Posts Tagged ‘amish’

Braised Leek and Potato Pizza

While working as a dining room captain at Le Ciel Bleu restuarant at the Mayfair Regent Hotel in Chicago, Illionois, the most requested soup on our menu was the vichyssoise. Its rich, creamy potato and leek combination was to die for, and with all the heavy cream the French chefs poured into the soup, it was sure to send you on your way.

I took an opportunity to replicate the savory, creamy and sharp combination these two mid-summer vegetables offer, thanks to all the great farms around this area. I’ve got  fresh leeks and Mr. Stripy tomatoes from the Chesterhill Produce Auction; organic Corolla Potatoes from Rich Organic Gardens in Shade, Ohio; locally aged, whole milk white cheddar from Athens’ Own; and fresh chrevre from Integration Acres in Albany, Ohio.

The most fun in putting this pizza together was bidding on veggies at the Chesterhill Produce Auction. It’s 28 minutes away from Athens, through the winding route 550. I drove through the wilds of Ohio, passing through Amesville (famous for its “coonskin library” where in the wild days, they traded skins for books) and into Morgan county and Chesterhill, where many Amish and other productive Ohio farmers live.

The produce auction is also a great way for these far-flung farmers to sell the fruits of their labor. It is managed by the folks at Rural Action like TomRedfern and Bob Fedyski.

The auction is a study in etiquette and aggression. The chef on your right may be a good friend but during the auction, he’s your worst enemy. He disgusts you as he eyes those baby pattypans or ripe smelling cantalopes with envy. That stuff should be yours. Needless to say, I try to limit the amount of coffee I consume and stay away from heavy metal music on the way there.

Here is a video of what the Chesterhill Produce Auction had to offer this last Monday.

Once the bidding starts, the fun begins.

The potato and leek pizza is for my lunch today so I am going simply, even though I will layer the potatoes like a Tortini di Patate, the Italian version; or the French Tourte aux Pommes de Terre. I’m starving! Let’s go.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees and put an upturned heavy cookie sheet or a really great pizza stone in there. Make the 2 dough balls in the Easy Dough Recipe and set one aside in the freezer for later.

2 medium yellow potato such as Corolla or Yukon Gold

2 tablespoons salt

2 medium leeks

1 large garlic clove

3 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 large Mr. Stripey summer tomato

1 cup aged white cheddar (preferably whole milk cheese)

1/2 a round of chevre, or 3-4 tablespoons of your favorite goat cheese

Fresh dill sprigs

Pour 2 cups water into a medium bowl and whisk in 2 tablespoons salt until it melts. Using a mandoline, shave the potato into slices thinly, but not so thin that you can read through them. They should still stand up on their own. Place them in the water and stir, making sure to separate the slices. This salt water bath will pull the starch out of the potatoes and “cook” them, leading to a crispier bake. Keep potatoes in this water for 15 minutes.

When the potatoes are limp and the water is smoky with starch, pull them out and strain. Dry the potatoes on a cloth or paper towel. Rinse out the bowl and dry it. Pour in 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil. Place the potatoes in the oil and toss with a couple turns of cracked black pepper. Set aside.

Start the leeks just after you put the potatoes in the salted water. Cut the leeks 3 inches above where the green starts. Measure to make sure they will fit the pan. Reserve the top of the leek for sauces or soups. Do not cut off the bottom of the leek, where the hairs or roots are.  They will hold the leek together. Just trim them, as shown above.(Some chefs tie the leeks so they don’t fall apart, but the presentation is not important here and they will be under the potatoes.) Wash the leeks thouroughly.

Place 3 cups of water in a pan over high heat. Add a large, crushed clove of garlic and the leeks. When the water starts to boil, turn the heat down to medium, add the butter and simmer with a lid on for 20 minutes, or until the leeks are easily penetrated with a fork. Put the leeks in the refrigerator to cool. Cut them into 1/4- inch slices and set aside.

For the tomato:

Cut the tomato in quarters. Cut out the inside, leaving the outside flesh and the skin in a “flower petal” shape. Cut lengthwise two or three times, then turn and cut into cubes. Put in a stainer and reserve.

O.K., let’s make the damn pizza!

“Bang out” (pizza industry term for making a round pie shape) the pizza dough on the counter. Place on parchment paper.

Place the cheddar and chevre on the dough. Then the leeks.

Fan the potato slices over the leeks, overlapping a quarter to a half of the one under it. This may take some time and even longer of you have a hook for one of your hands, but be patient:  the result is spectacular.

Place on the hot pizza stone or upturned pan for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the bottom is dark brown and the crust is golden brown. You may have to turn the pizza for an even bake.

When the pie is out of the oven, garnish with the tomato dice and fresh dill sprigs. Enjoy hot or cold.

