Fire Roasted Brussels
Oh my god! I found the most amazing vegetable! I don't think anyone knows about it. They are these little bulbs called Brussels Sprouts and I'm the first one to ever think of cooking them and eating them.
Ok, maybe not the first.
Boy are these things the hot item these days. I bet they run out of favor soon because they seem to have exploded so big as THE gourmet side dish. I enjoy them, so I fear they may slide back into history and slowly emerge as that strange vegetable that is force-fed to children across the land.
I remember as a kid I wasn't supposed to like them. That probably has a lot to do with how they were served by my parents. I called my mother to see how she served them to us and the phone went silent. She finally said, "I don't think I ever served them to you kids. Maybe it was your grandmother. We didn't eat Brussels sprouts." Well, I know I ate them somewhere, so let's blame Grandma! We decided they were probably steamed. I would probably like that today, and as I said, I sort of did back then. I felt like I was a giant eating a whole head of cabbage or something. Pretty funny!
But today is a different story. We don't steam them anymore. We roast them, or pan fry them to the point where they are both moist on the inside and crispy on the outside. In fact, we treat them more like a pizza than a vegetable. I always nail them with high heat and give them the business and they are so thick that they can withstand it all and still give something great back to you.
What better way to cook these little babies than in a 900 degree wood fired oven? Let's see what we can do here.
Wood Fired Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- Brussels Sprouts
- Bacon or Pancetta
- Chopped Red Onion
- Olive Oil
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Salt and Pepper
Clean the sprouts by trimming off any browned bits at the base and pull off any browned leaves. I par-boil them for a minute to get them soft, but not done. Let them cool and then cut them in half. This allows you to brown more of them up when cooking.
The bacon and onions:
Separately, chop up some bacon and red onion, or shallots, and sauté them until they are only "mostly done," that is, till they wilt and the bacon renders off a lot of fat but has not yet crisped . They too will finish in the oven.
In a bowl, combine the sprout halves and bacon/onion mixture and drizzle with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper to taste and toss.
Put the sprout mixture back into the iron skillet and slide it into the WFO. 900 degrees F. gets the pan hot and these things cooking pretty fast. Don't worry, there's time to sip your beer. You did open a beer, right? Do I have to include that in the ingredient list?
Brown them. Char them. Toss. Back into the fire.
Make sure to get the enough of them charred up. The burnt tips/edges provide a ton of flavor as well as a crisp texture to contrast with the softer interior.
These make a great pizza topping. I even created a pepperoni seasoning that I sprinkled onto my sprouts once and created my own vegi-pepperoni - *LINK. The slight bitterness of the sprout gives it some bite and stands out against the sweet balsamic and saltiness of the bacon and seasonings.
Wood Fired Pizza Rolls
What's a pizza roll?
If you fold a pizza it's called a calzone. If you roll it up, it's a stromboli. I've seen something in between simply called a sausage roll. I found out recently when breaking in my new wood fired oven and learning to use a metal pizza peel that what starts out as a pizza may end up flipping over while going in and end up coming out of the oven something more like a calzone! When this first happened to me a light bulb went off and I said to myself "So that's where the CALZONE comes from!" Or, maybe they made Calzones first and one unfolded as it was slid into some ancient wood burning oven and the poor guy slinging it in said to himself "Atsa da pizza!"
My local "Brooklyn-style" pizzeria, Valentino's sells a nice sausage roll. Whenever we order pizza from them, we throw a couple of these babies on the order. We cut them up and snack on them as a necessary warm-up act while getting ready to hit the pizza. I was getting some ingredients to toss onto some dough and, when I browsed the pork products, my minds-eye drifted off to those sausage rolls and I decided I would be trying something new when I got home.
Should I fold? Should I roll? I ended up sort of doing both. They came out great in the wood fired oven. I'll have to try this in the home oven next. The high heat of the wood oven melted everything nicely inside and set up a great crispy charred crust all around. I think it will be tough for my home oven to equal it but I'll let you know....
