Sometimes I feel like a pretty lucky gal. You may recall a couple months ago when I mentioned a get-together with some new food friends? Well, one of these friends, Jarred, was recently able to procure a large amount of Bordeaux for a wine tasting drinking (as Christina & Molly more accurately put it on Twitter!). There were about 20 bottles of red Bordeaux, as well as a smattering of white wines, hard cider, etc. Jarred does the wine buying at Western Market in Ferndale, so the idea was to get a bunch of us tasting, and then hopefully buying, the wines in question. I think it was also to help him narrow down which wines to order from the distributors.
And so, a couple Fridays ago, some of the GUDetroit gang descended on Jarred & Dawn’s Ferndale apartment, bearing an assortment of wine-loving foods. I knew many people were bringing cheese and/or charcuterie, and Jarred had also snagged some grass-fed local steaks for the grill, so I asked what else I could bring to round out the selection. Jarred wisely suggested something with mushrooms- their earthy flavors would be a nice complement to the wine. I immediately thought “mushroom tart!”- some sautéed mushrooms, with some herbs from the garden, would be just the thing.
I started off by making a cornmeal crust- I wanted a little crunch in case the mushrooms made the dough soggy at all (luckily they didn’t). I sautéed a copious amount of mushrooms with some shallots and herbs and a splash of sherry, adding some dried porcinis for extra mushroomy depth. I added some cream and egg at the end, not enough to make a quiche-like custard, but just enough to bind the mushrooms and make the tart more sliceable. A dusting of Parmigiano before the tart went in the oven was the final touch. The result was pretty much just what I had hoped for.
As for those wines? Where to begin- I was pretty overwhelmed, and was mostly just taking suggestions from others who were a little better informed or who had thought to bring notepads to take notes! A few I recall enjoying in particular were Château La Fleur Plaisance (Montagne St-Emilion, 2006), Château Liversan (Haut-Médoc, 2006) and Château Cabannieux (Graves, 2005). (Mind you, I tasted many, many wines and these are just a couple I happened to jot down!) All of the wines improved noticeably as the evening wore on and they had time to open up, but these are wines to cellar for at least a few more years before they’ll reach their full potential. (That becomes problematic in my household, where the notion of a bottle of wine hanging around for more than a week or so is unheard of!) For more detailed descriptions of the wines, check out this post by Gang of Pour.
Thanks again to Jarred & Dawn for their excellent hosting skills and to the folks at Western Market for their generosity; I’ll definitely be heading there next time I have a few bucks to spend on a nice bottle or two. For the size of the store, they are really doing a great job on their wine department, with a focus on organic and natural wines. This wine tasting (er, drinking!) really inspired and motivated me to start taking more notes and to build a cellar. I also have to give a shout-out to George & Kim from Gang of Pour and to Putnam, all of whose wine knowledge and enthusiasm is contagious.
Mushroom & Herb Tart with Cornmeal Crust
1 pre-baked Cornmeal Tart Crust (recipe follows, or you could use the slightly different cornmeal crust from this post)
1 ½ lbs mushrooms, peeled and sliced (you can use any combination of button mushrooms, portabellas, cremini, etc; I used mostly regular mushrooms with a few portabellas thrown in)
2 shallots, minced
about 3 Tbs minced fresh herbs of your choice- I used sage, thyme & marjoram
about 1/3 cup dry sherry
1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
about 1 ½ cups boiling water
a few Tbs butter for sautéing
½ cup heavy cream
salt & pepper
grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana Padano or other hard grating cheese
Put some water on to boil. Place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl and pour boiling water over them; cover with a lid or plate and set aside.
Melt a knob of butter in a large, shallow skillet over medium heat. When melted, add half the shallots and half the mushrooms; increase the heat slightly (you need to do the mushrooms in two batches to avoid overcrowding). As the mushrooms absorb the butter and the pan becomes dry, lightly salt the mushrooms so they release a little of their juice. About halfway through the cooking, add half the sherry. Saute the mushrooms until golden and cooked through, increasing the heat if necessary so the liquid evaporates. Remove the mushrooms from the pan; set aside.
