Written Recipes
Wild Spicy Venison Sausage Pizza
Brad English

My father-in-law is a hunter and I'm lucky enough that on our last trip up to his place for Thanksgiving he sent me home with some "fresh" Spicy Italian Venison Sausage he and a friend made up after a recently successful hunt.

When I got home I started thinking about how to use some of the sausage to make some pizza. I wanted to make something that sort of celebrated where the venison came from.  When an animal is hunted by you, or someone you know, I guess there's just more of a connection to it.  I remembered an old Anthony Bourdain episode of "No Reservations" where he visits London and Endinburgh.  In the show, he joins the famous Michelin 3 Star Chef, Marco Pierre White, who takes him on a hunt prior to landing at his latest restaurant called the Yew Tree Inn, where they eat and drink and pontificate about food and life together.

There's a beautiful moment (as Bourdain so often captures) when he and Marco are walking along a grass covered two track dirt road on their morning hunt in the English countryside.  Bourdain asks him how often he does "this".  Marco thinks for a second reflecting on his lifestyle and says "About 4-5 days a week. It allows me to clear my head."  He talks about how this connects him to his childhood when life was simpler and he would spend time fishing and hunting.

As they walk the road Marco says something that stuck with me.  I had to go back and rewatch the episode to capture the entire quote.  He says:

"I don't know how many times I saw wood pigeons eating the elderberries here. And I thought, lets roast a pigeon with elderberries.  It's delicious. I love wild apples.  And, how many times do you see pheasants picking at them when they've dropped on the ground?  It's like shooting a rabbit and then baking it in the hay. It works.  It really works.  What does a rabbit love to eat?  Hay.  Mother nature tells us everything.  We're not the geniuses are we?  We're just the technicians."


Anthony has an "Ah-ha!" moment.  It makes sense!  It's what all good cooking is about.  It's about using the available fresh ingredients that are right there wherever you are.  It's about connecting the food, our environment and our lives.  It's really about quality of life.  You only see it in a very brief quickly cut shot, but you see Bourdain's almost childlike smile.  It's a smile that says I know this, but you just taught it to me again!

Another hour or so has passed as I re-watched the episode.  Anthony Bourdain has done it again.  He's inspired me.  His passion to search and explore the world through food is what originally gave me the idea to reach out to Peter Reinhart in the first place and why you are reading this recipe post!

For my Venison sausage pizza, I tried to bring some ingredients together that were similar to some of those that the deer may have once eaten.  I wasn't able to to go to the location and investigate it, but tried to think about what deer eat in various locations here in the Western US.  I chose my Desert Dough because it was rustic and celebrates the western deserts where this deer came from.  I chose to add some sage, pine nuts and berries to represent what the deer may have eaten.

There are some wonderful flavors coming together in this pizza.  It was balanced with flavors ranging from earthy to sweet to spicy.  The song they created makes sense.

 

The Pizza:

- Brad's Desert Dough *Link

Alternately you could use Peter's Rustic Dough *Link

- Cherry Tomatoes sliced in half

- Fresh Mozzarella

- Gouda Cheese

- Spicy Venison Sausage Sliced

- Olive Oil

- A little Red Wine

- Dried Cranberries *Because this is what I could find!  They work nicely!

- Pine Nuts

- Fresh Sage (Chop 3 leaves and pull and trim 4-6 others and leave whole)

- Fresh Thyme

- Large Spring Onion Chopped

- Garlic

- Salt and Pepper to taste

- Chili Oil if you so desire as a finishing touch

 

Spicy Venison Sausage Preparation:

Pull the sausage out of it's casing and pinch it off in pieces that are thick enough to not dry out, but thin enough to cook and eat on the pizza.

Slice up the Spring Onion

Chop some Garlic

Add Olive Oil to the iron Iron Skillet.

Add the garlic, onions, chopped sage, fresh thyme to the pan and slide into the fire.

Saute for a few minutes to start softening the onions and blending the flavors.

Pull the pan out and add the sausage.  After the sausage starts to brown, add some red wine to the pan.  The red wine will deglaze some of the charred bits and create a "sauce" depending on how much you use.  I wanted to also make sure my sausage didn't dry out.

Slide it back into the oven and sauté sausage to "almost done".  You will want to make sure there's room for this to finish on the pizza.  Venison can get dried out.  The sausage should contain some pork fat to help keep it moist, but I still say leave some room for this to cook on the pizza.

Remove and set aside.

 

To the Pizza:

Spread your dough

Drizzle with a little olive oil.  Sprinkle some herbs that go well with venison like: dried thyme and a little rosemary and I added some oregano as well.

Spread some grated gouda cheese and add a few pinches of the fresh mozzarella to blend with it which will also serve to smooth the gouda out as it melts.

Lay the venison sausage around the pizza and drizzle some of the sauce with the onions/garlic over the top.

Sprinkle on some pine nuts around the pizza.

 

Finish with 4 of the fresh sage leaves after soaking them in the sausage "sauce" and then sprinkle on a "few" dried cranberries.  *I forgot the cranberries in the first pizza, but you can see photos of them in the 2nd.  The cranberries add a nice sweet note that goes well with the more earthy venison and the slight spicy notes from the sausage mixture.

