Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Although I always liked the concept of a Buffalo Chicken Pizza from a restaurant, I was frequently  disappointed in execution.  Most were a pizza with tomato sauce, unseasoned chicken, tasteless cheese and were soggy and greasy from being doused with buffalo sauce (which is really just a pepper-infused vinegar and melted butter...not exactly sauce so much as it is a vinaigrette).  And then, one day while perusing the cheese case at Whole Foods (some women shop for clothes...I shop for cheese), I came across a Buffalo Wing Cheddar made by Yancey's in upstate NY.  Now that I'm looking for it, I've seen the cheese at Stop and Shop, and my mom reports a sighting at Hannaford's in the sticks of NH.

So now that I had the Buffalo Wing Cheddar, I set about to crafting it into a pizza.  I knew I wanted there to be something sweet that would play off the spicy well, but although tomato sauce can be sweet, it can also have too much of a tangy bite that would compete with the spicy flavors.  I settled on one of my favorite bases for a pizza or panini: beermelized onions.  The Buffalo Wing Cheddar is super spicy (I mean it, don't over do it with this cheese!), and I knew I couldn't cover an entire pizza, for it would be overkill.  Solution: a few slices of fresh mozzarella to balance things out and give a gentle creaminess to offset the spicy.  Next question was how to prepare the chicken.  As I mentioned, many pizzas with chicken overlook a key component: seasoning of the chicken.  This small simple step enhances the flavor of the chicken so much, that it isn't just a boring piece of protein.  I settled on pan-cooking boneless skinless chicken thighs seasoned with salt, pepper, and ground chipotle.  Finished off with some Gorgonzola crumbles, and you have a great pizza to pair with your favorite IPA.

What you get is a complex pizza with a balance of sweet earthiness from the beermelized onions,spicy buffalo flavor, a touch of smokiness from the chicken, and a nice piquant kick from the Gorgonzola.  This is Matt's newest favorite.  He almost said it has unseated the spicy chicken sandwich....but then quickly made the distinction that they are two different dishes.  My vote?  This kicks the spicy chicken sandwich's butt.  Another benefit of this pizza?  You can cook the chicken and the beermelized onions any time before pizza assembly, and keep in the fridge for a couple days.  Then you've got a fast assembly before baking and eating dinner.

For the Chicken:
  • 2 large boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat, and seasoned with kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper and ground chipotle
  • With a little olive oil in a pan, heat pan over medium heat
  • Cook chicken thighs one side at a time, until browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes total, but do not over cook
  • When cool enough to touch, chop into bite sized pieces
For the Pizza:
  • Upon your favorite pizza dough, spread out the beermelized onions as a base
  • Scatter chicken pieces
  • Place fresh mozzarella slices atop pizza next
  • Place grated Buffalo Wing Cheddar on next
  • Scatter gorgonzola crumbles atop pizza (see below for a picture to see pre-cooked distribution of ingredients)
  • Cook as you would any pizza
  • If you are Matt, serve with blue cheese dip for the crusts

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Indian Spiced Yogurt Marinated Lamb Kebabs over Herb Salad

Visiting Mom this weekend for more wedding planning and we wanted to make something fun for dinner without having to go to the store.  She happened to have some boneless lamb shoulder, and suggested lamb kebabs.  I started looking at marinade options, and devised my own based loosely on a tandoori recipe.  Since summer has come early to NH, we also wanted a lighter dish, and didn't have any naan or lavash anyways, so served the kebabs over an herb salad (although if you wanted to make the meal heartier, or feel a necessity for starch, you can always have some warm naan or lavash on the side and roll up the kebabs with the salad inside too).

These kebabs would be stellar over a charcoal grill, but we were too tired to haul it out last night.  The broiler worked great, giving a slight char and keeping the lamb juicy and tender.  The kebabs will make good leftovers, either brought to room temperature or reheated gently.  Some of the spices may not be regular players in your pantry (tumeric, coriander, mustard powder), but it is worth buying a small quantity to make this dish.  Tangy, not too spicy, but very complex, mouthwatering and good for you too.  Try to find sustainable, all natural lamb for this dish.

For 4 people

  • 1 cup 0% greek yogurt
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 TBS minced garlic
  • 1/2 TBS sweet paprika
  • 1/2 TBS ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 TBS milk
  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds lean, boneless lamb shoulder or leg, trimmed of fat and cut into 2" chunks
  • 2 red bell peppers, cut into 1 1/2" pieces
  • Small head of romaine lettuce, cut into ribbons
  • 2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • small handful parsley, roughly chopped
  • small handful cilantro, roughly chopped
  • juice of half a lime and 1/2 tsp lime zest
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • Whisk together marinade ingredients in big bowl
  • Add lamb chunks to marinade, coat thoroughly and let sit at room temperature for 2 hours or refrigerate overnight (if refrigerating overnight, let lamb come to room temp before cooking)
  • Thread lamb chunks onto metal skewers, placing two chunks of red pepper per lamb chunk alternately on the kebab
  • Broil kebabs on foil, 3 minutes first side and 2 minutes on the second side for medium rare, then let rest for 5 minutes (if you have a charcoal grill, cook for same time over direct heat)
  • While kebabs rest, assemble salad by tossing the lettuce and herbs with the lime juice, lime zest and olive oil
  • Place kebabs atop salad, family style, or make individual plates, giving each person 4 to 5 lamb chunks and 8 or so red pepper chunks