Wipe the pan and repeat the process with the second batch of mushrooms. While they are cooking, remove the dried mushrooms carefully from the water and chop roughly. (The mushroom liquid may be strained and reserved for use in a soup or to deglaze a pan.) Throw them in the pan. When the mushrooms are close to done, add the herbs and cook for a moment longer. Add the first batch of mushrooms back into the pan and stir well. Remove from heat. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
In a bowl, lightly beat the eggs and cream. Season with salt and pepper (I like to add a little nutmeg too, but it’s optional.) Pour over the mushrooms and stir to combine (if filling is very hot, wait a few moments so the eggs don’t become scrambled). Put the filling in the pre-baked tart shell. Grate a light layer of cheese over the top. Cook at 375° for about 15 minutes or until the filling has set. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes enough for two 9″-10″ tarts
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cornmeal
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 sticks butter
¼ to ½ cup ice water as needed
Cut the butter into small pieces and set in a bowl in the freezer to firm up for a couple minutes. Place the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal with a few larger pieces remaining. Add the ice water in a thin stream while running the processor, just until the dough comes together (no more than 30 seconds). Take care to only add as much water as needed so the dough does not become pasty and sticky. Divide in half and wrap each half in plastic. Let rest in the fridge for an hour before rolling out.
To pre-bake the crust, heat the oven to 375°. Roll out the dough and place in a 9″ or 10″ tart pan with a removable bottom. Place a layer of foil over the crust and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for about 25 minutes or until crust is just beginning to turn golden. Let cool slightly before removing the weights and foil. (This dough can also be used for fruit tarts/crostatas; Martha instructs cooking it for an hour with the filling rather than pre-baking it.)
The April 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet.
I’ve never been one f0r deadlines. I was always the kid who was up all night with a pot of coffee the night before a big exam, or mysteriously sick the day a term paper was due. While I love the idea of Daring Bakers and have participated in several (most even on time!), the posting date always sneaks up on me and I usually find myself scrambling. I’ve missed the last couple DB challenges (shh, don’t tell the blogroll moderator) and thought I would miss this one as well, but I got a last-minute burst of inspiration.
Our hostess gave us a choice between a sweet or savory pudding (note: in Britspeak, “pudding” has a much more general meaning than in the U.S.), and gave total free reign with the fillings/ flavorings. The dessert puddings looked much more foolproof, but the savory ones appealed to me more. Besides, I was fascinated by the idea that you could steam a pastry crust and it would come out browned and/ or flaky. I decided to go with a fairly simple steak & mushroom filling; I used the hostess’s dough recipe and then made up my own filling based on looking at a few other recipes. I went to Western Market in Ferndale for the ingredients because they recently started carrying local beef (from C. Roy Meats in Yale, MI). I was also able to pick up organic lettuce and MI asparagus and mushrooms there. (The mushrooms were Aunt Mid’s, which I know is a local brand- not sure if they’re grown here or just packaged here.) Last but not least, I used Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout both in the recipe and to quaff along with dinner. Cheers!
The main part of the challenge was to make a pastry dough using suet. When I asked for suet at the butcher counter, they gave me (for free) several hunks of beef fat; however, I’m not really sure if it qualified as suet based on the description given in the challenge. The challenge hostess made it sound as if you could just crumble it up as-is; however, what I had needed to be rendered to be usable, as it still contained a lot of connective tissue and even a bit of meat. But I just set it over low heat and filtered the liquid fat through cheesecloth, then stuck it in the freezer to chill. The pastry “recipe” was really loose, with specific amounts given for the fat and flour but not for the water. I think I added too much water because I ended up with a pretty sticky dough which I had to flour quite a bit in order to roll out.
For the filling, I just used cubed chuck steak, mushrooms, a yellow onion, salt, pepper, some fresh thyme, a few dashes Worcestershire sauce, and a bit of stout to moisten it all. I tossed the meat in a couple Tbs of flour so that a gravy would be produced when the meat & veg released their juices, and it worked perfectly. Fortunately the quantities I used were also just the right amount to fit perfectly into my 2-quart bowl!
