Saturday, October 31, 2015

White Pita Pizza with Garlic Spinach, Roasted Red Pepper and Tre Formaggi

     Gourmet Pita Pizza!  
     When pita bread first became a trendy mainstream food item in the 1970's, it did not take long for cooks to create Pita Pizzas.  Pita Pizza is a quick, easy to make snack.  All that a cook has to do is to put pizza toppings on a piece of pita bread and then bake it.
     In recent years, Pita Pizzas have gone by the wayside, just like French Bread Pizza.  Pre-made manufactured focaccia bread has recently taken the place of French Bread and pita bread for making quick pizza snacks.  Because the quality of the manufactured focaccia is low, focaccia snack pizzas are now waning in popularity too.

     Frozen pizza products have always been something that is better off left at the grocery store.  The same can be said about the new wave of assembled "heat & eat fresh pizza" products.  Once again, the biggest issue with manufactured "fresh" or frozen easy bake pizzas is quality.  Part of the reason is the list of ingredients is usually far from natural.  The biggest complaint is that the flavor of these pizza products taste like cardboard.  In fact, pizza aficionados say that the empty cardboard pizza box from a good pizzeria actually tastes better than most frozen pizzas!

     Instead of suffering through one wave of disappointing manufactured pizza products after the next, why not regress back to the good old days of homemade pizza bread snacks!  At least one can be the chef when designing a bread pizza at home.  The sky is the limit as far as creativity goes and one can gain a good sense of pride when a homemade gourmet Pita Pizza idea gets compliments from guests!  
     When designing a gourmet Pita Pizza, I usually think of a theme, then make the pieces of the puzzle fit together.   The theme for today's Pita Pizza is old schoolWhite pizza is a pizza shop menu item.  Plain white pizza is olive oil, garlic, oregano and a light sprinkle of parmesan and mozzarella cheese.  Some pizza shops use tre formaggi to make a white pizza.  Spinach and tre formaggi white pizza is one of my favorites.

     Tre Formaggi:
     This recipe yields enough for 2 medium size pita pizzas.
     Place 1/2 cup of ricotta cheese in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 tablespoon of finely grated Parmigiana Cheese.
     Add 2 tablespoons of grated mozzarella cheese.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced Italian Parsley.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of whisked egg.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Chill the tre formaggi mixture in a refrigerator.
     Garlic Spinach: 
     This recipe yields enough for 2 medium size pita pizzas. 
     Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 2 cloves of minced garlic.
     Add 3 cups of baby spinach leaves.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Sauté and stir till the spinach starts to wilt.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Set the garlic spinach aside.
     White Pita Pizza with Garlic Spinach, Roasted Red Pepper and Tre Formaggi:
     This recipe describes assembling 1 medium size pita pizza.
     Step 1:  Place an 8" to 10" wide pita bread on a baking pan.
     Generously brush the pita bread with virgin olive oil.
     Sprinkle 2 finely chopped garlic cloves on the pita bread.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of sea salt on the pita.
     Step 2:  Evenly space 6 dollops (about 1 tablespoon each) of the tre formaggi on the pita.
     Place small mounds of the garlic spinach between the quattro formaggi.
     Place a roasted red bell pepper strip on each pile of spinach.
     Step 3:  Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of grated mozzarella over the toppings.
     Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of grated Parmigiana Cheese over the toppings.
     Drizzle 1 teaspoon of virgin olive oil over the toppings.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of oregano over the pita pizza.
     Step 4:  Bake in a 375ºF oven till the tre formaggi becomes hot and the mozzarella melts.
     Step 5:  Set the pita pizza on a cutting board and cut it into 4 pie shaped slices.
     Place the pita pizza slices on a plate and garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.
     Viola!  This gourmet pita pizza mimics a good traditional white pizza!

South Philly Style Roast Pork Sub

     The Other Philly Sandwich!
     South Philly has always been and always will be Italian food haven.  Old fashioned Italian restaurants, sub shops, Italian Ice stands and pizzerias can be found all over South Philly.  Tradition runs thick in this area and the food is as "old school" as it gets.

