Ah, Jared's Java. Pleasant taste. Slight Monsterism.

Welcome to the home of my mind, where I brew my intellectual and spiritual joe. Sit back and let me pour you a cup or two. I promise not to cut you off, even after you get the caffeine jitters.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Foody Friday: French Bread Pizza (and Chai)

I'm at a point in my cooking skills where I'm learning to cook by "feel" rather than recipe. It is something that comes to you when you spend enough consecutive time in the kitchen. Maybe it is merely a gift of God, I don't know, but it is coming to me. I'm thankful for that, but once your skills hit that level, it becomes difficult to pass on knowledge to others. You can't teach others how to put flavors together in their minds, and if you don't use a recipe, it becomes difficult to record a recipe without betraying your method. It is that very reason that I'm not covering an awesome pesto recipe this week. How much basil do you use? I can't tell you. You just have to taste and add, taste and add. However, I will say that those of you who haven't made pesto because pine nuts are so freakin' expensive ($10 a pound!), use pistachios. I do, and I think it makes a better pesto.

With that, onto French Bread Pizza. You see it in the store. You can buy the pre-made crap from Stauffers or Pepperidge Farm. And, it's pretty good crap. The trouble is, do you know what chemicals are in that? How about all the stabilizers they use to "preserve freshness". To top it off, for me, there's never enough sauce on those d@#% things. Is it too much to ask for more than a tablespoon of sauce?!

Well, this week I'm offering my recipe. I came up with this recipe earlier this week. There are a couple of assumptions in it, too. For one, I don't currently bake bread. I have not learned the science of baking, yet. That's next on my list. For that reason, I acquired French baguettes from my local Safeway. I like theirs. The other is that you don't have a toaster over (though why someone would not be in possession of a toaster oven is beyond my comprehension (GO OUT AND GET ONE RIGHT NOW IF YOU DON'T HAVE ONE). If you do, these do so nicely there, but we'll assume an oven for the recipe.

French Bread Pizza (serves 6):
2 French baguettes (NOT sourdough, I can tell you from experience that it's flavor overkill)
3 small cans of Tomato Sauce (I use Contadina brand)
3 leaves fresh basil (or one and a half tablespoons of the dry stuff)
3 large or 6 small cloves of garlic
salt and pepper
3 to 4.5 cups of mozzarella cheese
Your favorite pizza toppings, but I like Genoa salami, kalamata olives and sundried tomatoes (the kind that come packed in oil with herbs and spices, however, you can also do this yourself at home)

Open your cans of tomato sauce and dump them into a sauce pan. Put them on a small burner on "Low" for about five minutes and then turn it down to the lowest heat setting your stove top offers. Meanwhile, make a chiffonade out of the basil leaves by rolling them together from right to left (it should be long and really skinny) and chop really small sections off them down the length. Run your knife through it a few more times when you finish that to break the strands into smaller bits. Chop your garlic cloves finely, and add both of these to the sauce. Add about a quarter teaspoon of rough ground sea salt or kosher salt and the same amount of fresh ground pepper to the sauce and stir this all in (if you're using table salt, just add a pinch, since it's grains are finer, it takes less of it to do the same). Allow to simmer until it reduces by about a third, or until it is thick like good pizza sauce (think back to when you've seen it made in a pizzeria before, or the stuff that comes out of the jars you get on the store shelf). I can't tell you how long this will take because there are so many variables that will effect this. How hot is the lowest temp. setting on your stove? Is it humid out? Is Jupiter in third cancer phase? Will Barry Bonds make it into the Hall of Fame? You just have to feel this step out. I can tell you it takes me at least 4o minutes. You need to stir it every three to five minutes until it is done, too.

Use this time to prep your toppings. Where you to chincy to buy pre-sliced olives? Well, nows a good time to slice your own. Need to cut up those sun-dried tomatoes? Maybe slice the Genoa salami in half or quarters so the pieces aren't so big.

