Sunday, January 12, 2014

I Don't Always Herdy Dur Mur Flerpty Floopin...

Area Four - Cambridge, MA

The beautiful Carnivore Pizza
     I have heard so much about Area Four but have never been, so when my cousin Shannon mentioned she wanted to come in town with her kids and have lunch with me, I thought this might be a great place to go. Area Four, right in the heart of Kendall Square, apparently has great pizza and mac and cheese, and I figured you couldn't get more kid friendly fare. I can't say I've ever been to a restaurant like this before. It was a different (but awesome and unique) mix of modern and rustic, hipster and GQ. Everything was very clean and simple, clear and uncluttered. Water was served in tall, clear glass bottles, there was a bowl of 30+ eggs on the counter, and stacks of wood beneath the counter around their open kitchen. Their wood fired oven was in plain view in this portion of the kitchen and filled the air with delicious pizza smells.
     We ordered their Carnivore pizza with sopressata, sausage and bacon on it. Apparently sopressata is this great Italian dry salami that is incredible on pizza. Either that or Area Four just knows what their doing. Perhaps it's both. For their crust, they use a 12 year starter with no oil or sugar and over 30 hours of fermentation. This recipe + a wood fired oven made the crust bubble in a way I'd never seen before. It kind of looked like a dalmatian. Ha. It was perfectly simple, and the crust on the bottom held up flawlessly. It always bums me out when pizza crust gets all soggy and difficult to hold. Anyway, the sopressata, bacon and sausage on this pizza was amazing. Each different meat had its own unique flavor - some peppery, some spicy, some herby. The sopressata was cut into these super wide slices and their edges curled up as they cooked, almost making them like a saucer. The bacon wasn't your standard thin bacon. It was more like the "bacon pieces" most people never think to buy but are more delicious. These meats together had so much flavor. I could've easily eaten the whole pizza.

Oven Home Fries
     We also got a few other dishes to share and try since there were 5 of us. I tried their mac and cheese which they served in a small cast iron dish. It was perfect. They made it with that pasta in the shape of little shells, and you could tell it was their homemade cheese sauce. Not overly cheesy, but not too thin and unflavorful. And they topped it all with some toasted breadcrumbs. I tried a couple of their wood oven home fries which were more like potato chunks, also served in a cast iron dish. They were super soft inside, had browned and crispy edges, and were infused with parmesan and parsley flavors... at least that's what I'm guessing. They were to die for. Those crispy edges get me every time. 

To balance it all out, we tried two of their salads. One of them was their Kitchen Sink salad which, rightfully named, had everything but the kitchen sink in it. It had romaine, radicchio, salame, fontina cheese, mushrooms, green olives, banana peppers, chickpeas, roasted onions and lemon-roasted garlic vinaigrette. Like I said... everything. I mean... I like all of these ingredients, and I thought I would've liked it (which I did), but I didn't love it. Maybe it was the olives? I'm not sure. There was just a ton going on. The other salad however, was one of the most delicious salads I've ever
Brussel Sprout Salad
eaten. When I read "brussel sprout salad," I assumed I was going to get whole brussel sprouts roasted or something and tossed with some other things. Wrong. These sprouts were actually shredded and mixed with shredded kale, red onion, roasted hazelnuts, pecorino cheese and a lemon vinaigrette. The roasted hazelnuts added an awesome crunch to a rather delicate salad. The pecorino cheese was mixed in the salad in shavings and added a deliciously salty, nutty and powerful cheese flavor. Together with the lemon vinaigrette, these flavors combined to make something fabulous. I'd really like to experiment with this and try to make it on my own. All in all, such a great and unique culinary experience.

Cheddar, Beer and Mustard Pull-Apart Bread - The Chabala's Kitchen, Milford, MI

Quite possibly the most beautiful bread ever seen
     For our annual "Classy Christmas" event this year, I decided I was going to make this Cheddar, Beer and Mustard Pull-Apart Bread I found on Smitten Kitchen. The woman is a genius so I knew anything she was whipping up in her kitchen was going to knock my socks off. This bread went through multiple phases. I whipped up the sauce at my mom's house, made the dough at my dad's and assembled and baked it all at the Chabala's with the help of Dan and his mom. If you're looking for a quick bread recipe, it's definitely not this one, BUT I still highly recommend it. It was best straight out of the oven with a little butter spread and melted on it. Plus, look how pretty it is! Kind of like the pull and peel twizzlers. I really liked the combination of the cheeses and mustard together. I went with a whole ground mustard because it's my favorite and has the flavor I was looking for. I also added some green onions which I think was a great idea (to toot my own horn a little bit). Although, I wasn't too fond of the beer flavor. It could've been because I used Miller Lite in the dough. Yea yea... go ahead and laugh. I was running out of time, realized I didn't have the kind of beer she suggested, so I just went with what we had. I bet it would've been great with a darker beer. The only other difference between what she did and what I did was that I mixed all the spices in with the sauce and brushed it on the bread dough as opposed to tossing it with the cheese. This was all an accident. Completely a delicious accident.
Cheddar, Beer and Mustard Pull Apart Bread