The Pizza Rolls
- Pizza Dough, your favorite recipe
- Sliced Cherry Tomatoes
- Chopped Red Onion
- Hot Italian Sausage
- Olive Oil
- Pizza Dough
- Sliced Cherry Tomatoes
- Chopped Red Onion
- Hot Italian Sausage
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- Olive Oil
I'll post a recipe that I like to use for the roasted Brussels Sprouts soon. I have been popping things in the oven when I make pizza to keep expanding my experience working with the wood and fire rather than my home oven. These came out great! I was in Boulder Co. a couple months ago and Kelly Whitaker did a great Market Pizza with Brussels. They seem to be the "it" topping and side dish these days. Good for us. I love that slight bitterness, and you can really impart other flavors into them when you prepare them.
Back to the rolls...
I made the first roll like a pizza. After I spread the dough I just started topping it and I realized that I made a pizza! So, I just sort of lifted the sides and joined them and then folded the whole thing into a roll. What was nice, was where the dough was pinched together it was clumpy and doughy and gave the roll some more texture and a real rustic look. When I made the second one, I wised up and put the toppings in one place anticipating the end result! Either way works! In fact, my first accidental calzone looked like a disaster, but tasted amazing. It was more of a Pizza-Roll-Over.
Can I coin that term?
The great thing about these is that they not only tasted great but they also saved really well. When we were done eating, we sliced up the rolls into snack sized slices and tossed them into a baggie. The next day they came out, went into the oven and baked up to near perfection again. Since I eat my leftover pizza as a cold slice in the morning, while going out the door, these rolls make a great breakfast-to-go alternative.
What's my second favorite food? You guessed it -- cold pizza.
Enjoy the pics and let us know if you have any favorite calzone/stromboli/pizza roll ideas!
Crab Stuffed Mushrooms!
I'm in the middle of the beginning of a journey that started quite a while ago. That's a mouthful, but believe it or not it's true! I just got a Primavera 60 from Forno Bravo and I am beginning to chronicle my tales of learning how to drive this new oven. I recently posted Part I of my wood fired oven journey (see a few posts below). But....
"Stop the presses!"
I must interrupt this introduction to bring you a new recipe!
As I've been learning to fire up the Primavera and get my pizzas in and out of the oven, I have also been experimenting with other dishes -- sides and entrees that use the oven in different ways. There is hot and there is Pizza HOT! On the way to pizza hot, I'm finding out that it can be a good time to throw some other things into the fire. I've been roasting lots of vegetables -- so easy and so delicious. At the lower temps they don't char as much as on a grill, but when you do them at Pizza Hot temps, they char up just fine! I've thrown fish in this baby and then used the fish as a topping on my pizza, and roasted some chicken, and also flash fired some shrimp!
But, what have we stopped the presses for?
I find myself stuffing a lot of mushrooms! I mean, pizza and mushrooms go together right? You can never go wrong having mushrooms around when you are making pizza. I love stuffed mushroom caps. In fact, one of my first "foodie" experiences may well have been about stuffed mushrooms. My first job in high school was as a bus boy in a little family run restaurant. I remember two things about that job. The first was the negative! The sons, who were the waiters never shared their tips with me! The second is that the chef gave me one of their stuffed mushrooms one day back in the kitchen. Oh my god! I was hooked. I'm almost certain they were crab stuffed. They were moist and cheesy and crabby -- just delicious! This was the highlight of that job; once the chef knew I liked them, he would slip me an extra here and there. He probably knew I was getting screwed by the brothers!
I figured that stuffed mushrooms would be perfect to try at various temperatures to help me learn how to work with the oven and understand how it gives off it's heat. Man, was I right! I started with some Artichoke Stuffed Mushrooms and then started playing more with crab versions. I nailed it the other day and thought I needed to interrupt my intro to the Primavera with my Crab Stuffed Mushroom celebration!
What's in em?
