Posts Tagged ‘all purpose dough’

Bruno’s Famous Clam Pizza

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I first met Bruno di Fabio in Columbus in 2004 when I was competing for the North American Pizza Pizzaz competition. He was making his pizza next to me and they had just called my name to go to the ovens. Our introduction began with a compliment.

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Bruno di Fabio with his award-winning Pizza al Taglio at the 2009 World Pizza Championships in Salsomaggiore Italy where he won Best Pizza In the U.S.A. 2009

“Nice pie,” he said in his unmistakable New York accent, just as I had lifted the pizza up on the peel.

“Thanks, dude.” I said looking at his. “Yours looks great too.” (I was lying, I didn’t care what his pizza looked like, he was my competition and I wouldn’t have cared if he fell over dead, his head careening into his sauce bowl and his cheese flying everywhere.)

“Thank you sir, and good luck. Just one thing…”

“What?” I stopped because he looked concerned.

“Oh, nothing.” Bruno shook his head, like he was fighting with himself to tell me something important. “I know something you can do to that pizza that will save you some time and might help you.”

“Really?” I put the pizza back down on the table and stared at it. “What?”

“See that can?” He pointed to a big garbage can.


“If you throw that piece of crap in there now and you won’t have to go through the humiliation of losing to me.”

It was my first immersion in the Bruno di Fabio laugh. An uncontrollable high-pitched nasal guffaw reverberated throughout the convention hall, loud enough to turn heads as far away as 50 yards. His face turned red as he slapped me and choked out in a high voice, “J…j…just jokin’ wit ya man. Hee, hee, hee. It looks great!”

More laughs followed as Bruno gasped for air, unable to contain his hysterical joy. I smiled and muttered, “Dick” under my breath as I walked to the ovens with my pie. But when I looked over my shoulder , I couldn’t help smiling broadly as I saw Bruno doubled over in laugh-pain.

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Bruno with another winning pizza in 2009, and on the stage with his gold medal and Ms. Italy for “Fastest Pizza Maker in the World,” 2007

I didn’t win that year, but I made a friend. Bruno’s one of those guys who has always been there when I needed help, especially at the World Pizza Championships in Italy. He has helped me sneak into Italian kitchens to prep, translated for me, bribed chefs, and has been my prep slave-sous chef and driver on tough foraging expeditions through the Italian countryside.

Bruno has proven that he would give me the shirt off his back, but he has never given me this damn clam pizza recipe. For two years, I’ve been bugging him. Every time I ask for it, he rolls his eyes and denies me.

My clam pizza obsession began at the World Pizza Championships in 2007. Both Bruno and I were staying with our team The World Pizza Champions at the sprawling Grand Hotel Astro Terme in Salsomaggiore Italy. The hotel, perched atop a green finger ridge, looks down on a steep valley filled with Gelato shops and a few bars.

One night, after a trip to the coast to get clams, Bruno hurried to the kitchen and made the most delicious clam topping that I’ve ever eaten. The next day he entered it as his Pizza Classico. He scored very high but didn’t win. Luckily, he won “Fastest Pizza Maker in the World” the next day.

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Bruno volunteered to be my sous chef and helped me  plate (L) and cut fresh pasta (R) in the finals of the Heinz Beck Competiton in Italy

I texted Bruno the other day and finally, the day is here. I got him to spill the beans…or the clams, so to speak. After he gave me the recipe, I drove for 3 hours to obtain some fresh littlenecks.

Here it is. Bruno di Fabio’s famous clam pie. I only had about 13 Littleneck clams so I had to add chopped canned clams. If you double the fresh clams in this recipe, it doubles the clam flavor.