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup beer, preferably dark but really, use whatever you like to drink
2 1/2 cups  all-purpose flour, divided
1/3 cup rye flour (I just used all-purpose flour)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) instant yeast
1 teaspoon table salt

2 large eggs, at room temperature

3 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Dijon or a mustard of your choice
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Dash of hot sauce
1 teaspoon  mustard powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon table salt
Several grinds black pepper
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar

1) Make dough: In a small saucepan, heat the 4 tablespoons butter and 1/4 cup of beer, just until the butter has melted. Remove from heat and add the remaining 1/3 cup beer. Set aside to cool down slightly. You want the mixture warm but not steaming hot.

2) Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together 2 cups of the all-purpose flour, sugar, yeast and table salt. With the mixer on low, pour in the butter-beer mixture, mixing only until the flour is moistened. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix until combined. The batter will look lumpy, but will become smooth in a moment. Add the remaining 1/2 cup all-purpose flour and all of the rye flour, mixing until just combined. Replace paddle with a dough hook and let the machine knead the dough for 3 to 4 minutes on low.

3) Oil a medium/large bowl and transfer dough to it. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside for

50 to 60 minutes, until doubled. Meanwhile, prepare fillings.You can also rest the dough in the fridge overnight -- wrapped tightly with plastic. The next day, let it rest at room temperature for an hour before rolling out.

4) Make fillings: Melt the 3 tablespoons butter. Remove from heat and whisk in mustard, Worcestershire and hot sauce until smooth. Set aside.

5) In the bottom of a medium bowl, stir together mustard powder, paprika, table salt and several grinds of black pepper. Add shredded cheddar and toss until grated strands are evenly coated with spices.

6) Assemble bread: Either coat a 9-by-5 loaf pan lightly with butter or a nonstick spray and set aside.

7) Turn dough out onto a well-floured counter and roll the dough into a 20-by-12-inch rectangle, making sure it doesn’t stick to the counter by lifting sections and re-flouring the counter as needed. Brush the butter-mustard-Worcestershire mixture evenly over the whole surface, right up to the edges. Cut the dough crosswise into 5 strips; each should be 12-by-4 inches. Don't worry if they're not perfect rectangles. Everything will rise and mush together as it's baking. Sprinkle the first one evenly with a heaping 1/4 cup of the grated cheese. Place another strip on top of it, coat it with another heaping 1/4 cup of cheese, and repeat with remaining strips until they are stacked 5-high and all of the cheese is used.

8) With your very sharpest serrated knife, cut your stack into 6 to 7 2-inch segments (each stacked segment should be 4-by-2 inches).

9) Arrange stacks of dough down the length of your prepared loaf pan as if filling a card catalog drawer. It's easier if you stand up your loaf pan up on its short end.
10) Loosely cover the pan with more plastic wrap and set it aside to rise again for 30 to 45 more minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

11) Bake loaf for 25 to 35 minutes, until puffed and brown. Transfer it to a wire rack and let it cool for 5 minutes before flipping it out onto a serving plate/cutting board. Serve warm with butter!

New York Pizza - Boston, MA
Another meaty pizza :]
     Unfortunately, it was Rachel's last day as a co-op at work, but fortunately she ordered us all pizza! I know... it seems a little backwards, but my boss tried to convince her otherwise. Either way, she ordered a bunch of pizzas from New York Pizza down on Tremont St. This little place is a family run pizza joint rooted in NYC, but transplanted in Boston to serve up famous New York style pizza. I love supporting families and entrepreneurs like this. Makes me all warm inside... especially when they deliver me delicious goods.

