Beer Sauteed Lamb Merguez Sausage Pizza
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.
This Zucchini Pepperoni Pizza
You only thought you didn't have any pepperoni in the fridge!
They say pepperoni is the most popular pizza topping in the United States. I'm sure that the vast majority of that comes on delivery pizzas and your local town or chain pizzerias. When we think of artisan pizza, pepperoni isn't the first thing that comes to mind. In fact, it's the opposite…you'll almost never see pepperoni on any artisan pizzas. Instead you'll see a variety of salted cured pork delicacies on the menu such as seasoned Salumi like Calabrese or Finocchiona as well as sopressatas, prosciuttos or other gourmet cured items.
When you think about your favorite wood fired pizza, or artisan coal fired, or brick oven pizza, it's the dough and the charred bubbles on the crust and then the amazing "new" variety of gourmet toppings that will lay on top of the deliciously warm, soft and crusty dough. When I am ordering at my family's favorite local pizzeria I will almost always choose salami instead of pepperoni. Truth be told here, I do lose that battle with my kids once in a while.
When I do, I'll admit I secretly love my pepperoni pizza! I particularly love when the edges get crispy and fold up giving a little crunch to the salty spicy bite you are enjoying. I also love how the pepperoni juice becomes part of the sauce of the pizza. When I have a pepperoni pizza I always remember why it's the number one topping in America. It's good stuff.
So, what do you do when you have a pepperoni craving and no pepperoni? You improvise! I made some home made pepperoni one time and then had the idea to use those spices and seasonings to make up pepperoni flavored broccoli stalks. *Link to recipe here. Why stop with just broccoli stalks? They were great, but let's give it a whirl with some zucchini I have sitting here. For this pepperoni pizza, I also thought about gourmet-ing it up using "artisan pizza" ingredients. Check it out...
The Zucchini Pepperoni
- 1-2 Zucchinis thinly sliced
- Olive Oil *Approx. 1-2 Tablespoons
- Rice Wine Vinegar *Approx. 1/2 Tablespoon
- Paprika *Approx. 1 1/2 tablespoons
- Garlic Powder *Approx 1/2 Tablespoon
- Ground Red Pepper Flakes *Approx 1/2 Tablespoon
- Ground Mustard Seed *Approx 1/2 Tablespoon
- A little Cayenne Pepper
- Ground Black Pepper
*Note: I have been making this by "eye". These amounts are approximate. Start with less and add more of each as needed per your taste. Mix it all together and taste one. Adjust and taste again until you have it where you like it. I simplified this a little from my broccoli pepperoni where I used a few more ingredients. *LINK
Slice the zucchini. Add the olive oil and spices and mix.
Saute them in a pan, or in the oven for a few minutes to get them on their way. They will finish on the pizza. Set aside.
To keep things interesting and not vegetarian ("Not that there's anything wrong with that!"), I slipped in some Italian and Andouille Sausage I had in the fridge!
A little sautéed Sausage, Mushroom and Red Onion for good measure:
- Olive Oil
- Chopped Garlic
- Sausage broken into bits
- Sliced Mushrooms
- Chopped Red Onions
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Place in the oven, or in a pan and sauté until the sausage is just cooked through. Leave a little room for it to continue to cook on your pizza. The mushrooms and onions will also cook down, but have something left for the bake on the pizza.
This Zucchini Pepperoni Pizza:
- Your favorite Pizza Dough - It better be one of Peter's recipes!
- Olive Oil
- Peter's crushed tomato sauce
- Grated Mozzarella
- A little sliced fresh mozzarella
- Sauteed Pepperoni Zucchini
- Sauteed Sausage, Mushrooms and Onions
- Chopped Italian Parsley to finish
Spread your dough
Cover with the tomato sauce and grated mozz
Layer with a little of the S-M-O mixture and the pepperoni zucchini slices
Tear some of the fresh mozzarella to add a little creaminess to the cheese. *I love the way the hard mozzarella blends with the softer fresh mozzarella giving it two textures and a creamy milkiness you don't get with just grated mozzarella.
Into the oven. In this case, I was using my Primavera WFO. Writing this I can smell the wood and smoke as the pizza began to come to life in there! In a few turns in the oven, about 90 seconds and a lift into the dome this pizza is ready to go.
The savory sausage and mushrooms went nicely with the juicy spicy zucchini pepperoni on this pie. There's also a subtle milkiness that the soft mozzarella brings through the cheese layers giving balance to the toppings and sauce.