    Everywhere that one looks in Philadelphia, signs for Cheese Steaks can be seen.  By popular consensus, the Cheese Steak is the king of all sandwiches in this city.  Unfortunately, a steady diet of Cheese Steak sandwiches will surely lead to multiple coronary bypasses later in life.  
     It really does not matter whether beef or chicken is the choice of Cheese Steak meat.  The cholesterol content will still be high.  The dark secret of modern high production inorganic farmed chicken is it actually contains as much cholesterol or more cholesterol than lean beef.  Considering that chicken requires a higher cooking temperature, the cholesterol profile is thoroughly hardened.  Hard cholesterols pose the highest health threat. 
     When shaved Philly Steak meat is combined with processed cheese that is cooked on a greasy griddle, one can easily imagine that the hard cholesterol content in a Cheese Steak expands exponentially.  To give an idea of just how heavy and fatty a Cheese Steak really is, a South Philly Roast Pork Sandwich made with 1 pound of Porchetta (Italian style roasted pork) actually is a healthier choice.  This certainly is an example of regressive health food logic done Philadelphia style!     

     A traditional South Philly Roasted Pork Sandwich is made with Porchetta.  Porchetta has been made in Italy since the days of ancient Rome.  
     Porchetta is a whole pig that is gutted, skinned, deboned.  The pork meat and fat is left whole and intact.  The whole piece of pork is spread out flat, then it is highly seasoned with salt and flavored with black pepper, herbs, spices or even leafy greens like spinach.  The pork is rolled up like a roulade and trussed with butcher's twine.  Then the Porchetta is placed on a spit and slow roasted over an open flame.  
     In modern times, traditional Porchetta is still made the old fashioned way in Italian communities, like South Philly.  As one can imagine, the flavor of Porchetta is far superior to ordinary roast pork.

     Trying to find some authentic Porchetta outside of Italian communities is nearly impossible.  Most ordinary grocery store clerks in America have never heard of Porchetta and the chances are that the word will be confused with Pancetta, which is a different Italian pork product altogether.  
     Due to practicality, most home cooks would not be willing to purchase a whole pig to make Italian Porchetta.  A whole Porchetta is enough pork to feed a small army.  The best that a home cook can do is mimic the Porchetta ideal when making a pork roast.  
     There is an alternative for those who crave Porchetta, yet do not want to bother with preparing a whole pig.  A section of pork shoulder or pork butt can be seasoned and flavored like Porchetta, then roasted on a spit over coals or roasted in an oven.  Just like with Porchetta, the fat should not be trimmed off of the pork roast, because it is the sputtering fat that creates the deep pork flavor and the fat keeps the meat moist.  
     A home cook that has meat fabrication skills can make a roulade with a section of pork shoulder or pork butt.  The end result would be a miniature Porchetta.  The roulade method is best for thoroughly flavoring the pork meat, especially if fresh herbs or aromatic greens are used.  Making a miniature Porchetta is more challenging, but it is well worth the extra effort.  

     One thing to keep in mind is that the roasted pork is piled high on a good South Philly Roast Pork Sub Sandwich.  If it does not look right, put more roasted pork on the sandwich!  The Italian style Roasted Pork Sandwich in the pictures is a good example of piling it on!  
     Sautéed broccoli rabé (rapini) or sautéed spinach is a required garnish for a Porchetta Sub.  Cheese is an option.  Provolone Cheese is the standard cheese option for a South Philly Italian Roast Pork Sub, but just about any kind of Italian cheese can be added.  A small amount of grated Pecorino Romano Cheese was sprinkled on the sandwich in the photos.  

     Italian Roast Pork:
     This recipe yields enough roast pork for 1 extra large double meat sandwich or 2 regular size roast pork sandwiches.  
     This is a simple home style roast pork version of Porchetta.  The meat is not fabricated into a traditional Porchetta roulade shape.  
     When opportunity knocks in the future, I will prepare a whole traditional Porchetta for a follow-up recipe.  A Porchetta made with a whole pig can feed a few large families, so it is not practical for most home cooks.  
     Step 1:  Select a large piece of pork shoulder that weighs 16 ounces.  (Do not trim off the fat!)
     Use a boning knife to stab 4 to 6 holes in the pork roast, so some spices and garlic can be forced into the meat.
     Step 2:  Brush the roast with blended olive oil.
     Rub 6 minced cloves of garlic on the roast.  Try to work a few bits of garlic into the holes in the meat.  
     Generously season the roast with sea salt and black pepper.  
     Flavor the meat with these herbs and spices:   
     - 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder
     - 1/2 teaspoon of rubbed sage
     - 1/2 teaspoon of basil
     - 1/2 teaspoon of oregano
     - 1/2 teaspoon of rosemary
     - crush dried red pepper (to taste)
     *Try to force some of the herbs and spices into the holes on the roast. 
     Step 3:  Place the pork roast on a wire screen roasting rack on a roasting pan.
     Add enough water, so the liquid in the pan is 1/4" deep.
     Step 4:  Slow roast the pork shoulder in a 275ºF oven.
     Add a little bit of water occasionally, so the drippings in the pan do not burn.
     Roast the pork till it is fully cooked and it is caramelized with golden brown color.  A probe thermometer should read 155ºF to 165ºF for well done pork.
     Step 5:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Set the pork roast and roasting rack aside.
     Deglaze the roasting pan with 1 1/2 cups of water.
     Step 6:  Pour the pork roast jus into a wide sauté pan.
     Set the pan aside till later in the recipe.