*Remove stems and chop to add into crab mixture
Panko Bread Crumbs
Chopped Serrano Chilies from my garden! Go a little easy on this -- per your taste for "the heat"
A little Chopped Garlic
Chopped Red Pepper
Chopped Red Onion
Grated English White Cheddar! I can't say enough about this combination...
Fresh squeezed Lemon
Tab of butter - to place on top of each cap before placing into the fire
I am playing with this recipe. It's sort of an everything but the kitchen sink celebration of a crab roll in a mushroom cap kind of thing! It's pretty versatile as you'll see. While I had the ingredients, I made a version of a crab pizza that night with some crab, mushrooms, roasted red onions, red Fresno chilis, basil, and, of course, grated English White Cheddar! You'll see in the pictures, that I also ended up making plenty extra -- to save it in the fridge to use on a sandwich in the form of a delicious "Crab Roll" the next day! No I was not "over" the crab the next day. You don't have to go so crazy though.
I won't give you amounts on this one. Just find the balance. Pick a bowl and just start building it and consider balance as you go. Start with the crab and work your way down the list. Taste it when you get it all mixed together and see what you may want to add more of to find that point where it's still about the crab, but it's also about the bread crumbs and the white cheddar, and the slight heat from the Serrano's, and the crisp snap of the red peppers and the depth of the onions, or a hint of the parsley…and definitely allowing room for the butter and garlic! You get my drift?
Scoop the crab mixture into each mushroom cap and place them in the oiled pan. Add a "pat" of butter on top and drizzle some more olive oil. I also STRONGLY suggest that you spoon the extra crab mixture into the pan and toss a butter pat or two in there for good measure. This extra stuff will sit and bubble into a crispy edged bit of perfection that you can scoop onto a bit of bread.
Finally drizzle everything with some lemon and then drop the lemon halves in the pan to cook with the mushrooms.
Into the fire! Watch them. Turn them. Brown them. I cooked this batch in a relatively low temperature fire - 550-600 degrees. I have also done them at pizza temps and they just cook faster and you have to watch them, turn them, and move them a little more. It's an interactive thing, so just stick with them. Sip a beer. Talk and adjust the pan as it cooks.
Once browned, I pull them out and cover with foil so they can finish up. This will continue to steam them and make the 'shrooms very moist when you are ready to eat them. They are good to go in a couple of minutes, or as they cool down and need only be lukewarm when serving with your main entree.
Squeeze a little more of the lemon over the top before you serve.
These are a great appetizer or side dish. Don't forget to spoon the extra mixture that you cooked in the pan onto your plate too!
The Gallery - more pics to enjoy!
Grill Smoked Yellowtail Pizza
The perfect piece of fish!
Fresh piece of Yellowtail
A little Pepper
Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
Perfection is not easy and once achieved is no longer perfection because it seems there is always something better coming. That's interesting to think about. Have you ever seen the most beautiful girl you thought you had ever seen in your life? How many times? Funny isn't it.
If I want that perfect piece of fish I will take out my Weber Smokey Mountain Bullet and use it as a base for setting up a fire over lump charcoal and then add in some wood chips before laying the fish on the grill. I just think a gas grill can't get you there. The open fire, the coals, the smoking wood just bring something more basic, or raw to the cooking experience. To me, this is something I notice more with fish than with meat or chicken. I think fish is simply more delicate than our other favorite proteins. The timing has to be just right to get it off the grill so it can ease itself to the finish line on the plate. The flavors are more subtle also, which is perhaps why I notice the wood and smoke flavors so much more. A perfectly cooked piece of fish is about balance.
I didn't have time to do this one on the Weber though. So, as a substitute I used my gas grill and accompanied it with a lot of wood chips in my smoke box. This baby was thick. I wasn't timing it, but I was nervously watching it because I was going to take this piece of fish and use some of it on a pizza. I definitely didn't want it to go past that critical moment, and I actually wanted to pull it off the grill before that moment to make sure it was moist.
I usually test my fish by pressing on the thickest part with a finger to sense the resistance. It's a guessing game, but you can get a good sense of when it's done this way with practice.