 

 

 

 

Into the oven!

What can I say here.  We have about 90 - 120 seconds to wait.  As soon as the dough sets up from the heat on the floor of the oven, it's time to slide the peel under it and turn it so it doesn't burn!  I love cooking in fire, it's always more interactive.

Add a little Sea Salt and Pepper to taste.

Add chili oil if you have any, but first enjoy this in it's simplest form.

 

I hope you enjoy this one.

*As always send me your emails, comments on the site, and some pictures of your own pizzas!

 

Enjoy!

 

 
The "Oh My!" Pizza
Brad English

"Lions Tigers and Bears!"

Oh my, this turned out to be a great pizza!  Take a walk with me down the wood fire brick road.

I had some Brussels sprouts sitting in a bowl on the counter that we hadn't gotten around to cooking and I figured I better do something with them before I had to send them on their way.  I pulled a dough from the freezer and set about looking for some inspiration on the inter-webs.

I came across an interesting recipe on the Food Network site. I want to give full and due credit for the idea for this recipe. As usual, I often look around at recipes and see what I like and don't like and basically take some of the main ideas and adapt the rest for my purposes.  I found this recipe for "Fried Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts and Capers," which was published in the Food Network Magazine excerpted from Michael Symon's book Live to Cook.  Though I was making a pizza, that title caught my eye and, after a quick look at the ingredients in the recipe, I knew I saw starting point here that I could work with.

The next step was a mental run through of my assets.  What did I have around?  I had some slivered almonds, anchovies, salt-packed capers, and honey.  I believed I could pull this thing off, but instead of frying, I was -- of course, going to run this all through my P-60 WFO!  What else did I have on hand to take this from playing a role as a side dish to turning it into a pizza?  I still had a cherry tomato plant that wouldn't stop producing and some chili plants that were going strong. Prosciutto...  Fresh Mozzarella…ah!

This started sounding interesting and as the wheels were spinning, the train started to leave the station.  They started spinning and then slowed down as the frozen dough took its time to thaw on the counter.  A few hours later, though, that train was rolling again!  There was a fire growing in the belly of my oven. I was trying to finalize my loose plan to take off from the launching pad of Michael Symon's inspired recipe and to create my own pizza.

This is the fun part of cooking for me.

 

Roasted Tangy-Sweet-Salty Brussels Sprouts Pizza

- Favorite Dough

- Brussels Sprouts

- Cherry Tomatoes

- Fresh Mozzarella

- Prosciutto

- Serrano Chili's - Chopped and Seeded

- Honey

- Balsamic Vinegar

- Slivered Almonds

- 2 Tablespoons of Capers

- 2 Cloves of Garlic Chopped

- 2 Chopped Anchovies

- Olive Oil

 

Let's begin:

I have a 10" iron skillet that I use in my Primavera.  It's about the size of a pizza, so I just used it as a visual guide while prepping my ingredients.  I like to cook without following any recipe too closely.  I prefer to "feel" how much of anything should go into a recipe.  I may have frustrated a few people here who prefer exact measurements, but I feel like that is one of the aspects of cooking that allows you to bring yourself to a recipe.  Every time you make something it will be a little different.

Par boil the Brussels sprouts.  When cool enough, slice them in half.

I grabbed enough cherry tomatoes from my garden to allow the tomatoes to become both part of the sauce and to act like an ingredient.  So, I sliced some of them in half and threw some in whole.  Cherry tomatoes are an amazing way to add a burst of flavor on a pizza!

If using salt packed capers, which seem to be the best, rinse a few times and set aside.

Chop up and seed the Serrano chili.

 

Into the pan:

Drizzle some olive oil into the pan.  Start adding the ingredients.

- Brussels

- Tomatoes

- Slivered Almonds

- Garlic

- Capers

- Chopped Serrano Chili

- Honey

- Drizzle some more Olive Oil

Give it all a little toss, or mix to blend with the olive oil, and slide it into the oven.  *Note: This would work fine in a home oven as well.  I think it all roasted in about 10 minutes in the WFO at 800 degrees or so, so just give it more time in your home oven at 550 degrees.  You want to roast it to the point where it's almost finished.  You have to consider that it will finish roasting when it goes back into the oven on your pizza.  In a way, this is par-roasting - just like par-boiling!

 

And now it becomes a pizza!

Spread your dough out and lay on a well floured peel.

Spread your roasted Brussels onto the pizza.

Add some pinches of your fresh mozzarella around the pie.

Tear some prosciutto and place it around the pizza.

*As I often say here, as you are placing all of these ingredients together on the pizza think about they balance with each other.  In this case, I spread the roasted Brussels out on the pizza knowing that I was also going to add some mozzarella and prosciutto.  This is important with cooking, but in a way it's even more important when making a pizza because these ingredients don't only have to blend together as they bake, but they also will be delivered to you on a bed of dough. Each bite will be what it is. You don't build a forkful from your plate to do your own blending of ingredients.  With pizza you take a bite and that's what you get.

