“It’s Official…I’M A STONER!”

Once again, by permission (thanks, David) we have a post from contributor David Basora. This time our Miami chef is getting to know his new pizza stone. Visit his blog, Random Thoughts, by clicking here or on the link in the right column.

Name one food that’s virtually loved worldwide and you’ll probably come up with a top five or ten list. I’ll bet all the money in my pockets (that’s only about $2.75 currently) that pizza will be on all of those lists. Perhaps in varying positions but really, who doesn’t love pizza?

And if you’re thinking that it’s a great thing to have when you have the munchies after, well, you know (grin) you’d be right. However that’s not where I’m headed despite the title of this post. Just kick back and enjoy the ride, friends and readers, you’ll love where this goes.

One of the many things I realized some months ago when I started this journey into food was that I had to put away a lot of misconceptions and I also had to be fearless in the kitchen. If you’re a longtime follower of this blog or have seen one of my fave movies, “Julie & Julia” you’ve read where I’ve quoted various scenes or lines from the movie. And one of the best was when Julia Child set out on teaching American ladies French Cooking. During her class she said “There are no mistakes, no explanations”

So there I was wanting to learn to do the one thing I’d never ever tried in my life, I wanted to make a pizza. I’ve tried out a couple of variations, including a breakfast one that I’ll feature in another post, but not a real pizza. And after checking out online various techniques and recipes I learned two things; pizza dough is one of the perfect culinary blank slates on which you can do virtually anything and if you want to do it right you MUST HAVE A PIZZA STONE!

Having a Pizza Stone allows for crisp, fully cooked dough. So step one was an obvious one, buy a stone! I went online to the webstaurantstore.com and found one that was within my price range and worked great. If after reading this you’re thinking about buying one, check them out. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

Last Saturday I gathered up my courage to make my very first pizza. Now keep in mind, up until this point my only foray into making a pizza was taking one out of the box and putting it into the microwave. So I wanted to make a more traditional pizza, with a little bit of a twist.

To that end, I sliced up some Italian Sausage, browned it and added some minced garlic, dried oregano and after it was all mixed in and the sausage nicely browned I added about a half cup of pinot noir and let it all simmer for about twenty minutes. While this was happening, in another pot, I had halved fresh Cherry Tomatoes, some more minced Garlic, Shallots and Extra Virgin Olive Oil. (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, THANK YOU CHEF SCOTT CONANT FOR GIVING THE WORLD THIS SIMPLE YET DELICIOUS SAUCE RECIPE IN YOUR AMAZING COOKBOOKS!)

Oh yeah! I also added some red pepper flakes because…that’s right…I GOTTA HAVE THE HEAT!

When the Tomatoes were soft and it had a nice sauce consistency, I mixed it into the Sausages. Wine is not the easiest thing to work with when cooking. If done wrong, it can change your intended flavor profile in ways that are, well, less than pleasant. This time, however, I’m pleased to say it cooked long enough and it was amazing.

One thing is key when using a pizza stone. You must heat it gradually before using it. The best way to do this, of course, is to just pop it in the oven when you preheat it (400 degrees).

So while the oven was heating and the sauce simmering, I got to work on the dough.
I had picked up some ready made dough and allowed it to thaw fully (I have a killer recipe to do my own, but I wanted to get this done quickly). I rolled it out for a few minutes and let it sit to expand in size a little more. Then threw some flour onto it and onto the surface (important or else it’ll stick) and rolled it out again. I brushed some Extra Virgin Olive Oil on top after I placed it on the Stone and put it in the oven to bake for 8-10 minutes.

When it was done, I topped it with the Italian Sausage sauce, Shredded Mozzarella & Asiago Cheese . I put it back in until the cheese was all nice and melty and the crust a nice medium golden brown. Then I finished it off with Fresh Basil. The result: (photo on left)

On Sunday, feeling completely confident with my first attempt done successfully, I ventured out on a journey to make another one. If you read the post a couple of weeks ago where my sons decided to throw me a curveball and requested a Pineapple/Jalapeno Barbecue Sauce for some Chicken we were grilling up, you’ll understand where I went here. That’s right,a Barbecue Chicken Pizza with my Pineapple/Jalapeno Barbecue Sauce topped with Mozzarella and Parmiggiano-Reggiano Cheese. And I finished it off with Fresh Basil.

I was going to leave it there and it would have been good but I wanted the visual to POP and while the flavors were really good, it needed a kick. Not wanting to go back out to the supermarket, I looked at the pantry to see what I had and low and behold (cue light from above and angelic choir to represent an epiphany) A JAR OF PIQUILLO PEPPERS!!

I took these Roasted little Spanish Beauties and sliced them lengthwise and added it to the Pizza. The sweet/heat from the BBQ sauce combined with the smooth/tanginess of the cheeses and the fresh herb element from the Basil along with the Roasted kick from the Piquillo’s made this work even better than I thought it would! Check this out! (photo on right)

All in all, I not only spent my weekend virtually stoned, pizza stoned that is, I am now a dedicated STONER!! Added to the mix spending time with the greatest niece and nephew in the world and family that not only appreciate food as much as I do but also appreciate the simpler things like just spending time together and it was a weekend to remember!

One thing I like about David’s cooking and his writing is that his enthusiasm is outstanding and a bit infectious. So, catch the fever and try some of this yourself, as we will in The Bachelor’s Kitchen.

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