I laid this thick, beautiful piece of fish down and closed the lid. I did some more prep for what seemed like moments. I was nervous about this thing for some reason. I felt an urge to get out and turn it. But, I waited. I cut up some tomatoes. "You should let it sit there. Wait for it," I kept saying to myself. I looked at the tomatoes and decided how many I would slice before I went back to check. Finally! I opened the lid and turned the fish. It was looking good! So, I put the lid back down to keep the smoke rolling around.
After a few more minutes, I did my finger test and decided that this piece of fish was done. It was time to rest it on the plate, covered in foil, as it finished cooking.
Grilled Smoked Yellowtail Pizza with Fresh Cherry Tomatoes and Ricotta
A "Brew in Germania" Pizza Dough - or any favorite dough!
Halved Cherry Tomatoes
Lemon Garlic Aioli Sauce *See below
Grill it (see above) and set it aside. This can even be cooled when you put it on the pizza after the pizza has baked.
The Lemon Garlic Aioli:
I found an aioli recipe that looked good. There are tons of them online. Here is a link to the one I used from About.com Culinary Arts: *Link but you can use your favorite version Make this beforehand and it can sit in the fridge.
Spread your dough
Drizzle with Olive Oil.
Place pinches of the ricotta cheese around the dough. Follow with enough tomatoes to make sure you balance their function as a sauce and topping. When you do bite into them, you get that explosion of flavor. *See photos and then feel free to ignore what I just wrote and add as many as you want! I try to place as many as I can cut side down, because they steam and really hold in the moisture in the oven and are extra juicy when you bite into them.
Add the torn up, or chopped basil leaves.
I was firing this pizza on my grill also. I used the Baking Steel as the base and my Forno Bravo Stone elevated above it as a refractory element to help hold the heat in when I opened the grill lid. I also set a fresh fire box of wood chips ablaze to add some real fire and smoke to the cooking set up.
Into the pizza grill it went.
I had to pull this out quickly because the steel bottom was so hot, it would have burnt the bottom. So, the dough didn't quite get the rise I was hoping for.
The Finishing Touches:
Pull off flakes of the yellowtail and spread around the pizza. Drip the aioli on top. In a sense, this pizza is upside down. The sauce is on top!
Stop the presses! OMG! TPII!!! Owen! Get over here and try this. In fact, it was so good, I wanted to make another. The dough was a little too burnt on the bottom. So, I wanted to give it another shot. I started the next on the top deck, the FB Baking Stone, and then moved it down to the steel to finish. This helped the crust situation and confirmed that This Pizza Is Insane (TPII)!!! I hope you were wondering what the heck that meant. If not, I feel sorry for you, but I'm impressed at the same time.
The only issue with this pizza was the imperfect grill set up I had to bake it. I will be visiting this one again and working further toward pushing this toward perfection - which can never be achieved and will therefore allow me to enjoy this pizza over and over again on the journey.
A brew in Germania Dough
Quite literally, this dough truly is a brew in Germania! I'm "working on" a keg of Firestone Double Barrel Ale. I've had it a while and been too busy to use it up! No time for friends to come help me get to the bottom of this keg. So, I thought I'd draw a pint or two and also use it in my Germania Flour blend from Central Milling.
I first tried this flour, which is officially called, Organic Germania Pizza Flour, when Peter decided to use it to make our Pizza Quest Signature Bruery Dough (as shown in a recent webisode); it is still one of my favorite pizza doughs. It's a little more difficult to acquire the malted barley crystal, which Peter used in the place of an actual beer, so I am using an actual beer as a substitute for my lack of malted barley crystal. Also, it's a fun way to make a pizza dough. What goes better with a pizza than a cold beer? It's a nice way to introduce the beer to the pizza before it comes out of the oven.
