Note from Peter: We're still having some major problems with the photo upload and may have to do a major overhaul. But I didn't want to delay sharing this great post by Brad English, so we're breaking with tradition and putting it up without the usual mouth-watering photos. Just let your visual imagination roam and enjoy the story. Take it away Brad....
Note from Brad: I'll post a couple pictures on our Facebook page.
Lately, I've been playing with my wood-fired oven while it comes up to pizza temperature. There's a lot of usable heat to make side dishes, or in the case of making pizzas, some toppings. Once there is a good fire going, after 20-30 minutes, there is plenty of heat radiating out onto the hearth. This is the perfect time to throw something together in a cast iron skillet, or in the case of peppers or chillis, you can just throw them onto the hearth stone at the foot of the fire and roast away.
This is one of the more interesting things about cooking with a wood-fired oven, or even a charcoal fire instead of a home oven or gas grill, which are both much more accurate and controllable. Open fire cooking is more interactive. You can't just start the oven and set a timer. You have to work with the heat/fire which is constantly changing. You also have to build your fire with a well thought-out plan of how hot you want it, when you need it that hot, etc. As a home cook/food geek, with what I suppose is basically a cooking hobby, open fire cooking feels somehow more connective.
I've been sautéing my sausage this way for some time now. I've also been creating a variety of sausage "sauces" lately. I'll throw in some onions, garlic, or other ingredients like fennel, or jalapeños with my sausage and cook them, hopefully, until just before they are done, so they can finish on my pizza. The more I play with this sausage sauce idea, the more saucy it's gotten. The juice/sauce left over is a really great drizzle for the pizza, with lots of flavor!
I met a pizzaiolo named Chef Joseph Boness, who owns and operates a Mobile Wood Burning Oven business called Vella Pizza (www.vellapizza.com) in Torrance, CA. I was at one of our new local breweries in Torrance, CA, called Absolution Brewing Company, with some friends. It turned out that Chef Boness was there with his WBO. Naturally, we hit it off! He made some great pizza and I got to spend a bit of time with him talking shop! Fun stuff. I'm hoping we'll be hearing more from him in the future. Stay tuned. Long story short - and to the point -- one of the toppings he used for a delicious calzone he made for me was made with a beer sausage. He used one of the beers at the brewery to make this sausage. It was so good that, later that week, I decided to play at home in my Primavera.
Lamb Merguez Sausage and Sauce Ingredients:
- Lamb Merguez Sausage
- olive oil
- chopped garlic
- sea salt
- black pepper
Lamb Merguez Sausage and Sauce and Roasted Chilis:
Build a fire! This could be done on the stove top also, but we've got a Wood Burning Oven. So…
As the fire was getting going I threw some nice red and yellow chilis onto the hearth in front of the burning almond wood. Keep turning them while they roast to make sure to evenly cook on all sides. This worked great. As soon as these were done, the oven was pretty hot and ready for my sausage pan.
Heat up the pan and add your olive oil.
*I use a lot of olive oil because I want to make sure there is a "sauce" that I can drizzle on the finished pizza.
Thinly slice up your leeks and chop a few cloves of garlic and place in the pan and sauté.
Break the sausage up into pieces about twice the size you will want on your pizza and place them into the leek/garlic sauté.
*Once cooked, I pinch them in half to place on the pizza which exposes the middle which should still need a little cooking to finish them, or at least have a little cooking left in them since they are going back in the oven on your pizza.
After a minute or so, add some beer to the pan.
*I use a good amount to help create the sauce.
Saute until the sausage are almost done and a good amount of the beer/sauce has been reduced.
Set aside to cool. Can be used right away to top a pizza, or used after it's cooled. This can also be done on the stove top ahead of time.
The Beer Sauteed Lamb Merguez Sausage Pizza:
- Your favorite Pizza Dough
- Can of Bianco DiNapoli Whole Peeled Tomatoes - if you can get them! If not, use the best you can find
- Lamb Merguez Sausage and Sauce
- Roasted Chilis - peeled and sliced into strips
- Fresh Mozzarella
- Fresh Basil
Spread your dough.
I used my tomatoes whole by simply pulling the top off where the stem connects and opening the tomato, pulling it in half. Lay the tomato halves around the pizza.
Add your lamb sausage and leek mixture.
Tear some fresh mozzarella and place around the pizza.
Add the sliced roasted chilis and then drizzle with some of your sausage sauce which will blend with your tomatoes to make a great super sauce.
Into the oven. Bake till done, about three to four minutes if your oven is set just right (not 800 degrees, as in Naples but more like 650 - 700 degrees F.
Out of the oven.
Top with some chopped fresh basil.
This pizza was delicious! The leeks where a nice variation on using onions and went well with the bold earthy lamb Merguez sausage. The mild chilis added a nice texture and subtle chili note. I could see heating this up a bit with some roasted Fresno Chilis or Serranos, but it was nice letting the Merguez sausage take the lead note on this pizza also. The milky simplicity of the fresh mozzarella let all of these ingredients come forward and gave it a really nice balance.
*Note: I may try to marinade the sausage in the beer prior to cooking next time to give them more time to get together.