28 May 2015

Grilled pizza

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 I've done a few blog posts about pizza over the years here on latent chestnut.  In fact, one of my very first posts was about pizza.  Ah, memories.  I've posted about my deep dish pizza, brick oven pizza, and Nonna's pizza.  I even took to Family Tree-Eats to talk about pizza once or twice.
Needless to say, I like pizza, and even though I love the classics, I like to change it up a bit every now and then.  Hence, my foray into the world of grilled pizza.  I got the idea from Alton Brown when he did a Good Eats episode on grilled pizza.  He gives instructions on how to make the dough and what toppings to use, but since I already have a 'go to' pizza crust recipe, I was really just more interested in technique.
Here's how I did it, based on AB's cooking instructions.  First, ignite all heating elements and pre-heat your gas grill to high, making sure the grill grates are clean and free of debris. Then, oil the grill grates and decrease all heating elements to medium. Brush one side of the dough with 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil and flip onto the hot grill. I can do two crusts at a time on mine.  Close the grill lid and cook until the bottom of the crust is golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes. Brush the raw side of the dough with 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil, then flip using a peel. Top with your desired sauce and toppings, then sprinkle with cheese. Close the lid again and cook until the bottom of crust is golden brown and the cheese has melted, another 1 to 2 minutes. Using the peel, remove the pizza to a cooling rack and let it rest a couple minutes before slicing.

Things happen really fast when grilling pizza.  The crust can begin to burn very quickly, so I stage my sauce, toppings, and cheese at the grill prior to putting the dough on the grates.  The oil is really the key because you don't want the crust to stick to the grates; so make sure to brush the crust and grates with enough oil to fully coat each. 

Even though it's a frenetic pace, the results are well worth it.  The grill gives the dough a wonderful crunch and crispiness I have not experienced with any other cooking method, and you can almost taste the fire and smokiness from the grill.  The inside of the dough still has the soft chewiness that we all know and love, too, so there is that element of the pizza that's familiar. 

I've enjoyed experimenting with this new cooking technique for my pizza and I have tried some toppings I may not have reached for if I was just cooking it in the oven.  Not that pizza could ever be boring, but it is nice to shake things up a bit every now and then.

14 May 2015

Alton Brown's French Toast

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French Toast. Egg bread. Gypsy toast. Payn purdyeu. Not matter how you say it, this is Valerie's favorite breakfast.  And her favorite dinner, for that matter.  I don't think we've ever have never had French toast for lunch, but it would probably be her favorite lunch, too.  Oh, and brunch.  Wait.  Does this mean French toast is her favorite food?  I would dare to say, YES!
Growing up, I was never a fan of French toast.  The middle was always soggy, and it just was very underwhelming.  Queue Alton Brown and the Toast Modern episode of Good Eats.  After learning AB's fail proof cooking method, never would I have to endure soggy French toast again. 
The biggest secret of this French toast is to finish cooking it in the oven.  Basically, the skillet cooking serves to get a nice lovely golden brown crunchy layer on the outside of the bread, while the oven allows the custard to finish cooking and set up nicely within the structure of the bread.  I also always buy my bread in a whole loaf, usually from Panera Bread, and slice it myself.  Country loaf is my bread of choice.
I don't know why, but I am a fan of cinnamon in my French toast.  I don' know if it's traditional or not, but I love the little spicy kick that cinnamon brings to the party in this dish.  Though, not in AB's original recipe, I have included it in mine below.  The best way I have found to incorporate the cinnamon in the custard mixture is by beating it in with the eggs right off the bat.  Otherwise, it just seems to float on top of the mixture and most of it sticks to the first slice.
There you have it, my version of French Toast, heavily inspired by AB.  It is a little bit more labor intensive than just frying up slices of eggy bread in a skillet, but the end result is more than worth it. 
French Toast
recipe inspired by Alton Brown
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup half-and-half
2 tablespoons honey, warmed 
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 (1/2-inch) slices day-old or stale country loaf
4 tablespoons butter
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 
In a large pie plate, whisk together the eggs and cinnamon until frothy.  Next add the half-and-half, honey, and salt and whisk to combine.
Place a slice of bread into mixture, and soak for 30 seconds on each side.  Remove the bread to a cooling rack that is sitting in a sheet pan or over the sink, and allow to rest for 1 to 2 minutes.
Over medium-low heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a 10-inch nonstick sauté pan or cast iron skillet. Place 2 slices of bread in the pan and cook until golden brown, approximately 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove from pan and place on rack in oven for 5 minutes. Repeat with the rest of the bread. Serve immediately with maple syrup, whipped cream, fruit, or bacon.


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