     It's been forever since I've had pizza delivered to me, but it was absolutely amazing. OH gosh. So she got a couple different specialty pizzas and a bunch of cheese pizzas. Naturally, I had to try them all, so I cut all the pieces in half :] The slices were HUGE. One slice could definitely be an entire meal. Their "traditional crust" was great and had the cornmeal on the bottom. Relatively thin on bottom, but the crust around the edges was thick and fluffy. The cheese was the chewy kind of cheese and well... I just can't ask for anything better than that. Normally I'm not a big fan of cheese pizza just because I want more action, but I'd be completely fine eating this cheese pizza. The second pizza I tried was barbecue chicken. It was great because the whole piece didn't taste like it was covered in barbecue sauce (like many bbq chicken pizzas come). Just the chicken thrown on it was bbq. The next slice I tried was a veggie pizza with green peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, onions, olives and these big thick slices of mushrooms. I know I've blabbed before about my theory of the status of pizza places based on their mushroom selection, but in my opinion, this place has "arrived" because they do their mushrooms right. Big, fresh, thick slices. No canned nonsense. The next slice was the Meat Lovers. I bet you can't guess which was my favorite. It had hamburger, pepperoni, sausage, and ham. The hamburger was awesome. Although, I definitely thought it was just sausage until I looked up the menu just now.

French Onion Soup Potstickers - My Mom's Kitchen, White Lake, MI
Photo credits to Hailee Dion :]
     When we were younger, our get togethers always seemed to involve things like sledding, work out
videos, rollerblading, dancing, etc. Now? We sit around and eat food. It seems like that’s what we center all of our gatherings around, and I’m 100% ok with it. Hailee, Mallory and I (Jaime was in Florida.. boo) decided to have a Pinterest night where we all made a Pinterest recipe we’ve been meaning to try. Hailee made an amazing (low cal… ha) loaded potato casserole with chicken, bacon, cheese and potatoes. There’s no possible way you could’ve made those ingredients taste bad together. Mallory made a spaghetti squash mac and cheese with broccoli in it. It was so good! I really have to try making spaghetti squash more often.
    I wanted to try something out of my normal style of cooking. I made these French Onion Soup potstickers that I found on Iowa Girl Eats. I’m not even so sure I’ve ever had real potstickers before this. Either way, it was fun to try something new, and it was even more fun to eat them. They're pretty delicate, so putting them together was tough for me. I wanted to stuff them with the beefy sauteed onions and cheese, but the wonton wrappers wouldn't close, so I had to cut back a little. There were a lot of modifications that I had to make along the way. The process of cooking them was interesting too. First you put them butt down in a hot skillet with some oil and browned the bottoms. Then you threw in some water, covered them, let them steam for a bit, took the lid off and let them crisp up again. Crisp them up, only to make them soggy and then crisp again. Hmm. Anyway, they were delicious! Hailee, Mallory and my Mom loved them. I loved the way the bottoms turned a golden brown, the tops were soft and the insides tender. The onions were perfectly soft and the cheese was melted just like in a cup of French Onion soup. Mallory and I really liked dipping them in some cool sour cream to contrast the hot savory insides. They may have been a little bit of work, but they're fun to make and super tasty. Also, I didn't make the Au Jus dipping sauce that she did, but I'm sure that'd be good too. Here's the recipe!

French Onion Soup Potstickers

2 jumbo sweet onions, cut into quarters then sliced thin
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 small dried bay leaves (or 1 big one)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup beef broth
1/2 cup finely shredded mozzarella cheese
20 wonton wrappers
vegetable oil
1) Heat butter and oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion slices and season with salt and pepper, then add Worcestershire sauce, dried thyme, bay leaves, sugar, and beef broth to the skillet and stir well. Turn heat up to high, bring broth to a boil, then turn back down to medium heat.
2) Cook onions, stirring occasionally, until very tender and dark brown. About 25 minutes. Turn off the heat and cool the onions completely, then place into a bowl and mix with mozzarella cheese.
3) Lay wonton wrappers out on a clean, dry surface, then place 1 Tablespoon onion mixture into the center of each wrapper. Wet all four sides with a pastry brush or your finger, then fold the bottom right-hand corner up the top left-hand corner and seal the edges, being careful to remove all air pockets. 
4) Heat 1 teaspoon vegetable oil in a medium-sized skillet. Place potstickers, being careful not to crowd, into the skillet, getting oil on the bottom of each potsticker. Cook until golden brown on the bottom, then add enough water to come 1/3 of the way up the potstickers. Place a lid on top and let the potstickers steam for 2-3 minutes.
5) When there is just a couple Tablespoons water left in the skillet, remove the lid and allow the water to cook out and the potsticker bottoms to crisp back up. Use a spatula to gently unstick the wrappers from the skillet and serve with Au Jus dipping sauce or sour cream. Mmmm!

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