 

Into the oven it goes.  My Primavera delivered it back to me in about 2 minutes.  It's so giving!  So selfless!  In a way it would be nice if it took more time, because I love feeling the heat of the fire on my face as I lean down and watch the pizza rise to the occasion.

 

Lions, Tigers and Bears!

When I took my first bite, I actually said, "Oh my!".  This pizza has it all going on!  It's got it all.  Lion's, Tiger's and Bears!

It hit the mark!  As I write this, I'm still thinking about it.  There's really more going on in this pizza than I originally thought.  The roasted charred Brussels give that almost subtle

bitter base that allows the other ingredients to pop even more.  The saltiness of the prosciutto and capers pops in your mouth.  The sweetness of the honey dances around the spicy notes of the Serrano.  The soft milkiness of the mozzarella plays with the juices given out by the tomatoes as they collapse and give up their liquid to create a sauce as well as their explosive pop of sweetness.  Oh, but wait, this isn't over.  The almonds then bring another textural experience to the whole thing.  They softly crunch as you chew up their toasty-roastiness!

 

Don't forget the delivery system.  The crisp, charred dough with it's soft warm center delivers this package wonderfully.  My mouth is literally watering. Oh my....

 

Enjoy!

 

 
Crab Stuffed Mushroom Pizza
Brad English

I've made a number of pizzas over the years with seafood.  I like the uniqueness of how seafood blends and stands out as a topping on a pizza. When you do it right, shrimps on a pizza literally snap when you bite them, and that's a good thing!  Clams are right at home on a pizza.  After all, what do you do when eating steamers?  You sop up the sauce with bread.  On a pizza, it's already done. The clams mix with the toppings and become part of the sauce and the crust is already there baking in all that glory.

Crab is another fun one.  Crab all by itself, has a sweet and subtle taste.  I love drizzling it with lemon, or a little Vietnamese Fish Sauce mixed with chilies and just eating it on it's own - warm or cold!  Another great way to enjoy crab is in a crab dip which is just cheesy goodness!  The cheese and crab combo just goes so well together, which is why crab dip and crab stuffed mushrooms and crab on a pizza makes total sense to me.  Here's one of my Crab Dip Pizzas: *Link

While I was making up some Crab Stuffed Mushrooms I decided to just make myself a Crab Stuffed Mushroom inspired pizza.  One idea I had was to bake the stuffed mushrooms and slice them up and use them as a topping.  I had that idea after I made a different pizza, where I went with a more traditional approach -- just using the basic crab ingredients, but putting them on a pizza instead of stuffing the mushrooms.  Crab Stuffed Mushroom Recipe: *Link

I have been using an English White Cheddar for my stuffed mushrooms.  There is a boldness to a good cheddar, a sharpness. What I like about a good cheddar cheese is that while it's bold it is also sweet.  As I write this, I actually have the sensation of tasting this cheese starting at the front roof of my mouth and then having it wash across the top of my mouth and down my throat! You feel the sharpness up front and it finishes smoother and sweeter.  I never knew this, but Cheddar Cheese comes originally from England and was said to have first been produced as early as the 1100's in a village called - you guessed it, CHEDDAR!  There were caves in the area that provided the consistently ideal temperatures for producing this cheese.  Lucky for us.

Cheddar goes really well with the stuffed mushrooms as well as with this pizza.

 

Crab Stuffed Mushroom Pizza

- Favorite Pizza Dough like Peter's Country Dough

- Grated English White Cheddar

- Lump Crab meat

- Roasted Onions

- Roasted Leeks

- Roasted Red Peppers

*You could also add some chilies to give a little more heat.

- Roasted Mushrooms

- Basil

- Olive Oil

* Chili Oil to finish

 

This is a no "sauce" pizza.  I drizzled olive oil on the crust which blends with the cheese and other ingredients to keep things moist.

After the olive oil, add the grated cheddar.  Don't put on too much because you want the cheese to blend with everything, not overpower it.

Add the crab, onions, peppers mushrooms and place some basil leaves on top.

Drizzle with a little more Olive Oil and slide her into the oven.

 

You can see that there is plenty of "sauce".  If you wanted more, you could add some cherry tomatoes cut in half and allow them to add to the moisture content as they bake in the oven, emitting more of their juices.

Just like the Crab Stuffed Mushrooms I've been playing with, this pizza nails it!  The cheddar really goes well with the crab, and the other ingredients add texture and sweetness that also works well with the crab.

 

Slice it up and make sure to have some good chili oil around.  The spice is a nice finishing touch!

 

Enjoy!

 

 
Fire Roasted Brussels
Brad English

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

 

The sprouts:

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.

Enjoy!

 

 
Wood Fired Pizza Rolls
Brad English

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

Basil Roll:

- Pizza Dough, your favorite recipe

- Mozzarella

- Sliced Cherry Tomatoes

- Chopped Red Onion

- Hot Italian Sausage

- Basil

- Olive Oil

 

Brussels Roll:

- Pizza Dough

- Mozzarella

- 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!

 

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