When your sauce is in the neighborhood of done, grate your mozzarella. My measurement is a gut-shot estimate, so if you like tons of cheese, grate more. Just remember, don't use the large holed side. We aren't grating cheese for tacos here. Use the grating holes that look like the primary ones, but are much smaller. A fine shred helps the cheese melt quicker. Remember, you aren't cooking the dough here, so you want the ingredients to warm up fast.

Slice the baguettes in half lengthwise then width-wise. You end up with four nice long topping delivery recepticles from each baguette. If you want to make all eight, just toss in another can of tomato sauce, another clove of garlic and another basil leaf (or half teaspoon of the dry stuff). You'll be good to go.

Fire up that broiler in your oven with the rack in second position from the top. Leave the door slightly ajar, as you don't want the oven to heat up and the broiler to cycle off. We're using direct heat here. Our only goal is to get the cheese melted, not rebake the bread.

READ THIS: It is very important to place the toppings on in this order! First, put down the sauce. Lay it on as thick or thin as you like (and do I ever like thick!). Next, your toppings go down, such as olives, salami, pepperoni, pineapple, canadian bacon, whatever. Last is your cheese! The cheese needs to go on top because it is our goal to melt it. Once it is melted, everything else will be toasty warm. If you put your toppings over the cheese, your bread will be burned before the cheese is melted.

Stick these on a cookie sheet under your broiler, but don't walk away! I can't tell you how long it will take. That, again, depends on your oven and a few other factors (like living in Denver). Once your cheese is melty, pull them out and you're done!

The great thing about this recipe is that you can prep your sauce and toppings days in advance, and this meal will whip up in less than 15 minutes if you are needing something quick later. Shred your cheese and stick it in a zip-loc bag or container. This will be fast and good to go in between running the kids to practice and picking your dry cleaning up (if you have dry cleaning, that is) or getting the dog home from the groomers.

Okay, I promised chai, and chai lattes I will deliver! I noticed that my last recipe lacked a lot of detail...like how to sweeten it. Anyway, here's the real story on chai.

I went out and had a chai latte at a coffee house about two weeks ago. I was very non-plussed. I could barely taste any chai!

Now, I'm not as advanced as my Canuck buddies (elbowing Gwen), so I'm going to give you a quick and simple recipe made from *gasp* tea bags.

I buy Bigelow Vanilla Chai. It is my favorite kind to do chai with. Here's the recipe:

Brew two chai tea bags in about five to six ounces of water. Allow them to steep for four to five minutes. While they are steeping, heat 12 to 16 ounces of milk in a Pyrex dish in your microwave. I have a 900 watt microwave, and I heat the milk for 4 minutes at 50% power. That gets it warm enough for me. Don't heat it too hot too fast, or you'll scald it, and your latte will taste like chicken.

I always add about a couple teaspoons of honey and a couple teaspoons of Frankensugar, a.k.a. Splenda. Froth your milk if you like, then pour it down over the tea/honey/Splenda mixture.

Voila, it's a chai latte, and for less than sixty cents!



jaye logan said...

now im hungry.
u cruel,cruel person.(JK!)im usually not allowed to cook for meals or anything like that.i have this problem w/ following the recipe,(and trust me,it's not cause im a good cook,it's cause im an airhead)so i usually end up messing up on whatever im cooking.
i plan on marrying someon who can cook.:P

Delia said...

All of my kiddos love French bread pizza so I'm definitely going to have to try that. And the chai latte, too. Which I've never had one before anywhere, I'm a moccha freak, but that sounds really good so I'll have to give it a try.

Shan said...

I am mourning the little piece of me that died when I read the words "Bigelow" and "Splenda".

Ames said...

Yes, Shan, and he had such promise.

Chelf said...

I do, however, LOVE that you call the Splenda "Frankensugar". That is the best nickname so far.

"The pink stuff causes cancer, the blue stuff causes memory loss. I use one of each, because I think if I get cancer, I don't want to know about it." ~ Kenn Kington