Our Guest Cook this week is all about the goods- good food, good tastes and good memories. Cynthia is the chef behind all the delicious recipes on the food blog, Two Red Bowls. Below she tells her story on food and family and growing up in the US.
"I love that food brings people together. I grew up in a Chinese family in the Southern United States, and while those two cultures are fairly different at first glance, one of the wonderful things they do share is a deep appreciation of the connection between food and family, and food and community. So I think that's one of the big things that influences my cooking -- food that reminds me of my family and where I came from, food for celebrations and dinner parties, food to share with my fiance for a nice date night in. And, perhaps more simply, I just like to make what tastes good and what I feel like eating! I don't have any formal background or training in food -- I learned to cook primarily from my mother, grandmother, and handy-dandy Google. I like to think that's freeing in some ways, that my experiences with food have been largely organic and continuously developing. It's an evolving process and full of trial and error, but always fun!"
Bacon + Mashed Potato Pizza
for Jim Lahey's no-knead pizza dough:
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp active dry yeast* (see Notes)
3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp water
1 tbsp honey (optional)
for the toppings:
6 rashers bacon
2 heads garlic
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 lb Yukon gold potatoes (1 large or 2-3 small to medium potatoes)
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tbsp heavy cream, creme fraiche, or sour cream
1 tbsp melted butter, or reserved bacon fat
1-2 tbsp reserved cooking water from potatoes (optional)
about 1 tbsp cornmeal or flour (however much is needed to prepare baking surface)
1-2 tsp olive oil for brushing the dough before topping
2-4 tbsp grated parmesan
1-2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/2 tsp dried oregano or 2 tsp fresh
For the dough, combine water and honey (if using) in a small bowl and stir to dissolve. Sprinkle the yeast into the water and stir again. In a large bowl, sift together flour and salt, then add the yeast mixture and stir until it forms a sticky dough. (Lahey’s recipe and most incarnations of it simply call for sifting the yeast into the flour, but I just like to make sure it’s ready to go.)
Cover bowl with plastic and keep at room temperature for approximately 18 hours, or until the dough has more than doubled and surface is covered in tiny bubbles. (See notes below on shortening rise times -- especially if you’re like me and have a tendency to forget to do this the night before.)
When ready, scrape the dough onto a well-floured surface. It should be quite sticky and soft, with long strands of wet dough. Generously flour the dough and pat it into a loose rectangle, then divide in half and form each piece into two balls by tucking the four corners into the center of the dough. Turn them seam-side down and let them rise for a final hour, covered with a damp cloth.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. If you like to cook your bacon in the oven, like I do, place the bacon in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and place it in the cold oven now, as it preheats. In about 10-15 minutes, or by the time the oven is preheated, the bacon should be cooked. If you prefer cooking on the stovetop, prepare the bacon in a skillet in your preferred method while the oven is preheating. Either way, when the bacon is at your preferred crispness, remove from heat, drain and reserve the bacon fat, and set both aside.
Once the oven is hot, slice off the top of your garlic bulbs so that each clove is exposed. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over top, rubbing each clove to make sure the oil is well-distributed. Wrap the bulbs in foil and bake for 30 minutes. When it’s done, the garlic should be soft when pressed. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
Next, or while the garlic is roasting, prepare the mashed potatoes. Skin the potatoes and slice into quarters. Place in a medium pot with enough cold water to fully cover the potatoes and a generous helping of salt (at least 1 tbsp), then bring to a boil and cook for about 10-15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender enough that a fork slides through without resistance. Drain the water, reserving just a bit to thin the potatoes if needed. For lighter, fluffier mashed potatoes, press the potatoes through a potato ricer or food mill into a medium bowl. If you don’t have a potato ricer, put the pot back on low heat, then use a potato masher or a fork to gently mash the potato in the pot, letting steam escape as you mash. Take care not to work the potatoes too much, or they will turn gummy.
Add the melted butter or reserved bacon fat, and stir lightly to incorporate. Add the cream and stir again until blended; thin with an additional tablespoon or two of potato water if needed. For topping the pizza, I prefer the mashed potatoes a little drier than I normally prepare them, so that they don’t make the pizza soggy. Taste the mashed potatoes and season with salt and pepper as needed.
When the dough has risen for another hour and your toppings are ready, prepare your baking surface by sprinkling it liberally with cornmeal. I used a cast-iron skillet and found it to work wonderfully, though you can also use a baking sheet or, of course, a pizza stone. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. If you prefer, place the skillet or pizza stone in the oven to preheat it. (I generally don’t and find my pizza to be just fine.)
Press, shape, or stretch the dough into a flat circle or rectangle however you like (I’m no pizza shaping expert!) I find that placing my fists underneath the dough and letting it fall gently over them stretches the dough out nicely. For this amount of dough, a 10” circle will yield a thicker, fluffier crust. If you can get it to 13” or 14”, the pizza will be a nice thin crust, which I preferred for these toppings.
Take the roasted garlic and press out the cooked cloves. Brush a small amount of olive oil over the dough, then spread the garlic evenly across the dough in small pieces. Sprinkle desired amount of Parmesan and dried or fresh oregano across, then the mozzarella and bacon. Finally, drop tablespoon-sized dollops of the mashed potatoes across the pizza.
Bake at 500 for 12-15 minutes, or until the pizza reaches your desired brownness. Slice and stuff face.
If you're like me and you have a tendency to forget to set out the dough the night before, simply double the yeast to 1/4 tsp and it should rise just fine in 8 or 9 hours instead of 18.