Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Anne Fire Up Pizza

Secrets of A Restaurant Chef with Anne Burrell
The Secret to Grilled Pizza

Parmigiano Sformato with Piquillo Peppers and Almonds
Grilled Pizzettas with Parmigiano, Prosciutto and Arugula and with Taleggio and Puttanesca

I’m excited that Anne is doing pizza. I’m always on the lookout for a better pizza dough recipe. Oh, she’s making GRILLED pizza, which I like, but it isn't quite as challenging to cook as a traditional dough. But let’s see what she does.

Anne adds yeast and sugar into warm tap water. She stirs it and lets it sit for 15 minutes. I approve of proofing the yeast. I never DON'T proof it.

She sprays little foil containers for her sformato or flan. (Let’s be honest, that’s not an attractive name for a dish.) The foil cups are sitting in a big roasting pan. Anne mixes together 2 cups of cream, 4 eggs, 1 cup of parm, a little pinch of cayenne and some salt. They go into the “ramies” and get baked in a water bath.

To make life easier, our restaurant chef pours the flan mixture into a pitcher and THEN into the ramekins and returns them to the roasting pan. Anne likes this recipe, because she can do them ahead. She fills the pan with hot water half way up, covers it with foil and puts them into a 325°F. oven for 20 - 25 minutes. “Easy breezy,” she says.

For the pizza dough, Anne adds 1½ cups of flour and makes a well in the middle. She says that’s how you should always combine wet with dry ingredients to avoid lumps. Olive oil goes into the well. She stirs in the activated yeast and then she “needs to knead it” in order to develop the gluten, which is “the protein that holds everything together.” She kneads the dough by hand.

You may be surprised when I tell you that I was hoping that Anne would make her pizza dough in the food processor. Sometimes I think I over-process mine and I wanted to see how she did it.


Anne doesn’t say NOT to use a food processor and it’s pretty hard to believe that, in her restaurant, pizza dough is made by hand. Of course, we should learn how to do it by hand before we turn to help from a machine, but, after that, all bets are off.

Another thing is that she’s making a tiny amount of dough – only 1½ cups – so it is a easy to knead it by hand.

She puts her kneaded dough in a bowl and covers it, “to do its yeasty thing”, which is to rise. It should sit in a warm place.

Anne moves on to making an infused olive oil with Fresno peppers, which are medium hot, she says. She slices them thickly and they go into a pan with plenty of olive oil. She heats it for a minute.

She toasts almonds in a 350°F oven. I use the microwave. She checks the flans, being careful not to spill the water. They’re done. She removes them from the water to cool off. Anne says they are absolutely fine done the day before.

She juliennes piquillo peppers for a salad. I don’t love these, even though they are Spanish and not as nasty as the American ones.

For the topping. she mixes together chopped tomatoes, slivered Gaeta olives, capers, chili peppers and olive “erl”. That can’t be bad! The sformati are cooling. (That sounds like the word for old tires in Italian.)

Anne is “ready to get rolling”…literally, as she grabs the dough and a rolling pin. She forms them into golf ball shapes on a floured board. She rolls them into crazy shapes, but she says it's fine if you want to be a “circle person”. Mine are usually oval. She throws the dough right on to the hot grill. It has that “burnt toast feeling”. The first one bubbles and Anne turns it over, back and forth, a few times.

"It’s not easy being cheesy", Anne chants as she preps her cheeses. The Parmesan is ready to go. There’s more dough flipping. She cuts the rind off the Taleggio. She says you can use any cheese you like - mozzarella and bleu cheese, for example. The 2 rolled out doughs go on a baking sheet. One is topped with the Taleggio and tomato mixture. The other gets Parmesan cheese before it goes into the oven, and prosciutto, arugula and chili oil after it comes out. The pizzas are baked at 425°F. until the cheesy stuff melts, about 3 or 4 minutes.

The Parmesan flans go back in the oven to warm up.

Anne cuts the pizzas on a board. She tops the tomato pizza with fresh parsley. The Parm one is topped with prosciutto, arugula and her gorgeous chili oil, which “gives it a little zip and brings everybody together”. Is Anne talking about bringing together the guests OR the ingredients? I guess both.

She tastes. Cheesy, delicious, lovely!

Anne gets the garnish for the sformati ready. She dresses the piquillos and almonds with sherry vinegar, beautiful olive oil and salt. She adds some greens.
She unmolds a flan perfectly and dresses it with the salad. It’s really, really pretty. That would be a nice first course, or luncheon dish. (Does any have luncheon anymore?) She tastes. Fantastic. Anne reminds us that most of it can be done ahead and we can be superstars at our own pizza party.

The pizzas looked great, but what I also like about these recipes is that they show different ways to serve pizza. I love to top my pizza, homemade OR store-bought, with salad. The components can be used in different ways too. The tomato mixture would be good as a garnish for grilled meat or fish or to top a pilaf or other rice dish.

6 comments:

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

Sounds like a good tutorial on making pizza and getting creative with toppings! Yum!

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Anne Burrell's mannerisms get on my nerves, but I like what she does - presents real techniques and makes real cooking seem acecssible. She helps explain to the unwashed masses that there is a middle ground between Rachael Ray and haute cuisine.

I have always wanted to try grilling a pizza. I need a bigger grill pan though.

Emily said...

I would love to try Taleggio (we don't have it here). It sounds like it would be wonderful on a grilled pizza.

I like topping my pizza with arugula, and a little vinaigrette. Have you ever done one with arugula, prosciutto and figs? I made one and liked it, everyone else thought it was weird. I don't think that's weird.

Sheila said...

I'm always worried that I over process my dough too... I'll have to give another shot by hand. Have you tried it Anne's way yet?

BTW - I just found your blog a few days ago. I love it! Its great to read your commentary and I like that you include your own tips. Thanks!

Sue said...

Hi Jenn,
I know! I loved those toppings and not just for pizza.

Rach,
Anne does have a unique style, that's for sure, but her cooking is for real (not to sound like a FN show title).

I wonder if you could just throw the pizza dough on top of a gas burner. Sandy did that with scallions on "Chopped" and it seemed to work well.

Em,
That sounds wonderful, but I have to admit I don't love figs. (I even like the apple-filled fig newtons better than the original.) But I always put salad on my pizza. It gives me the illusion that the greens somehow counteract all the fat and cheese underneath it.

Sheila,
Welcome! Please come back...often.

I always think I overprocess my dough, that's why I wanted to see what Anne would do. Of course, by hand is better, but I'm pretty proud of myself for making the pizza in the first place.

Sue said...

PS Rachel,
There's no reason you couldn't throw the dough until the broiler, turning it once or twice. Just watch it VERY carefully.