more could you ask for?

Recipes? I like the pizza dough recipe in The Vegetarian Epicure, Book Two, by Anna Thomas. I reduced the yeast to 1 tsp, and let the dough rise slowly for three and a half hours, in our cool kitchen. I also used three tablespons of rye flour, which adds considerable flavor.

The pizza sauce recipe in the same book is also very good, but you may want to cut back or eliminate some of the many herbal seasonings. I used salt, freshly ground pepper, oregano and garlic, and less than 2 tsps balsamic vinegar. I did not use sugar. I spiked it with some red pepper flakes; just enough to perk up the flavor without causing mouth burn.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Death of GOURMET Magazine

I have just learned on the Get Stuffed Branch that Condé Nast Publishers have killed off the grand old GOURMET Magazine.

Here's what I wrote (edited for My Mexican Kitchen) on that discussion thread:
I was first exposed to Gourmet Magazine back in the 50's, when the murky covers seemed individually hand painted. I was introduced to what was then an enigmatic world. I remember one of the first issues we had had a cover painting of mushrooms under a glass dome. I wondered "Why would anybody do that?" Covers were usually drab, with what I thought of as a "European" feel. What did I know? I was a 10 or 12 year old kid.

There was a long running series, "Travels with Gramps", by Stephen Longstreet, that was fascinating and opinionated. I liked Gourmet best during the 80's. Later came Bon Appetit Magazine, which seemed to me an upstart of lower class, devoted to pink peppermint layer cakes on its covers. Later it got better.
Eventually I became disgusted with the whole lot, the pretentious excess, the upwardly mobile striving, the stinking perfume ads (thankfully, those have gone) and the thick pack of ads in the front of the magazine. I hadn't seriously read it in years. We jokingly called it "Grommet Magazine". Recently I read an article, on about the whole bloated Conde Nast expense account and staff perks system. Read that, and you'll understand better why they are sacrificing Gourmet. Cuts Meet a Culture of Spending At Conde Nast Truly serious cooks would gravitate to Cook's Illustrated, but I'm not quite that serious. Besides, the postal fees to Mexico are exorbitant.
Since the name of this blog is, My Mexican Kitchen", here's a cover of some tacos estilo Gourmet, from the 1960s. Drab, isn't it?

More GOURMET covers here. I'm saddened that I can't find the one of mushrooms under glass.