One Easy Dough Recipe

3 tablespoons clam juice

12 or 13 Littleneck clams

1 tablespoon olive oil for the sauce and 1 teaspoon for brushing on the dough

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 thick sliced bacon slice, or 2 slices of Italian pancetta cut into small dice

1/4 yellow onion, chopped (makes 3 tablespoons)

3 tablespoons chopped clams (Bumble Bee is the best because they only use salt, not bad chemicals to preserve)

2 tablespoons white wine

1 can whole San Marzano tomatoes or whole California tomatoes, drained and hand torn into small pieces and left to drain again,  about 3/4 cup tomato flesh (make sure the tomatoes are not watery)

1 tablespoon grated Parmesan

1/2 cup whole milk grated mozzarella (premium quality because there are lots of bad mozzarella products on the shelves)

1 tablespoon chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley

Dust one dough ball with flour and keep it in a bowl covered with oil until the toppings are done. Preheat oven to 470 degrees with a thick upturned cookie sheet on the middle rack.

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Using a small saute pan on high heat, add the clam juice and the 13 clams. (If you have fresh clams, double the clam juice and upgrade to a larger pan.) Cover and steam for 5 to 8 minutes until all the clams have “popped.” This may take a few shakes of the pan to coax some clams open.

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Put the clams in a bowl. Place the juices in a separate bowl.

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Using the same pan under medium high heat, add 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil. Add the bacon and saute for 1-2 minutes. Add the garlic and onion. Saute for 5 minutes until the onion and garlic are translucent and the bacon is just gettting golden brown.

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Add the chopped clams, clam juice and white wine to the pan. Turn to high and reduce for 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes. Saute for 5 more minutes stirring until the sauce is not watery. Take off the heat.

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Pull the pizza dough out to form a circle according to the Easy Dough Recipe. Place on parchment paper you have laid out on the bottom of an upturned cookie sheet. Brush with the extra virgin olive oil and dust with the Parmesan cheese. Place the mozzarella on the dough.

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Place the clam topping all over the pizza and slide the pizza and parchment onto the preheated cookie sheet in the oven. Bake for 6 minutes.

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Smile for the camera and place the opened clams on the pizza. Put back in the oven and cook for 5 more minutes or until the bottom is dark golden brown and the crust is a golden brown. Serve immediately. Thanks Bruno, yer GREAT!

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Coca De Recapte: Flatbread with Sardines

I don’t know who’d throw me off of the cliff first: the Italian pizzaiola I told of a Spanish Pizza, or the Catalonian Baker to whom I uttered “Italian-style flatbread.” Both dudes would probably be justified in introducing me to Acapulco-style cliff diving, because both these breads are different, yet familiar.

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The small towns in the Catalan region of Spain had a fixed time where people could use the bakery’s wood-fired oven to make their flatbreads. The townsfolk went from house to house to gather ingredients to put on this wood-fired flatbread, called Coca De Recapete. Some Cocas are sweet and some savory, some square and some football shaped, some thin and some thick. Some use egg and milk in the dough, some don’t. Does this sound familiar, like pizza everywhere these days?

One of my favorites uses a mix of wood-fired and charred vegetables called Escalivada. It might include onion, eggplant, sweet peppers and tomato to which townspeople add sausage, sardine or anchovy at the height of summer.

On this snowy December day, I’ve got some fresh sardines and a plan: It’s Coca De Recapte on the grill, featuring eggplant, yellow hothouse tomatoes, zucchini, yellow onion and marinated sardines in a vinegar and paprika pickling liquid.

EEEEWWWWWWW, GROSS. WHAT’S THAT?  There, I printed it before you said it! Now I dare you to view this video on cleaning sardines.

Before we get started, here’s little personal ditty about fresh sardines. Sardines always get a bad rap but if you can get them fresh, the taste is amazing. My most favorite way to prepare them is to grill or saute them with extra virgin olive oil, garlic. Then I dump tomato, capers, butter, anchovy paste, Italian flat leaf parsley, lemon and canned white beans on them and dig in. They taste so much like tuna and are packed with Omega 3.  The sardines’ lives are short so they do not get exposed to our toxic oceans where climbing the food chain has become a killer. Here’s a cool way to avoid mercury-saturated tuna, shark, dolphin and swordfish.