Amish Asparagus and Serrano Ham Pizza

The green rockets of spring are taking to the air. Finally, we can get our noses out of the misted produce isles and the never-ending harvest of mediocre corporate veggies. Here in southeast Ohio, asparagus is the first hint of what is to come: morel mushrooms, ramps, strawberries, rhubarb, blueberries, kholrabi, garlic tops, arugula, mustard greens and kale, until the baby zucchini blossoms herald the full frontal assault of summer.

When I visited the Ervin Hershberger farm in Chesterhill Ohio, Ervin’s wife Rachael shoved a one-year old in my arms and we stumbled out back to the asparagus field. “I don’t know if there’s…oh my, we DO have alot of asparagus,” she said as I looked at the  green stalks peeking their delicious heads up from the field. Short and fat ones grew alongside long skinny ones just waiting for me to grab and twist before dropping them into the aspargus bucket. As my delight in the first bounty of spring heightened, I kept reminding myself, “Don’t drop baby John…don’t drop baby John…don’t…”

The best hint on buying asparagus is to never buy asparagus that has been cut with a knife. Asparagus has a fabulous way of telling you when you’ve reached the spot where the stalk turns to wood. Grab the stalk and twist – it breaks right at that inedible point.

While waiting tables in Chicago years ago, my friend Chrisensio told me that, while new to this country, he tried every job as a migrant worker. “The two jobs I would rather die than go back to are cutting asparagus and planting pine trees in a clear-cut forest.”  The field managers walked among the pickers, telling them to cut under the earth to get as much poundage as possible. Sounds like a real back-breaking job. It also gave me a hint of how are foodstuffs are managed by the large companies.

I decided to make a pizza with asparagus using Serrano ham from Spain. I will pair this magnificent combination with Manchego cheese (Spanish cheddar from the La Mancia region of Spain), sweet San Marzano tomatoes,and  fresh mozzarella.

Jamon Serrano means “Mountain ham” and can best be described as having a taste like Italian prosciutto crudo or the French Jambon Bayonne. This ham is dry cured with salt and is only made from the “Landrace” breed of pig from the Sierra mountains in Spain. The taste, compared to the  Prosciutto crudo, is more of an upfront salty-pork flavor and noticably lacking in the last Parmesan-umami taste at the back of the throat that prosciutto exhibits. I like this ham on pizza because of the amount of fat in each slice. I tear the fatty pieces  to cook in the oven (which creates some bodacious cracklings), while saving the crudo for topping the warm pizza.

I love fresh raw asparagus on pizza as much as the next guy but with this recipe, I take off the outer skin and “shock” the asparagus. This par-cooks the aspargus for 30 seconds and then fast-cools it, setting the chlorophyl or green color.

Asparagus and Serrano Ham Pizza

1 Easy Dough recipe

4 to 7 fat stalks of fresh, local aparagus

6 to 7 slices of Serrano ham

3 whole canned San Marzano tomatoes

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons shredded imported Manchego cheese

5 to 6 small balls of Boccocini (fresh mozzarella balls)

Make two 7 ounce dough balls. Freeze one for later or double this recipe for 2 pies.

Preheat an upturned cookie sheet on the middle rack of your oven set at 475 degrees.

Put a 3-quart pan filled halfway with water on a high burner to boil. Add a teaspoon of salt to the water.

Using a peeler, lay the asparagus down on cutting board and run the peeler down along the stalk, taking as little of the skin of as possible. Roll the stalk and peel the skin around the whole stalk. Do not run the peeler twice in the same spot or you will take the meat off and end up with nothing.

Fill a large bowl with water and add 4 to 6 ice cubes.

Place asparagus in the boiling water and count to 30 seconds. Do not walk away. Grab the asparagus with tongs and transfer to the ice bath.

Take the asparagus out of the water and cut each stalk in half lengthwise.

Cut the fatty portion off each slice of Serrano ham.  Wrap the non fatty portion around each half-stalk of asparagus.

Open the can of tomatoes and place in a colander to drain. Tear the best 3 tomatoes into filets. Place on a plate. (For true San Marzano tomatoes, note the D.O.P. or Denominazione D’Origine Protetta on the side of the can, the 3 seals on the left side of the can).

To Assemble the Pizza:

Form the pizza dough according to the easy pizza dough recipe. Place the dough on a piece of parchment paper.

1. 2. 3. 4.

1. Pour the extra virgin olive oil onto the dough.

2., 3. Scatter the Manchego on the dough, followed by the fatty ham and the tomato filets.

4. Place the fresh mozzarella balls on top.

Place the pizza with the parchment on the preheated cookie sheet and close the oven. This pizza should cook in 10 to 12 minutes. Check for even cooking after 5 minutes and turn accordingly. The final pizza should be golden brown and more brown on the bottom.

Pull from oven and place aspargus on the pizza in spokes. You may have to trim the asparagus. Place one half mozarrella ball in the middle of the spoke. Serve immediately. Don’t cut this baby until you get a ‘wow factor’ response from your family or hungry guests.