For my steaming apparatus I just used a stockpot with a pasta insert- this worked great because I could easily monitor the water level and lift the insert (with the pudding in it) in and out of the water. The directions said to steam the pudding for anywhere from 2 ½ hours to 5 hours… I steamed it for about 3 ½ but by then it was getting late and we needed to eat before it got ridiculously late. Unfortunately my crust didn’t get fully cooked, I’m not sure if a longer cooking time would have helped, or if it was simply because I had used too much water in the dough. It had the consistency of a dumpling more than a flaky crust. Still, the filling was so good that we just picked around the dough and mostly ate the meat and sauce. I have a little leftover dough that I may use to make some other small pie, but I may try baking it instead and see how that turns out. Cheers to Esther for a great challenge!
Steak & Mushroom Pudding with Stout
a 2-quart bowl, at least as tall as it is wide
a stockpot with a pasta insert (barring this, you may have to improvise some sort of rack to keep the bowl off the bottom of the pan- an overturned plate, a trivet, etc.)
1 quantity suet pastry (you can get Esther’s recipe here, just scroll down)
1 lb cubed chuck (approx. 1-inch pieces are good)
8 oz button mushrooms, cleaned and quartered (if larger, cut them in sixths or eighths)
1 medium yellow onion, diced small
1 Tbs fresh thyme leaves
about 2 Tbs flour
a few dashes Worcestershire sauce
about ⅓ cup stout beer
salt & pepper
I did have some difficulty getting the suet crust to turn out via the steaming method, but as I said, I’m not sure whether it needed to cook longer or whether I just used too much water in the dough. You may want to read around some of the other Daring Bakers posts to get some clarification! I can, however, fully vouch for the filling, which was delicious.
Fill the stockpot with water enough to come about a third of the way up the sides of your bowl (put the insert with the bowl in while you’re filling it so you can check the level). Remove the bowl and insert and set the pot of water to boil.
Put the mushrooms, onion, and thyme in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, sprinkle the flour over the steak until well-coated (I like to use a tea strainer so there are no lumps). Add the steak to the mushroom mixture. Sprinkle in the Worcestershire (I’d say a scant tablespoon). Season generously with salt and pepper, tossing to mix.
Grease your bowl. Set aside ¼ of the dough. Roll out the remaining dough and line your pudding bowl with it (you will likely have extra if you use the recipe I did). Place the filling in the bowl and pour the stout over the top. Roll out the remaining dough and place it over the top, sealing it around the edges. Take a large square of foil or wax paper and place it over the top of the bowl; secure with string or a rubber band. Arrange it so that it “poufs” up and does not touch the dough (mine did touch, and tore the crust when I removed it. Boo!) .
Place the bowl in the pasta insert and lower it into the boiling water. Put the lid on and steam until the crust is cooked, 3 to 5 hours (it will turn from a pasty white to a golden brown). Check the water level a couple times and top off if necessary; it shouldn’t fall below the bottom of the bowl. When done, invert the bowl onto a plate and serve.
This is an ode to one of summer’s perfect foods, pizza on the grill! Ever since I figured out how easy this was, I’ve been making it on a regular basis during grilling season. It took us a few tries to perfect the technique, but once you get the feel for it, it’s a breeze, and one of the quickest (and most economical) things you can make on the grill. Plus, your friends will be blown away by how good it is.
I’m sure I’m far from the first food blogger to write about grilled pizza, but if you haven’t tried it, you’re in for a real treat. It’s the closest I’ve come at home to the wood-oven flavor of a traditional Italian pizza (thin crust, not too many toppings*, crust charred just so in a few spots…). It makes great party fare, as you can cut the pizzas up into small appetizer-sized slices and pass them around as they come off the grill, which is what we did at Sarah & Steve’s Memorial-weekend-Katie-visiting-from-Denver BBQ (yes, it’s taken me that long to post this! Sigh). I made a double recipe of dough** and divided it up into four balls, each making an approximately 9″ pizza.