A Couple Tomato Pies
I have been drooling and laughing and hoping to meet Bob Radcliffe some day as we've been posting and reading the wonderful articles about his Tomato Pie journey here on Pizza Quest. Keep them coming Bob! Don't stop when you've run out of things to say about your Tomato Pies -- let's see about getting you into some cheese making next! Or, perhaps let us in on some of your other wood burning oven activities out there on your farm. I can smell the wood smoke coming from your chimney now.
Bob has taken things to another level. He is the type of true artisan we're all so lucky exists! He takes that unprecedented time and focus that it takes to move things beyond good and into the category of being great, or perhaps insane. Of course, I use the term "insane" more as a form of praise for his drive rather than one to declare his true levels of sanity. Lucky for us, he is also sharing his passions.
My brother was just out for the weekend, and he hadn't ever had one of the pizzas from my new Primavera 60 Wood-Fired baby…I mean oven! We had plans to go out to dinner his last night here, but he kept looking at the oven sitting on the patio and asking questions about it or, as it turns out, hinting questions that would lead to the obvious change of our plans. When I clued in, the plans changed. I "decided" to make a couple of pizzas for him that night. With Bob's stories running through my head, I thought I would play ball…take the plunge and pull a few of my own attempts at the Tomato Pie game.
I didn't do it by the "book", but the results were so good I will definitely continue to bring this pie into the line up when I make pizzas. In a way, this could be the starting point for any pizza night. It's the simplest ingredients that often come together to define a dish. For pizza the basics are: great dough, great tomatoes, great cheese and a few other ingredients as you wish.
A Couple Tomato Pies:
- Peter's Neo-Neopolitan Dough
- Canned San Marzano peeled tomatoes (*I had a #10 can of the Bianco Dinapoli Peeled California Plum Tomatoes!)
- Olive Oil
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Chili Oil (Just assume this is around if I ever forget it in a recipe. It's really not part of the recipe, but at the same time, it is part of THE Recipe!)
So, I opened my Bianco Dinapoli can - after refrigerating it because Bob tells us that's what he's found works best for him. Hello tomatoes! I have to confess, sitting over the counter and sink as I cut the tomatoes I started drooling. This was a lucky circumstance because the object of my desire was right there in front of me. I picked up one of these "plums" and leaned over the sink, tilted my head and dropped the fruit/vegetable into my mouth like a servant feeding Ceasar. I took most of it in my mouth and bit holding the top of the tomato. It oozed a little out of my mouth -- since I was over the sink and I was feeling a little decadent I let it drip down my chin as I savored the tomato. Holy Moley -- so simply good it was amazing!
Back to cutting the tomatoes after I digressed for a taste. Ok, I digressed two more times as I made the pizzas. What? It was a #10 can! There were a lot of tomatoes.
The Tomato Pies:
You'll see two versions of my Tomato Pies in the photos. The first was the basic: Dough - Tomatoes - Cheese - Basil - Oven. It was great! As I went to make the next one I thought I could use a few more tomatoes. I varied my construction: Dough - Cheese - Tomatoes - Cheese - Tomatoes - Basil. A double double as it turns out is good for a pizza as it is for a fast food hamburger. Come on! You know those are good! How about Animal Style? The secret menu at my house is developing.
These were amazing pies. Peter's Neo-Neopolitan Dough is always a great performer. It's always light and puffy and allows the ingredients to shine. They shined! I'm sure I'm way off the mark of where Bob is when pulling pies out of his oven, but I'm here to tell you to jump on board Bob's Tomato Pie Express. Delicious!
I'll be playing with this for awhile.
Enjoy the photos...
Tomato Pie #1:
Tomato Pie #2 - The Double Tomato Pie:
I hope you had a chance to look at my Rack o' Pork recipe. If not, I'll wait a second to continue here.
Go on, go back and read it. I won't wait for you to make it, but I hope after reading that recipe and this pizza recipe that you'll be making plans to pick up a rack this weekend.
It isn't easy coming up with pizza recipes to make and write about. Actually, it's probably easier to come up with the recipes to make and eat than to write about them. Actually, as I am writing this, my mind wandered and I just stumbled on an idea for the next firing of my Primavera oven. That part is easy. The ideas pop into my head. I imagine the sum of the parts, the hot pizza, and that first taste of crusty cheesy goodness and know the pieces will come together nicely. I then have to force myself to sit down and ramble on about my successful pie. Fun stuff.