     Garlic Broccoli Rabé:
     This recipe yields enough for 1 large Italian Roast Pork Sub.
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 2 thin sliced garlic cloves.
     Sauté till the garlic turns a golden color.
     Step 2:  Add 5 or 6 stalks of broccoli rabé.
     Sauté till the broccoli rabé starts to wilt.
     Step 3:  Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 2 ounces of the pork jus from the other pan.
     Simmer till the broccoli rabé is al dente.
     Step 4:  Keep the broccoli rabé warm over very low heat.

     South Philly Style Roast Pork Sandwich:
     This recipe yields 1 large sub sandwich.
     Step 1:  Cut a 10" to 12" long Italian sub roll and split the roll in half.
     Warm the sub roll in an oven.
     Step 2:  Place the sauté pan with the pork jus over medium heat.
     Bring the jus to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Step 3:  Cut the Italian Roast Pork into 3/16" thick slices.
     Place the Roasted Pork Slices in the warm pork jus in the sauté pan.
     Reheat the roast pork.
     Step 4:  *Cheese is optional!
     Place 2 to 3 thin slices of Provolone Cheese (or your favorite Italian cheese) on the hot sliced roasted pork in the sauté pan.
     Allow the cheese to soften.
     Step 5:  Place the sub roll on a cutting board.
     Place a layer of the garlic broccoli rabé on the sub roll.
     Step 6:  Use tongs to mound the cheese coated wet Italian roasted pork on the sandwich.
     Spoon 1 teaspoon of the pork jus over the roasted pork.
     Place the top half of the sub roll on the sandwich and tack it in place with long frill toothpicks (or fancy bamboo sandwich skewers).
     Step 7:  Place the South Philly Italian Roasted Pork Sandwich with Broccoli Rabé on a plate.
     Garnish the plate with roasted red pepper and an Italian Parsley sprig or a garnish of your choice.

     Pile the juicy Italian roast pork a mile high on this sandwich and enjoy the ballgame!  That is what Philly style cooking is all about!  

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Garam Masala Chicken Wings

     North India Style Wings!
     Garam Masala is a popular North Indian spice mixture.  Garam Masala is used like a curry spice mixture in many Indian recipes.
     The word "Garam" translates to "warm."  Garam Masala is not spicy hot, but it does create a comfortable warm feeling.
     Garam Masala is made with cumin, cinnamon, mace, ginger, coriander, black pepper, white pepper, cloves, green cardamom, black cardamom, nutmeg and bay leaves.  Some Garam Masala spice mixes may sometimes include small amounts of curry leaves, fenugreek or turmeric.  The ingredients can vary from one chef to the next, but the spice mix always has a gentle warm flavor.
     It takes experience to know how to properly blend a complex spice mix like Garam Masala.  Pre-mixed Garam Masala can be found at Indian food markets for a bargain price.

     Cilantro Chutney is a very nice condiment.  I featured a few recipes with Mint Chutney last year in this blog.  Cilantro Chutney is made with very finely minced cilantro leaves.  The leaves are minced with shallot and garlic, then sugar, spices and vinegar are added.
     It takes 3 to 4 large bunches of cilantro to make 1 cup of cilantro chutney.  Pre-made cilantro chutney is sold in jars at Indian markets and it is a nice convenience.  A jar of cilantro chutney is cost effective too.