The first pizza we put on was actually more of a Middle-Eastern style flatbread brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with za’atar. It got a little more charred than we would have liked, but it helped us gauge the temperature and timing for the subsequent pizzas. I suggest doing a plain one to start with if you’re new at it, so you don’t waste a bunch of toppings if it does burn. The dough tastes great just brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt- a “pizza bianca”, as it’s known in Italy.
Once we got our test pizza out of the way, we made two more pizzas, one with a classic Margherita*** topping (tomatoes, basil, fresh mozzarella, olive oil, salt & pepper) and one with roasted red and yellow peppers, feta, kalamata olives and basil. I often don’t use sauce on my grilled pizzas, but if you want to, just make sure to go easy and use a light hand with the toppings in general. You’ll want to use pre-cooked toppings, as the heat from the grill just warms them through rather than cooking them. The varieties of topping combinations are as limitless as your imagination, but just keep in mind that for this style of pizza, less is more; you can’t achieve a crisp crust if it’s bogged down with too many extras.
I think I’ve made a convert out of Sarah, who used the fourth ball of dough a few days later to make another grilled pizza for her family. If you have kids, this is a great recipe as it’s really easy to make individual-sized pizzas and let them choose their own toppings. If you make the pizzas a little smaller, you can easily do two or even three at a time.
*There was a recent post on the Village Voice about “food words we hate“, and “toppings” was mentioned as a hated word. Ever since I read that, I can’t stop thinking it does sound weird! But what on earth could you replace it with, especially when talking about pizza? Anyway, if the word “toppings” is bothersome to you, I apologize in advance for using it several times throughout this post, and welcome suggestions for alternatives.
**There is much debate about how to make the best pizza dough, what flour to use, etc. I leave this up to you, as I think almost any dough you use will turn out pretty darn good. One word of advice, though, would be to shape the dough by gently stretching it rather than rolling it.
***OK, technically, my sauceless pizza was a hybrid of Pizza alla Napoletana (cherry tomatoes and basil) and a Pizza Margherita (light tomato sauce, mozzarella & basil). I usually use the cherry or grape tomatoes because in Michigan, for most of the year, they stand the most chance of having any flavor.
Pizza on the Grill (printer-friendly version)
This isn’t so much a recipe as it is some loose guidelines on the actual grilling process. Although it is rewarding and not at all difficult to make your own dough (especially if you have a stand mixer), this is something you could have for a weeknight supper using store-bought dough. I’ve used the pizza dough from Trader Joe’s and had good results- you’ll just need to bring it to room temp and flour it a little so it won’t be too sticky.
As for toppings, like I said, the sky’s the limit. Think of the dough as a blank canvas on which to paint flavor. Don’t limit yourself to “traditional” pizza toppings- one of the best pizzas I made had no tomatoes, sauce or cheese; instead I used crème fraîche, corn, bacon and scallions. It’s also a great way to use up odds and ends in the fridge! Update: I recently posted a recipe for Tarte Flambée that can easily be made on the grill.
Directions: Arrange the coals so that there are more on one side than the other- this will give you two “cooking temperatures”. Shape the pizza dough into rounds no bigger than 8″ or so in diameter. Don’t fret too much about the shape, as rustic shapes work fine, but do try to get them as thin as you can without tearing. Get your toppings organized and have them within easy reach- once the dough’s ready, you’ll need to work quickly so your crust doesn’t burn.
Put your pizza dough on the hot side and cook until the bottom becomes lightly browned (watch carefully to avoid burning), 1-2 minutes. If the heat is a little uneven, give the dough a 180-degree rotation at some point.
Flip over the dough, place on the cooler side of the grill, and quickly add your pizza toppings. Cover the grill and cook for 3-6 minutes, checking periodically, until the pizza is heated through and the bottom crust looks done. If the crust begins to burn and the cheese isn’t yet melted (assuming you’re using cheese), you’ll need to adjust your coals by pushing some from the “cool” side over to the hotter side.
Please note that this isn’t an exact science, and the best thing you can do is be willing to go through some trial and error until you get a method and timing down that works for you and your grill. You’ll be rewarded with pizza that tastes better than you ever imagined you could make at home!