Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Here's some tasty treats for you.... Enjoy!

I can't believe we're already on Finals Week at school and our first block of classes is actually behind us. Even though it started off slow, the speed picked up and pretty soon it was zooming along at an incredible pace and here we are now..... studying, turning in papers and practicing knife skills and other things we will be tested on (by a panel of judges) by "doing them" and not just on a piece of paper....

My grades are excellent, I've gotten used to the routine and I can't sleep in anymore.... my eyes open by themselves a little before dawn and once again I have the house to myself while everyone else sleeps (except Kitty of course who sits at my side while I make coffee). A lovely time of the morning which is all mine.... quiet and still.... the first rays of the sun begin streaming in between the blinds ruining the hazy effect yet injecting the new day's energy into your very soul. It's time for another day to begin so you get your mind around it. You get going.....

Anyway, as I told you some days ago, the pizza competition has come and gone. It came with the added surprise of having won it without a great deal of effort, yet it was somewhat stressful due to it being at school, in front of my teachers who are heavy duty Chef's (and as a consequence, always "watching my every move") as well as the rest of the student body which hovers around 700 or so bodies and while most of them didn't enter the competition, it was still a "status" thing to participate and "we" (Rene and I participated individually) being "newbies" were looked down upon, at least initially and until we beat the pants off them that is.... much to the delight of our class of newbies and both of the Chef's that direct us. First time "newbies" had won anything and we asserted ourselves. Nice.

But apart from all of this, we've been making home-make pizza for a long time customizing it to suit our mood and taste and have found it easy and tasty. Maybe you will too and will decide to give it a try. I'll give you the easy preparation and you can let me know if you want something more elaborate, ok? Here you go.....

Poblano Chicken Pizza.- Very tasty, wonderful bright green color and surprisingly great

4 chicken breasts, boneless, skinless (or any other chicken part you like), rough chopped
8 Poblano chiles, whole, fresh
1 onion, cut in thin strips
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup chicken stock (fresh is best, but use what you have)
1 cup heavy cream
1-2 tbl sugar
salt & pepper to taste
1-2 tbl olive oil
1-2 cups Manchego Cheese, grated (or whatever you like)
2-3 tbl sour cream
sprigs of cilantro leaves

For pizza crust:
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 envelope of Rapid Rise Yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1-2 tbl olive oil
1 cup (or more, depending dough), hot water (about 170F)
NOTE: You can also add rosemary, basil, red pepper flakes, etc. finely chopped to the flour if you want another flavor in your pizza crust.

Put the flour, yeast, salt, sugar and olive oil in the bowl of a mixer with the paddle attachment and mix it for 2-3 minutes. Slowly add some of the water, a little at a time until the dough comes together and comes away from the sides of the bowl. If the dough is very sticky, add a little more flour. If you have a dough hook you can now use it and work your dough for about 10-15 min until the dough is tender and smooth. If you want to work the dough by hand, put the dough on a work table with some flour on it and knead it vigorously, to and fro, for about 15 min until it becomes smooth, flexible and can be stretched easily. Now cover the dough with plastic wrap and allow to rest and rise for at least 30-60 min. in a calm, warm place that's away from drafts.

Now is the time you can make the sauce since you're waiting for the dough to do it's thing. Begin by roasting the poblano peppers by putting them on your gas stove with the flame on high. Keep turning them as they blister and turn black but don't let them sit too long so they burn. Once they're all black all over, place them in a plastic bag for about 1/2-1 hour to steam and become easier to handle. Once they have cooled some, take the skins off (they should come right off) but DO NOT run under the faucet since this will take some essential oils away which you will want for more flavor, ok? Then take the stem off and cut off the top a little, make a cut down the side and open them up and remove the seeds and veins so they are clean. Chop them up and place in a blender or food processor along with 1/4 of the onion (also rough chopped) and 2 of the whole garlic cloves. Add the chicken stock.

Process the chiles and the rest really well until the whole thing becomes smooth. Begin by adding 1/2 of the cream and some salt and pepper. Taste it and decide if you want to add some sugar. Process again and make sure it's thick and smooth. You now have the pizza sauce. In a pan with some oil on it, cook the chicken until golden, halfway through this add the onions so they begin to color along with the chicken, salt and pepper them too. At the end, for 2-3 min. add the last of the chopped garlic.

If the dough has risen (you can see it easily), and is now tender and flexible. Put down some flour on the table and you can either extend the dough with your hands or use a rolling pin, your choice. You can use a pizza pan, baking pan, cookie sheet or whatever you feel like- if you have a pizza stone then it should already be in the oven and will get hot along with the oven. Be sure to pre-heat the oven to at least 450F, you might spray some light water on either the stone or the oven walls to get some steam going and build the pizza.

Extend the pizza to the size and shape you want. Poke the dough with your fingertip so you make little indentations over it, spread the sauce, top with the chicken onion mix and then with the cheese and bake until golden brown. Depending on your oven it could take from 8 to 15 min, but keep an eye on it just in case. Check the bottom crust and be sure it's cooked too. Allow the pizza to rest 5-8 min then cut and top each slice with a dollop of sour cream and a cilantro sprig. Enjoy!

I still need to do more review for the three exams I've got tomorrow so I will check out now, but I'm hoping you will try this and let me know. Sorry about the very sub-par picture of the winning pizza, I did have a camera but they kept me outside until the end of the judging was done and by the time I got inside, they had ravaged it..... this picture was taken by one of the administrative people who was recording the event..... at least you can see the bright, green color.

Wishing everyone a safe and warm holiday season, we're having warm sunny days here again (quite bizarre actually) but can't complain once you see the madness around the rest of the country.... talk soon!

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