So, back to this baby. I had found that recipe for the Roasted Rack of Pork on a website called Chef Dennis and thought that it would be an interesting meal and mostly a new challenge to cook in my wood burning oven. *Link to Recipe. Pizzas are relatively easy. Get the fire really freakin' hot and slide the pizza in and keep a close eye on it - turn it a couple of times over about 90-120 seconds and you're a genius. It's not that simple to come out with a great pizza in the end, but falling off those rails of perfection starts when you make the dough and continue right up until you pull it out of the oven. Pizza is simple, but because it's so simple I think that's what makes it so hard to perfect. I've been at this a while and whenever I get one that rises above the others approaching "better than normal", I am amazed. It's not that I did anything different - at least not anything I can really nail down as the moment that made the difference. It's just a lot of little things that went right.
Anyway, I opened my fridge a couple of days after making the rack of pork and saw the left overs. The light bulb went off. Why not? Let's see how this stuff will groove on a pizza. I've got dough. How about some herb oil and some of my ever-growing and ready garden cherry tomatoes for the sauce. I've got some English White Cheddar and some soft "fresh" mozzarella and even some fresh basil on hand. When making one pizza, there is almost always a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th on it's heels.
This first rack of pork pizza is going into the regular oven. The next into the Primavera WFO. Don't even begin to think I have too much time on my hands! It's just about taking advantage of small windows of time!
- Peter's Neo-Neopalitan Dough
- Peter's Herb Oil
- Brad's Garden Cherry Tomatoes sliced in half
- Grated English White Cheddar
- Fresh Mozzarella
- Left over Rack-o-Pork with Montreal Seasoning - thinly sliced *Recipe Link
- Chopped fresh basil
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Chili Oil if you so desire as a finishing touch
To the Pizza:
Spread your dough
Drizzle with a little herb oil and add the halved cherries. If you haven't noticed this combination appears on a lot of my pizzas. It's become a favorite for a couple of reasons. First, I have these two tomato plants that won't stop producing these beautiful little tomatoes. Second, they are fresh and as "local" as I can get - being only a few steps from my kitchen. Last, but not least, the tomatoes are a great topping, but also become essentially a sauce with the herb oil as well. Delicious!
Spread some grated cheddar and add a few pinches of the fresh mozzarella to blend with it, which also serves to smooth the cheddar out as it melts. The cheddar is not as smooth when melts as grated mozzarella, so the creamier texture and milkiness of the fresh soft mozzarella is a nice addition to the cheese blend.
Lay the sliced pork around the pizza.
Into the oven!
I have my oven producing well browned pizzas in about 6 minutes. I have a few pizza stones and a pizza steel sitting in there, which I think helps concentrate the heat around the pizza (along with the convection function of the oven). This crust came out nice and even and almost starting to char in a few places.
Time to go...
Add a little Sea Salt and Pepper to taste and sprinkle on the chopped basil.
Drizzle some chili oil on the pizza and enjoy!
*As always send me your emails, comments on the site, and some pictures of your own pizzas!
Oven Roasted Rack o' Pork!
I just found the pizza and sandwich topping of the year! You heard it here first. In this post I'll tell you how to make it and, in future posts, how to use it on pizzas and also how to make the King of all Cheese-(Pork) Steak sandwiches, with the left overs.
Here's the background story: I was looking to play with my Primavera one weekend not long ago. I was bored and wanted to try something new. I've had it now for almost 6 months and it still feels new and, I'm still either learning to drive it, or thinking about ways to drive it. That may be half the fun of it. Like any hobby, the fun and rewarding part is often as much about the journey and not the destination. I was "feeling" pork that weekend. I reviewed some of the great recipes on the Forno Bravo Forum, and put in some time searching on the internet, when something caught my eye.
Oven Roasted Rack of Pork.
Rack of Pork?!!! Now that just sounded too good. Rack of lamb is one of my favorite things to make and maybe that will be next to hit the fire dome, but a rack of pork -- that sounded perfect! I don't think I have ever had a whole rack of pork cooked for me before. Pork chops, roast pork loin, smoked pork, barbecued pork, on and on, but never before had a full rack of pork been presented to me. I found a gigantic 8-bone specimen at the store. Beautiful!
So, back to my weekend...
