Monday, November 16, 2015

Canadian Pizza! ~ Poutine and Back Bacon

     Canadian Pizza, eh!
     Tradition runs thick in Canada.  So does creativity.  Some of the greatest cold weather food in the world is cooked in the Great White North.  Canadian winter food definitely sticks to the ribs and keeps the body warm in extreme blizzard conditions.  
     Working hard in temperatures that are far below freezing all day long causes the body to convert every available calorie into energy and warmth.  Carbohydrates, proteins and lipids are metabolized in greater volume and at a faster pace, when working hard in sub zero temperatures.  
     Eating 1 pound of butter to stay warm when working in the Arctic Circle is not unheard of.  Fats metabolize quickly when the temperatures are far below zero.  Eskimos can attest to the benefits of fat, because whale blubber is their traditional Arctic survival food.
     Most folks will agree that the thought of living on butter or blubber is not exactly appealing.  There has to be some other kind of cold weather food option that also offers high levels of fat along with plenty of carbs and protein.  Does pizza fit the bill?  Maybe so, if the pizza is made with heavy duty fatty toppings!       
     Creating a pizza that is worthy of being called "Canadian Pizza" requires thinking outside the pizza box.  What this amounts to is that selecting stereotypical "light & lively" California style pizza toppings just will not do.  A pizza topped with avocado, sprouts and some kind of salad is better off served in Southern California, than where the cold north winds blow.  One must proverbially go north of the border when selecting food items that are worthy of being used to create a gourmet Canadian Pizza.  
    If any food creation could be called the official snack food of Canada, then Poutine would be it.  Poutine is French Fries that are smothered with Brown Gravy and Cheese Curds.  Poutine is popular practically everywhere in Canada.  Poutine really has a way of warming up cold bones a cold winter day.  There is enough carbs and fat in one serving of Poutine to keep a Woolly Mammoth warm when the temperature is 30 below!  Topping a pizza with Poutine was the natural choice when selecting a suitable topping for creating a Canadian Pizza recipe.  
     Memories of the "SCTV McKenzie Brothers" also came to mind when making this pizza.  The McKenzie Brothers practically survived on beer and Back Bacon Mayonnaise Sandwiches.  Back Bacon is also called Canadian Bacon, so Back Bacon made it onto the list of ingredients for today's recipe.  
     When making today's Canadian Pizza it is important to remember that Cheddar Cheese Curds melt quickly, so keeping an eye on this pizza while it bakes is necessary.  Cheese Curds should not be browned or they will taste bitter.  They should only be baked till they soften and melt, just like Melted Cheese Curds on a plate of hot Poutine.  
     Today's pizza is an assembled pizza and the toppings are placed on the pizza in separate stages.  The Poutine toppings are placed on the pizza after the crust is cooked, then the pizza is baked again.
     The flavor of this Canadian Pizza is surprisingly tasty.  In fact, the flavor is so comfortable and savory, that is is nearly impossible to eat just one slice!            

     Pizza Dough:   
     This recipe yields enough dough for about 2 medium size pizzas (12" to 14").  
     This recipe is written for a mixer with a dough hook.
     • Standard Pizza Dough is the same as French Baguette Dough.  High gluten flour is best for this recipe, but regular bread flour or all purpose flour can be used. 
     • Some chefs prefer Focaccia Dough for making pizza.  To make a Focaccia Dough, add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil during Step #2 in this recipe.    
     Step 1:  Place 1 1/2 cups of lukewarm water (112ºF) in a mixer bowl.  
     Add 2 tablespoons of fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon of dry yeast.
     Place the mixer bowl in a lukewarm place like on top of a warm oven.
     Allow the yeast to bloom.
     Step 2:  Add 1/2 tablespoon of sugar.
     Add 4 cups of flour.
     Add 1 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Step 3:  Place the bowl on a mixer and attach a dough hook.
     Set the mixer to low speed and let the ingredients combine.  
     Mix till the dough starts to gather on the dough hook and the dough pulls away from the mixer bowl.  
     *If the dough is still too wet, add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time, till the dough gathers on the hook. 
     Step 4:  Turn off the mixer.
     Cover the dough in the mixer bowl with a dry towel. 
     When the dough rises more than double, turn the mixer on low speed for a few seconds to beat the dough down.
     Step 5:  Remove the dough hook. 
     Cover the dough with a towel and let it rise again.
     When it rises the second time, beat the dough down by hand.
     Step 6:  Place the dough on a flour dusted counter top.
     Roll the dough into a large ball shape. 
     Step 7:  Cut the dough ball in half to make 2 medium size pizza portions.
     Roll and tuck each dough portion with your hands to make smooth dough balls.
     Step 8:  Place each dough ball in a sealed container.
     Chill the dough for at least 2 hours in a 41ºF refrigerator.   
     *The dough balls can be refrigerated for a few days or frozen for later use.