Central Milling's simple description for their Organic Germania Pizza Flour is: "Italian-German inspired rustic blend for pizza and flatbreads." I emailed Nicky Giusto of Central Milling and he told me the blend uses three types of flour: 00 Normal, Type 85 (T-85), and Pumpernickel. The mix of 00 Normal and T-85 is the rustic Italian "bit" because Nicky uses that blend for his ciabatta; the Pumpernickel is the German "bit," which makes it Germania (the word "German" in Italian). I love it!
There is definitely a rustic, country quality to this dough. I added some whole wheat flour to the pictured batch to enhance that even more. On top of that, if you've tasted the Firestone Double Barrel Ale, you will find the same flavor tones in the beer. So, I'm interested to see how this all comes out. As a sort of contro batch, I also am making the dough without the whole wheat to see the difference.
The dough is based on Peter's Country Pizza Dough, which is another great home pizza dough! If you saw my previous post, where I made a similar dough with the addition of some mesquite flour, you'll see I've adjusted my liquids a little. This time the dough handled more easily. I did a couple of stretch and folds after mixing, and popped the doughs into the fridge to allow them their own sweet time to get ready for some baking action.
I reduced the oil to 1 tbsp instead of 2, because the dough absorbs plenty more oil from the counter as I rolled it and stretched it and folded it. I also wanted to manage the stickiness of these doughs for ease. It's a little easier for me to add more liquid, if needed, than it is to add more flour to find the right balance (though Peter says he finds it easier to add flour to a sticky dough than water to a stiff dough, so I guess you'll have to decide for yourself) .
A Brew in Germania - The Pizza Dough
- 20 Oz of Central Milling's Germania Flour
- 4 Oz Whole Wheat Flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons (0.18 oz.) instant yeast
(or 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast dissolved in the water)
- 2 teaspoons (0.5 oz.) kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon (0.5 oz.) olive oil (optional)
- 1 tablespoon (0.75 oz.) honey (optional)
- 2 1/8 Cups (17 Oz) Beer - (A Firestone Double Barrel Ale if you have it or any malty ale)
*Alternatively, I made a second batch and only used the Germania Flour (24 oz). *See photos for the two examples.
Combine the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl and mix with a spoon. I like to do this to make sure the ingredients are well distributed before adding the liquid.
Add the olive oil and honey, if using, followed by the beer. (Note: At about 10AM it was too early to have a beer during my dough-making session, but I would be lying if I didn't say I did taste the beer a few times as the doughs came together. Again, it's an interesting connection when you taste how similar the flavor profiles of the beer and the dough are. There is a distinct yeasty nuttiness that comes across your tastebuds, once with a pinch of the newly formed dough and then again as the liquid beer washes through the scene. After all, beer is liquid bread -- as they say.)
Mix for about 1 minute to get the ingredients to come together. Let the dough rest for about 5 minutes and mix again for another minute until it's a relatively smooth ball that has come together.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled surface/counter. With a little oil on both the counter and on your hands, stretch and fold the dough into a ball and let it rest for another 5 minutes.
Then, stretch the dough again and fold it. Stretch it another direction and fold it onto itself again. Do this a few times and form the dough into a ball again. Place a bowl over it and let it rest for another 5 minutes on the counter.
Repeat this process 1 more times, maybe 2 depending on how it's setting up. It will become more firm and bouncy each time as the gluten begins to form.
Finally, form the dough into a ball and place it in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Put the covered bowl in the fridge overnight for best results. Make sure to take the dough out of the fridge about 2 hours before you want to bake and form it into dough balls. In a rush, I will set a cold dough by my oven and try to get it to warm up a little quicker, but it's best to just let it come to room temperature on it's own.
Note: If you prefer, divide the dough as soon it is finished the last stretch and fold it into about 4 or 5 dough balls and place each ball into an oiled zip-lock bag, and they can go in the freezer for a few months. To use these later, pull them out of the freezer the day before you want to make pizza and place in the fridge. If making pizza that same day, you can, instead, place the frozen dough in the zip lock on the counter and allow a few hours to thaw. I would guess about 4 hours would get you close.
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