Written Recipes
A Couple Tomato Pies
Brad English

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!)

- Mozzarella

- Basil

- 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:

 
Pizza R-o-P
Brad English

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!

 

The Pizza:

- 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!
Brad English

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.

 

Ingredients:

- 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

 

Instructions:

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.

 

Enjoy!

 

 
Spicy Roasted Pistachio Pizza
Brad English

I was shooting a scene for a commercial recently on a sidewalk in Beverly Hills.  Between set ups, I wandered into a juice bar and found a little jar of spicy Mediterranean pistachios sitting on the counter.  I bought them as a snack, but as soon as I tasted them, I thought "Pizza"!  These would make a great option for a pepperoni-like vegetarian pizza.  Pistachios add a nice crunch that can almost be "meaty" in their nuttiness and with these spicy ones, I was thinking it would be as interesting as using a spicy salty porky product that I love so much!

Let's get to the pizza.  This one came out great!  I ended up making 2 variations of this pizza.  For the second variation I added some sautéed broccolini, which was a great addition.

 

The Spicy Pistachio Pizza

Peter's Country Dough

Herb Oil - for the tomatoes and to drizzle on the dough

Halved Garden Cherry Tomatoes

Grated Mozz

Goat Cheese

Spicy Pistachios

Sliced Shallots

Chopped Italian Parsley

*2nd Pizza options:

Sauteed Broccolini with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper

Peter's Neo-Neopolitan Dough

 

Prep:

The cherry tomatoes will become an ingredient in this pizza, but also function as the sauce.  Slice them in half and cover with Herb Oil to coat and marinade.  You can do this in advance.  For this pizza, I just laid out the tomatoes for this pizza and drizzled some olive oil and sprinkled a little dried basil over the top before baking.

Add the grated mozz and pinches of goat cheese.

Lay some sliced shallots around the pizza and sprinkle on the pistachios.

 

That's it.  Into the oven.

 

*An interesting thing happened to my pizza on the way to the oven...

I pre-heated the wrong oven!  My pizza stones, steel and pizza grate are all stored in my lower oven. I accidentally pre-heated the top oven.  Uh oh!  I was sitting there with a pizza on the peel ready to go.  By the time I could get one of the stone/steels into the upper oven and got it up to temperature, my pizza would be wet and stuck to the peel.  Besides, I didn't have all day.

It was then that a lightbulb went off.

I took the cold Baking Steel out of the lower oven and placed it on the stovetop.  I turned the two burners to high and it got really hot in just a few minutes.  With some hot hands, I then placed the hot steel into the hot oven and in went the pizza.

This is one great reason to have a metal pizza surface around like the Pizza - Baking Steel or the new cast aluminum Pizza Grate. i love cooking on my Forno Bravo extra thick pizza stone, but these other products offer some options to play with.

 

In about 7 minutes I pulled the pizza.  Success!  Nicely done.  I sprinkled some chopped Italian Parsley over the top and added some of my favorite Chili Sauce from 800 Degrees Pizzeria. Delicious!  The pistachios were like little toasted pepperoni nuts!  Awesome.

 

*Alternate Version:

For my second version of this I used Peter's Neo-Neopolitan dough and added some sautéed broccolini.  Again, delicious.

 

Two great vegetarian pizzas with some "chops" to stand up and be counted amongst the saltiest and spicy meaty of meatiest pies!

 

Enjoy!

*There are additional photos of the 2nd pizza in the gallery.  The broccolini added a nice juicy texture and flavor to this pizza.

 

 
Wood Fired Bo Ssam Miracle
Brad English

Happy New Year!

This is my first belated post in this calendar year we've now entered. 2014!  It can be a wonderful thing to start into a new year.  There are all of our hopes and dreams before us. Yet it's also bittersweet because we are leaving behind yet another moment of our lives, or a measure of time. Time seems to move faster and faster as we get older.  Ever since my wife and I had children things have really seemed to speed up.  I feel like Snake Plissken in Escape from New York sometimes. It's as if I'm being forced to watch a giant red digital timer on my wrist counting off each second, each minute of my life!  Tick tock, tick tock...

When we're younger we think our life clock is counting forward.  Life is ahead of us.  A big realization for my wife and I came when our second child came along.   Upon closer inspection, we realized this giant obnoxious wrist timer was actually tick-tocking backwards!  The thing was counting down not forward! We realized these kids, even this newest little baby, were working their way out the door to leave us.  This changed things!  Our baby, our daughter was now looked at with a little more suspicion!  She actually wants to leave us because she thinks her clock is ticking forward.

It's really unfair!

That's the cycle of life I suppose.  We all go through it, experiencing time differently throughout our lives.  We seem to be always trying to get somewhere or too something and then at some point when things change, or come to an end we wish we had not rushed through them. Perhaps it's impossible to not do that ultimately, but because these measured moments in time come and then go, I try to remember to focus on not only being where I am at that moment, but also at least as much as where I've been and where I'm going.

 

"Ok pizza guy, get to the point!"  You're off the rails!"  Ok, ok!  What about this Bo Ssam Miracle?

 

Where does my Wood Fired Bo Ssam Pork fit into this?  It's funny how that works.  I couldn't possibly have pre-planned this introduction to my latest attempt at "perfecting" David Chang's Bo Ssam pork.  I just woke up early this morning after a busy holiday and the beginning of another new January and made myself a cup of coffee and sat down to write.  I realized what this meal meant to me as I looked at the photos and thought about our friends Kurt, Kim, Ryan and Mitchell that we shared this feast with.  It was a moment in time we shared with good friends and our families that was now gone.