     Ghee is used in Middle Eastern and Indian cooking.  Ghee is clarified fresh butter.  Fresh butter has no water or salt added.  European plugra butter also has no water added.  Regular unsalted butter does contain a small percentage of water.  That small amount of water with the milk fats can scorch a butter at high temperatures.
     Clarified Butter (Ghee):
     Making ghee or clarified butter is easy.  When I am working in a busy sauté station at a restaurant, I usually clarify a large amount of butter, so that I do not have to worry about butter scorching.  For single portions entrees and most blog recipes, I usually do not clarify butter, because I have time to cook the moisture out of the butter to order, without scorching the milk fats.
     • To clarify butter, place about 1 pound of unsalted butter in a sauce pot over medium low/low heat.  When the butter comes to a gentle simmer, allow the moisture and milk fat liquids to evaporate.  The milk solids will stick to the bottom of the pan, after the liquid has evaporated.  By cooking till the liquids evaporate, the clarified butter will have much more flavor than drawn butter.
     • It is important not to overcook the butter.  Clarified butter should be a golden color and it should have a faint hazelnut aroma.
     • After the liquid has evaporated and the clarified butter is a golden color, remove the pot from the heat.  Skim any foam off of the top of the clarified butter.
     • Carefully pour the clarified butter into a container and leave the solid milk fats stuck to the bottom of the pot.
     • The clarified butter (ghee) can be refrigerated or frozen for later use.  Portions can be scooped when necessary.

     Drawn Butter:
     Many chefs make Clarified Butter the same way as making Drawn Butter, but there is a difference.  Drawn Butter has very little flavor.  Drawn butter is usually used for broiling seafood or as a condiment for steamed seafood.  Drawn butter is melted butter that is cooked at a very low temperature.  The milk fats and water are not caramelized or evaporated when making drawn butter.  The clear butter floats on top of the milk fat liquid.
     •  After slowly melting the butter, the foam is skimmed off the top of the butter and it is discarded.  
     •  The clear butter is then drawn off of the milk fat liquid.  This can be done by slowly pouring the butter off or by using a ladle to draw the butter off.  The liquid milk fats are discarded or used to flavor something like potatoes.
     • The finished drawn butter should be a yellow color with no hazelnut aroma.

     Overcooking clarified butter is no problem.  The result of over cooking clarified butter is beurre noisette (golden brown butter) or beurre meuniere (brown butter).  Beurre Noisette and Beurre Meuniere are required in many French recipes.
    If you accidentally overcook the clarified butter till it is dark brown or black in color, then you will have a beurre noir.  Beurre Noir can be used in a few French recipes and it is usually poured smoking hot over poached fish or poached skate.
     To avoid confusion, the order of prepared butters from lightest to darkest is melted butter (pale whitish yellow), drawn butter (pale yellow), clarified butter or ghee (golden yellow), beurre noisette (golden amber brown), beurre meuniere (brown butter) and beurre noir (black butter).

     Garam Masala Sauce for Chicken Wings: 
     This recipe yield enough sauce for 12 chicken wing pieces.
     Step 1:  Boil 2 cups of water in a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 2 tablespoon of minced garlic cloves.
     Add 1/3 cup of finely minced onion.
     Gently boil till the water is almost evaporated.
     Step 2:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1 cup of water.
     Add 1/2 of a seeded minced green jalapeño pepper.
     Add 2 teaspoons of minced ginger.
     Simmer till the water is nearly evaporated.  The onions and garlic should be soft and mushy.
     Step 3:  Add 3 ounces of ghee.  (clarified butter)
     Add 2 tablespoons of garam masala.
     Add 1 tablespoon of Korean style coarse ground red serrano chile pepper paste.  (sambal)
     Add sea salt to taste.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Step 4:  Add 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice.
     Add just enough water while stirring, to create medium thin sauce consistency.  (About 3 to 5 tablespoons)
     Simmer for 2 minutes over low heat.
     Step 5:  Place the garam masala chicken wing sauce in a mixing bowl and keep it warm on a stove top.

     Garam Masala Chicken Wings: 
     This recipe yields 12 wing pieces.
     Step 1:  Cut the wing tips off of 6 chicken wings.  (Discard the tips or save them for making chicken stock for another recipe.)
     Cut the wings apart at the wing and drumette joint.
     Step 2:  Heat 8" of vegetable frying oil in a high sided pot to 360ºF.
     Step 3:  Place the chicken wing pieces in the hot oil.  (Adding a few at a time reduces hot oil foaming.)
     Fry the wings till they are fully cooked and crispy golden brown.  (about 12 to 13 minutes)
     Step 4:  Use a fryer net to remove the wings from the hot oil.
     Place the fried wings in the mixing bowl with the warm garam masala sauce.
     Toss the wings and sauce together.
     Place a bed of Italian Parsley sprigs on a serving platter.
     Place a ramekin of cilantro chutney on the center of the platter.  (Cilantro Chutney can be purchased pre-made in jars at an Indian food market.)
     Place the garam masala sauced chicken wings around the ramekin on the platter.
     Spoon some of the remaining garam masala wing sauce over the chicken wings.

    The complex flavor of Garam Masala Chicken Wings is exceptionally good!