It was a slow weekend and I had some time to just hang out with my family. We had a break in our usually crazy schedule of running the kids from one sport to another, or to one friend's house, or a movie. When a calm window opens up like this I often feel like cooking. I do some of my best meals when it's just the family. I enjoy cooking for and with friends, but there is also something about hanging out and making something amazing when it would be just as easy to order a pizza or to throw some burgers on the grill. After all, do the kids really appreciate a good meal? The truth is, even my kids don't! I can admit it. You get the occasional, "That was really good!" but on weekends like this it's more about the time you spend with each other. I think gathering around a big meal, or a special meal means something more than just the food. With the way the world is these days, this type of time spent together is more and more important.
By the way, that said, a burger on the grill is almost always a good idea! I'm just saying…
Back to the rack!
I can't take credit for this Rack of Pork creation. I found it on a website called Ask Chef Dennis - www.askchefdennis.com. Just click on the *LINK to his recipe and I could stop here and pass you on. Trust me, you have to make this!
I won't stop though. I did add something to this which I think our pizza making, wood fired oven lovin' community will appreciate. I made this in my WFO. I think it was Newman on one of the Seinfeld episodes that proclaimed about the Kenny Roger's chicken: "It's the wood that makes it good!" You gotta love Newman as he munched through a chicken leg, mouth half full enjoying his chicken while spewing those words. The wood does make it good, right? It certainly makes it fun. And, it makes it more primal. We like primal.
I followed Ask Chef Dennis' basic recipe. It's simple, as so much of great cooking is.
- 8 bone center cut rack of pork *Take the pork out of the fridge for 30-60 minutes before cooking.
- olive oil
- sea salt
- black pepper
- Montreal Steak Seasoning
- 2 carrots - rough cut
- 1 small onion cut with skins
- 2 stalks of celery - rough cut
- 6 cloves garlic peeled
Since you are on Pizza Quest, it's time to build a fire! The recipe calls for 450 Degrees for 15 minutes and then turning it down to 325 degrees for 2 hours in the oven. As we all know, there is no turning a wood fired oven down after 15 minutes. There's more of a dance to be played out in order to do what Chef Dennis is trying to do here.
So, this is not going to be a pizza hot fire. I got a small-medium fire going and let it saturate the oven for a little more than an hour or so. I got the walls up to around the 400's and let the fire settle down. I wanted to get the oven interior temp to be holding in the low 300's and hold that for about 2 hours without loosing too much. I also wanted to try to sear the pork with a higher heat. So, I added some small logs to the fire and let it flare up when I put the pork in. After about 15 minutes, I decided to close the door to capture some smoke and to kill the fire a bit and hopefully, get this thing to ride in the low 300's. You'll see I did pretty well.
Now that the fire is rolling, go set up the rack of pork:
- In a roasting pan add the cut veggies *We'll use these and the drippings for some pan gravy.
- Rinse the pork and pat dry
- Place pork fat side up on top of the bed of veggies
- Rub the olive oil all over the pork
- Sprinkle the entire rack with sea salt, pepper and then with a good coating of Montreal Steak Seasoning. *Use a good amount of the Montreal Seasoning to form a crust.
- Place the roast into the oven. *See my notes above if using a wood burning oven.
- Use a remote thermometer to get the outside of the racks to reach 160 degrees. This will make sure that the thicker center is not as cooked as much. This should take about 2 - 2 1/2 hours, but because you are in a wood oven with less consistent temps, make sure to monitor it.
- Pull the rack of pork out and let it rest at least 10 minutes.
- While the rack is resting, place the roasting pan on your stove top. Add 2 cups of water and, with a wooden spoon, loosen the scraps and veggies in the pan. Add a little flour, or pre-make a roux to thicken the gravy. Strain the chunks and bits and you have a delicious gravy!
Back to the pork:
- Cut the rack along the bones. Serve with the pan gravy.
I served this with mashed potatoes and some roasted carrots. So simple and so good! What a great meal!
Ask Chef Dennis was right! The Montreal Seasoning and the pork go so well together. It's not fair to other cuts of meat and spice combinations. It really isn't. I hope you enjoy this amazing meal. Check out the original recipe on the link above if cooking in your home oven, or if you are lucky enough to have a WFO, then get to this recipe and do it soon. It's a winner and it keeps on giving.
I'll be back with some pizzas made with left over Rack o' Pork with Montreal Seasoning. This is an amazing pizza topping and worth the effort to make and use for pizza alone! And, as I said, I later made a cheesy rack-o-pork, Philly Cheese Pork sandwich that may have put the original to shame.
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