Monday, February 18, 2013

White Asiago Pizza-ish Food

Asiago Pizza

Growing up on the south side of Chicago, “pizza” meant two things; either thin with a sweet sauce, fennel-y sausage and browned melted cheese on top from any number of store-front shops; or deep pan, one slice is a meal but I’ll take two with buttery crust cradling layers of cheese, garlicky sausage, and chunky tomatoes from downtown restaurants. We left the north siders to their thick-crust variety and would certainly eat it when visiting, if necessary to maintain cross-town friendships, but we’d talk about the winning advantages of our south side thin crust pies all the way home.

Then came the 80’s and the Yuppies and the Guppies and all the other ‘Uppies and pizza became more than sausage and tomatoes and Mozzarella Cheese. Although the Urban Professional clan has thankfully melded into society at large, we can be grateful for one of their innovations – “Gourmet Pizza”. I do still have trouble actually calling these pizzas and why it took a “lifestyle group” to discover a real departure from tradition I’m not sure; maybe it was all just coincidental.

In any case, and by whatever name you like to call them, they are an outstanding way to serve up some amazing flavors combined with a fun way to eat them!

White Asiago Pizza-ish Food
Yield: 1 Pizza, 12”     Total Time: 30 Minutes


• 1 Thin Pizza Crust, 12”
• 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil + more for brushing the pan
• 1 small Onion, thinly sliced
• 1 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter
• ½ Cup Black Trumpet Mushrooms, cleaned and chopped into large pieces (measure after chopping)
• 1 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter
• 1 Tablespoon All Purpose Flour
• 1 Clove Garlic Confit with 1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil from the Confit (See Tips and Trending below)
• ¼ Pound Smoked Provolone Cheese, thinly sliced – about ⅛” thick
• ½ Cup Kalamata Olives, chopped in half
• ⅓ Cup Half & Half + more if necessary
• Dash of Ground Cayenne Pepper
• ¼ Teaspoon Kosher Salt
• ⅓ Cup grated Asiago Cheese
• 1 Tablespoon Dry White Wine
• Extra Virgin Olive Oil for finishing
• Garlic Powder

Preparation Steps

Step 1. Preheat oven to 425ºF

Step 2. Heat 1 tablespoon of Olive Oil In a small fry pan over medium-high heat, add the Onion and cook just until lightly colored, remove the Onions to a paper towel to drain.

Step 3. Add 1 tablespoon of Unsalted Butter to the Olive Oil in the fry pan and when hot, add the Black Trumpet Mushrooms and sauté for 1 minute. Remove pan from heat and let the Mushrooms cool.

Step 4. Give a thin style pizza pan a light coating of Olive Oil. Stretch Pizza Crust to size and place on the pan. Dock the crust (use a fork to poke holes through the crust to within ½” from the edge), to prevent the crust from bubbling. Bake for 5 minutes - do not allow the crust to brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 5 minutes.

Step 5. Arrange the Provolone Cheese slices on top of the crust, add the Black Trumpet Mushrooms and the Kalamata Olives.

Step 6.
In a small Sauce Pan, melt 1 tablespoon of Unsalted Butter over medium-low heat, then add 1 tablespoon of All Purpose Flour. Whisk to form a roux, do not allow the Flour to brown. Add one clove of Garlic Confit with 1 tablespoon of the Confit Olive Oil, mash the clove into the roux and stir to combine,

Step 7.
Reduce heat to low and add ½ cup of Half & Half, the dash of Ground Cayenne Pepper and ¼ teaspoon of Kosher salt whisking until smooth. Add more Half & Half, 1 tablespoon at a time, if sauce appears too thick. Whisking until heated through, the sauce should be at an “easily pourable” stage. Remove from heat. Gradually stir in the grated Asiago Cheese until melted and the sauce begins to bind. Whisk in 1 tablespoon of Dry White Wine to thin the sauce again and then drizzle over the assembled pizza and top with the Onions.

Step 8.
Lightly brush some Extra Virgin Olive Oil around the edge of the crust and dust the exposed crust edge with Garlic Powder. Bake for 12 minutes on the lowest oven rack. Move pizza to the middle rack and turn the oven temperature to Broil. Cook for an additional 2 minutes to add some color to the pie.

Allow the cooked pizza to rest for about 10 minutes before slicing.

Tips and Trending

~ If you don't have your own garlic confit, a good substitute is any commercially prepared roasted garlic in olive oil available at your grocers. 

~ My recipe for Pizza Dough Southside Style is the perfect crust for this pizza – the recipe makes two 12” inch pizza crusts, so you can use one for this “pizza” and freeze one for later. (One caveat; that pizza crust recipe takes at least two days to complete.)

~ If Black Trumpet mushrooms (Black Chanterelle) are not available, substitute Hens of the Woods (Maitake) or another strong, woodsy flavored mushroom. By the way, Black Trumpet mushrooms make an excellent substitution for Truffles at a fraction of the price. 

~ Adding most cheeses to a béchamel (white sauce), can cause the sauce to bind to much or become stringy. Adding some dry white wine or lemon juice (your choice depending on the dish) will loosen the sauce.

~ I like to keep a selection of dried mushrooms in my pantry. I can always find a use for them and they keep for months without refrigeration. Reconstituting dried mushrooms takes only a few minutes of active work; just give them plenty of hot water and then they do the rest of the work themselves. The liquids used to reconstitute make great flavoring additions to other dishes or stocks; just strain through a coffee filter and freeze. As a rule of thumb, a pound of fresh mushrooms are equivalent to 6 cups of chopped or sliced and 3 ounces of dried. This is not a perfect substitution because, even after reconstitution, dried mushrooms will not have the exact volume or weight of fresh but it is a good guideline and a place from which to begin.

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