July 28, 2012

Home Cooking: Deep Fried Pizza

So, I recently took a stab at making deep-fried pizza. I got the idea from this guy, who got the idea from this guy, who got the idea from these guys. I used this dough recipe, but with a little less water as it makes the dough a little easier to work with for frying.

The dough fries in a WOK with the oil at a temperature of 375 degrees.
You cook in the oil briefly, for about 90 seconds so that the dough does not get totally dried out and become carnival-style fired dough. Getting a spongy heap of dough to hit a wok filled with hot oil is a bit tricky, and dangerous. Kenji, genius of Serious Eats, describes it as if you were to "gingerly lower a slippery conger eel slowly into a pool without getting any water on you." It's not easy, and it gets messy. Also, once the dough hits the oil it has a tendency to really expand and puff up. I had to use my spider to keep the dough submerged, and I also flipped several times for even cooking.
The pies were tasty, some of the tastier pies I've made at home. The dough is not greasy, as you might think it would be, and you get a crisp exterior and a rather puffy and light interior. But, they weren't perfect, so I suppose I just need to keep practicing. Not wanting a total disaster, I think I pulled the dough from the oil too early on a couple of the pies. I did finish the pies under the broiler which gives some nice color to the crust and cooks the toppings.

Mexican pizza with beans, jalapeno, jack cheese, cilantro, and chipotle salsa. I really liked the Mexican pie with this dough treatment. Tasted somewhere between a decent pizza and tasty nachos.

July 19, 2012

Off the Beaten Path Bubbly

Sparkling wine. It's not Champagne, specifically, but sparkling wine. That's right, sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France can be called Champagne. Everything else is sparkling wine. Got it? Anyway, I dig the stuff, especially in the summer. Recently, my friends at Le Caveau Fine Wines in Chamblee turned me on to some interesting and affordable sparkling wines from outside of Champagne, France. The Veuve Moisans is a Blanc des Blancs from the Loire Valley is a steal at $12. Really, not sure you can ask for more for a sparkling wine at this price range. Full of body and yeasty aromas, it's interesting stuff that won't break the bank.
Another interesting sparkler from the Loire Valley is the Moussamoussettes from Agnes & Rene Mosse. Like many wines in the Loire, this wine is handcrafted by non-interventionist winemakers. The wine is ‘petillant naturel,’ it is unfined and unfiltered. There is nothing added and nothing taken away from what the earth gave. What's in the bottle is a cloudy, burnt orange pink wine that tastes of sweet strawberry, earth, and sherry with lively bubbles. I found it to be a tad too sweet after it sat open for a while, and the sherry-oxidized note is interesting. I'm not crazy about it, but I like it for its originality compared to most modern wines.
I also picked up a bottle of Txakolina Rubentis from Ameztoi, a producer in the Gentari region in Spain's Basque country.  The name, Txakolina, is a bit of tongue-twister, yes, but the wine has been the go-to summer beverage in the Basque for years and is has been catching on in the states in the past few years. The New York Times did a great piece on Txakolina-mania back in 2010. The Rubentis bottling is a rose bubbly, and it is like summer freshness in a bottle. Lively bubbles and acidity make for a truly refreshing wine for a hot summer night. Try some, you'll be hooked.

July 15, 2012

Summer at Cakes & Ale

Figured I'd update my ongoing chronicles of Cakes & Ale with some pics from a summer visit last weekend. I, like most of the people in the area, adore Cakes & Ale; it is Decatur's first and finest seasonal, farm-to-table-for-localvores restaurant. We showed up with reservations on a Friday night and were lucky to snag the last open table at the bar. For the first time, maybe ever, I didn't love all the dishes. The head-on GA shrimp above was tasty, but wrestling with head-on shrimp in a bowl of broth is a pain unless you're at shrimp boil, and this dish was just not as tasty as it looked.
Salmon croquettas with sauce gribiche. This was a rather pedestrian dish by Cakes' standard; decent, but not really memorable. 
Tuna conserve with fresh pole beans and shishito peppers with pesto was a pretty dish. But again, there was no punch to the pesto coating the veggies. While I can't knock the clean freshness of the dish, there was an overall lack of punch to the flavors here. Even a little sprinkling of salt and cracked pepper would have helped.  We did really like the burrata with fresh peaches (no pic, sorry) and the off-menu Desperados (tequila, lime juice, bitter lemon soda, agave, cilantro) we coaxed the bar into making us were spot on. While it was a mixed experience overall, in the end, I'll return, and soon, to see what Billy and crew has cooking.

July 8, 2012

One Eared Stag

So, I drove through the apocalyptic rains last Tuesday night and met my better half for dinner at One Eared Stag. Hadn't been to OES in a few months, and to be honest, didn't love my last visit. However, with fond memories of the fried chicken dinner back in February, we geared up for this visit. We started with some tasty Rosalindas, refreshing margarita-inspired drink with grapefruit and rosemary syrup. A new bartender was the excuse for the Rosalindas taking a while to get to us, but it was worth the wait. The marrow bone above is tasty, with warm rustic bread, though the marrow needed to be hit with a little salt before it left the kitchen. Good, but the taste was just a bit flat.
My favorite dish of the night was our first course of delicate and juicy quail atop gooey grits, with a pickled quail egg and fermented garlic on the side. We also had the fried green tomato salad with chipotle cream that had a nice contrast of flavors, but the crust on the tomatoes was soggy and flaked off a bit. The Linz hanger steak, with crystal organics baby onions, pumpkin seeds, and aged cheddar was a rather strong dish, too. All in all, it was a pretty tasty meal and I do need to add OES to my regular rotation. I look forward to heading back soon.
Brought with me this very nice 2002 Louis Jadot Savigny Les Beaune La Dominode which was still young, but starting to drink. 

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July 1, 2012

Travel Bites and Sips in CT

Spent some time visiting family in CT this past weekend. Some highlights include the pizzas at Stanziato's in Danbury. Stanziato's is only a couple years old, but they are making their mark in the crowded CT landscape of great pizza. They seem to do a lot of things right: they use primarily local grown ingredients, with flour imported from Naples, and they fire the pizzas in a wood-burning oven at 800+ degrees. The pizzas were all tasty. The crust was thin, nicely blackened in spots, and nice air pockets all through.
Summer lovin': Manchego, local heirloom tomatoes, basil pesto
 Roasted cauliflower, burrata, and truffle.
Beautiful Gift: La Quercia prosciutto, grape tomatoes, mozz, balsamic 
Also drank some of my favorite beers that can sadly only be found in New England. Berkshire Brewing Company out of Deerfield, MA produces unfiltered, unpasteurized beers that contain no chemical additives or preservatives. As such, they don't travel well and can only be found in the MA and CT region. They produce nine styles of beer year round inlcuding the uber-tasty Czech-style pilsner and extra pale ale pcitured above. Great beer. Period
Of course, we had to drink some wine, too. Including the 1973 Santenay from Jacques Martin pictured above. Fascinating, as always, to drink well-aged wine, and this one was quite nice. Aged Burgundy can be a great adventure, as it was this night when a simple village wine delivered. 
Nicely-aged California Cabernet as well. 1995 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley was outstanding. Bordeaux-like, yet still fresh fruit and great balance. Very classy at 17 years of age.