Escabetx de Sardines

This is a traditional paprika-garlic pickling brine that adds a bright, lemony note to the strong flavored and oily sardines. Because the fish literally cooks in the brine, it soaks up the variety of flavors from garlic, pepper, bay, paprika and lemon and makes the sardine a perfect companion to the charred notes of the vegetables and pizza from the grill.

Makes 2 topped flatbreads

Brine for sardines

1/4 cup olive oil

3 cloves garlic

3 small bay leaves

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1/4 cup rice wine or white wine vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon lemon zest

6 sardines, cleaned and filleted

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Start the brine by heating up the oil, garlic, bay leaves and peppercorns over medium heat in a small saute pan. Simmer for 5 minutes until the garlic is translucent and just turning golden.

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Add the white wine vinegar, paprika, lemon zest and sugar and turn the heat up to high. Simmer for 8 to 10 minutes or until reduced by half.

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Turn the heat off and transfer to a non-reactive, preferably tempered glass bowl. Leave on the kitchen counter until it cools to room temperature. When cooled, add the sardines and put in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours.

For the flatbread dough, make the Easy dough recipe. Form each dough ball into football shapes. Dimple the dough by pressing your fingertips into the dough gently and stretch out to a 10-inch length. Oil both sides with 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil on each side, using a paper towel or brush. Set both in a small cookie sheet.

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1 yellow onion

1/2 or 3/4 red pepper (if you like roasted red pepper please use a whole one)

1 medium  eggplant

2 small zucchini

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil for brushing vegetables

3 yellow tomatoes

Manchego cheese

Lemon juice and more olive oil for garnish

Turn your grill on high and wait for the temperature to reach 45o to 475 degrees.

Cut the onion in half lengthwise and using a metal skewer, skewer both halves.

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Cut off the ends of the zucchini. Using a mandoline or knife, cut the zucchini into strips of 1/16th of an inch-(fairly thin but thick enough to withstand ahot grill.)

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Brush all the vegetables with the olive oil and place on the grill.

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The zucchini will cook first. Remove them from the grill when limp and grill marked. Close the lid of the grill after turning the other vegetables. Grill covered, turning frequently until the red pepper is charred, the onion is moist and limp, and the eggplant looks like a deflated balloon with a soft center. Place all in a cool place for at least 10 minutes.

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Cut the end of the eggplant and peel the skin back, revealing the warm flesh. Keep pulling the skin back and pull the flesh out in strips.

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Peel off the red pepper’s black skin and discard any seeds and the top. Cut the flesh into 1/2 inch strips.

Cut the tomatoes in quarters, then cut the inside flesh out and save for salads.

Cut the grilled onion into 1/2 inch petals after cutting off the ends.

Reserve all these vegetables next to the grill.

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Grate 2 cups Manchego Cheese if using a microplane like I did here (a dumb idea because this cheese is semi-soft). You’ll only need 1 cup  if using a convetional grater. Bring the grated Manchego, brined sardines, and oiled dough to the grill also. You are now ready to grill the Cocas.

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Making sure that the grill is medium hot or 450 degrees, quickly brush oil onto the grill, using a paper towel. Place both elongated doughs on the grill and wait only 2 to 3 minutes before checking the bottom. By now, the dough will have hardened enough to move. Check the underside and move according to your grill marks. Wait another minute and turn over.

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Immediately top with the cheese and the vegetables. Here, I made one coca with cheese (Goon version) and a traditional non-cheese coca.

Close the lid to get heat to the top of the cocas but BEWARE. WATCH THE BOTTOM OF THE DOUGH AS IT WILL BURN VERY QUICKLY. (Yes, I know, capitalization is the sign of a weak mind and shallow spirit, but I’ve burnt these before and it’s not fun!)

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When the bottom cannot take any more cooking and is browning nicely, take the cocas off and serve immediatly. I topped mine with a spritz of lemon and another squirt of unfiltered (Spanish) olive oil called Zoe.

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