     Brown Gravy:
     This recipe yields about 2 1/4 cups.  (More than enough for 1 medium size pizza.)
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour while constantly stirring with a whisk to make a roux.  (The roux should look shiny, not caky.)
     Constantly stir till the roux becomes a dark brown color.  
     Step 2:  Add 2 1/2 cups of beef stock.  (Be careful of the steam!)
     Add 2 ounces of Canadian Whiskey.  (optional)
     Briskly whisk the gravy to combine the roux.
     Whisk occasionally as the gravy comes to a gentle boil and it thickens to a very thin sauce consistency.
     Step 3:  Add 1 pinch of onion powder.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the gravy till it becomes medium thin consistency that easily coats a spoon.
     Keep the gravy warm over very low heat.

     Back Bacon:
     This recipe yields enough for 1 medium size pizza.
     Step 1:  Stack 6 thin slices of Canadian Bacon (back bacon).
     Cut the stacked slices into fourths.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add the back bacon pieces.
     Sauté till a few light brown highlights appear.
     Step 3:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Keep the back bacon warm on a stove top.

     French Fries:
     This recipe yields 1 large portion.
     Step 1:  Heat 6" of vegetable frying oil in a high sided pot to 360ºF.
     Cut a peeled 8 to 10 ounce russet potato lengthwise into 1/4" thick slices.
     Stack the potato slices and cut them into 1/4" thick potato sticks. 
     Step 2:  Place the potato sticks in the hot oil.
     Fry the potatoes for 1 minute, so they are barely blanched and still white in color.
     Use a fryer net to place the fries on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan.
     Let the french fries cool.
     Step 3:  Place the cooled blanched potato sticks in the hot oil a second time.
     Fry till they are crispy golden brown.
     Step 4:  Use a fryer net to place the fries on a wire screen roasting rack on a drip pan to drain off any excess oil.
     Season the fries with sea salt.
     Keep the french fries warm on a stove top.

     Canadian Pizza:
     This recipe yields 1 medium size 12" to 14" pizza.
     This pizza has to be baked in stages.
     Step 1:  Place 1 medium size portion of pizza dough on a flour dusted countertop.  (A firm piece of dough that is about the size of a softball.)
     Use finger tips or a rolling pin to flatten the pizza dough into a flat round disk shape that is about 12" to 14" wide.  The rolled dough should be about 1/4" to 3/8" thick.
     Step 2:  Lightly brush a pizza pan with blended olive oil.
     Place the shaped pizza dough on the pizza pan.
     Even the edges of the dough, so it looks nice.
     Pat the edge of the pizza dough with fingertips to form the crust.
     Step 3:  Par bake the shaped pizza dough in a 450ºF oven.  Bake till the pizza is as firm as soft bread.  The color of the crust should be pale white.  
     Step 4:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Spread a thin layer of brown gravy on the pizza.  Leave the edges of the crust bare.
     Sprinkle 2 pinches of oregano on the gravy.
     Step 5:  Return the pizza pan to the 450ºF oven.
     Bake till the crust is crisp and it turns a light golden brown color.  (If the gravy dries out, it is okay, because more gravy will be added in the next step!)
     Step 6:  Remove the pizza pan from the oven.
     Place the reserved French Fries on the pizza.
     Place the reserved Back Bacon Pieces on the pizza.
     Spoon a generous amount of brown gravy over the ingredients.
     Sprinkle about 6 ounces of Cheddar Cheese Curds on the pizza.
     Step 7:  Return the pizza to the 450º oven.
     Bake for about 1 or 2 minutes, till the cheese curds start to melt.  (Cheese Curds melt quickly.  Cheese Curds should not be browned or they will taste bitter.)
     Step 8:  Remove the pizza pan from the oven.
     Spoon a little bit more brown gravy over the pizza as a finishing touch.
     Sprinkle a few pinches of minced Italian Parsley over the pizza.
     Cut the small Canadian Pizza into 4 slices and slide the pizza onto a serving platter.

     The comfortable flavor of Canadian Pizza is perfect for an icy cold day!  

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