To my mind, the best meals aren't the ones made by a master chef, or the best cooks in the best restaurants -- though they can be.  Great meals are the ones that become memorable because they were part of a moment in time where you shared it all with a connection with your family or friends. It's about good food for sure, but it's also about the people and even the place.  It's the overall experience that makes food and meals memorable.  The first time I made David Chang's version of Bo Ssam pork was one of those perfect nights with good friends, good food, and some good beer that combined became a memorable stamp in time!  Perhaps a miracle?!   I've had quite a few of these moments around David Chang's cooking.  While in NY on various trips, I've been lucky enough to find myself sitting in Momofuku Noodle Bar, or the Ssam Bar with friends and being blown away by how simple and good the food was.

I am not going to go deep into the recipe here because you can find it online, or in one of David Chang's books - which if you buy it at one of his restaurants comes signed, which I think is a nice touch!  Here is a link to a New York Times article called "The Bo Ssam Miracle".  The recipe is simple - it just takes some time in the oven.

 

*Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/15/magazine/recipe-momofuku-bo-ssam.html?_r=0

 

My wood fired Bo Ssam Pork...

For this attempt at finding this "miracle",  I decided I would try to cook the pork in my Primavera - Wood Fired Oven.  The original recipe calls for 6 hours in the oven at 300 degrees.  As I learn to take create different meals in my Primavera, I figured this 6 hour roast would be perfect to take this long road trip with my oven and work to keep it at a relatively low temperature for a long time.  I fired the oven with a small fire and let it go for about an hour.  At that point the oven was getting pretty hot, but I figured it was still absorbing heat and once I cut it down, I wanted enough residual heat stored in the walls to keep the process going for the duration.  After the temps were approaching pizza temps, getting up to over 700 degrees in the dome, I put the door on to kill the fire and see where the ambient temperature was.  I then pulled a lot of the coals out to allow it to cool down a bit more.  I tinkered with it for about another hour or so while going back and forth and getting the pork ready in the pan.

As you see, I had a lot of pork in that pan!  It was about 14 pounds and just barely fit.

With the door closed the temperature gauge on the door read exactly 300 degrees which is right where the recipe calls for it to be in a regular oven.  I added a small piece of wood to the coals and got it to catch fire.  Since I was using the WFO I figured I may as well let it do what it does -- adding some fire and smoke to the process.  In went the pork.  After about 15 minutes I closed the door to extinguish the fire and create some smoke.

After an hour I checked the roast and turned it.  I then left for my daughter's soccer game!  My pork was important, but well, you know how I said the whole family and friend thing is at least equally important with time and life ticking away -- so, off to soccer!  Besides, the oven was doing all the work, I would just be pacing back and forth trying to look busy.

I came back almost 2 hours later and rotated the pork again and basted it.  The temp was still holding and it hadn't burnt to a crisp!  I let this baby run the full 6 hours since the temp was ever so slowly falling from 300.  At the 6 hour mark, I pulled it and covered with foil.  Since we were having dinner at our friend's house, we wrapped the package and hit the road.

Luckily we live in an area with great Korean and Asian markets!  Kim did the shopping for the sides and ingredients for the Bo Ssam Sauces while I attempted to coax the Primavera into delivering the perfect roasted Bo Ssam Pork ever made…again!

When we got there with our package we made the Ginger Scallion Sauce and the Ssam Sauce as well as a spicy brewed fish sauce with Thai chillies.  Kim picked up some great stuff at the market for sides: kimchee, seaweed salad and a few other Korean side dishes like a Seasoned Omasum (tripe) and some other spicy pickled veggies as well.

The pork was finished in Kim's home oven where we caramelized the brown sugar and salt mixture on it and then pulled the pork apart and plated it and the feast began!  The thing I love about this meal besides the juicy salty-sweet pulled pork and the tangy pickled kimchee and side dishes and the warm rice in the cool lettuce that cups and the insane spicy and earthy sauces is that it is a meal that is meant to eat in a free for all style!  It's a family style meal.  It's a shared meal.  It's a working meal - with everyone talking and passing plates and ingredients and eating with their hands and laughing and drinking and just having a good time with each other and with their food!  I'd call that a miracle for sure.

We sat and began eating and continued drinking some wine and beer and after a short period the smells and our laughter began to draw the kids from their various activities around the house.  As I sat there, I couldn't help but smile as I realized we were having another one of those moments…a moment that would remain with us, but was quickly going to pass into time.


Kim's Family Brewed Fish Sauce Recipe:

Ingredients:

- Fish Sauce

- Water

- Vinegar

- Sugar

- Thai Chillies

- Chopped Garlic

In a saucepan over medium heat add equal parts Fish Sauce, Water, Vinegar and Sugar.  Add some chopped garlic and chopped Thai Chillies and stir until sugar melts.  Be careful not to let it boil over!

Serve at room temperature.  May be stored in a covered jar in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

*Note:  For those cooking in a Wood Fired Oven, I suggest using a remote thermometer for this.  I think I got comfortable because my temperature gauge was exactly 300 degrees for hours.  With my diversion to a soccer game and the temp being right on the money, I let this ride.  The top of the pork was a little dry (not ruined), but the middle, sides and bottom were perfectly juicy.  That is part of the fun cooking with a wood oven, or over a fire on a grill.  Isn't it?!!  You have an added challenge which requires experience, skill, and the use of your instinct a little more than punching the keys BAKE - 3 - 0 - 0 - START.  Love it!

I hope you all try this amazing recipe.  I realize that though I've eaten at several of David Chang's restaurants numerous times, I have not had a chance to try his own version of this!  I can't wait. It's now on my official list of things to do.  We'll see how he does compared to us!  Haha

In the meantime though…it's only a matter of time before I fire up the oven again and gather some friends.

The next miracle is waiting!

*I keep meaning to make this recipe and save some of it to make a pizza with.  Once again, I have failed in my attempt to keep anything left over.  I guess we'll have to try it again!

 

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