Posts Tagged ‘flat leaf parsley’

Bruno’s Famous Clam Pizza

October 3rd and pear pizzaii 112

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.

2009 pictures of italy 050

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.

2009 pictures of italyii 007 movies from camera december 2007 1118

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.

2009 pictures of italy 034 DSC_6155

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.

October 3rd and pear pizzaiii 044 October 3rd and pear pizzaiii 050 October 3rd and pear pizzaiii 052

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.

October 3rd and pear pizzaiii 055

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

October 3rd and pear pizzaiii 057 October 3rd and pear pizzaiii 059

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.

October 3rd and pear pizza iii061 October 3rd and pear pizzaii 063 October 3rd and pear pizzaiii 062

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.

October 3rd and pear pizza iii091 October 3rd and pear pizza iii093 October 3rd and pear pizzaiii 094

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.

October 3rd and pear pizzaiii 096

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.

October 3rd and pear pizzaii 102

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!

October 3rd and pear pizzaiii 121

Dances with Chanterelles

                         July 2009 ii 027

“No kidding John, you haven’t been chanterelle hunting yet?” my astonished foodie-friend asked while buying a hunk of  pizza from me.
“Aaaaaaa no,” I said, my response sounding more ignorant than usual.
“Well, you gotta get your head out of that pizza oven and get out there dude, there poppin’ everywhere!”  He walked away.
Within the next 30 minutes, three more people said it was a bumper year for the chanterelles, and I goaded them on to tell me where to look.
“Under big beech trees,” came one response.
“On the north side of ridges with big oaks,” came another.
Now, nothing tweeks the goon’s brain like the challenge of a forest forage. The lure of free booty taken easily from mother nature, and all you have to do is hunt. The hunt was on.
                                                   July 2009 473

The name chanterelle comes from the Greek  cantharos, meaning cup. In France, it’s known as the girolle; in Italy as canterello, galletto, gallinacci, finferlo, margherita and garitula. The mushroom’s firm, eggshell yellow flesh has the fruity taste of apricot with a peppery finish, which is why the Germans call it pfifferling.

Often the simplest preparation is the best:  sauteed in butter with chervil or flat leaf parsley and shallots. Some northern Italian cooks add cream. Since 1893, it has been the favored mushroom to throw into  thick-ass bechamel for Maxime Gaillard’s famous Croutes Aux Champignons (baked mushrooms on toast) at Chez Maxim’s in Paris. Damn the heart attack, full speed ahead.

          July 2009 ii 032 July 2009 ii 018

My own chanterelle memory brings me back to Le Ciel Bleu restaurant in Chicago in 1988, where I was a dining room captain and served  hundreds of appetizers called “Champignon en Papillote,” or mushrooms baked in parchment paper.

For this dish, our belligerent yet talented Chef  Dominique folded a round piece of parchment paper around a pile of chanterelles he had tossed in a bowl of white Bordeaux, paper thin slices of garlic, chopped thyme and parsley, and sea salt. He baked the package at  375 degrees until the steam from the wine-soaked mushrooms bloated the air-tight bag into beautiful Hindenburg-like ball. As he yelled epithets like “Hurrrry, you Amer-eee-Keeen Dog,” I scurried out of the kitchen and brought the bag and a sharp knife to the table.  In front of guests, I cut the bag open with great finesse, releasing the herbal steam into their receptive faces. A drizzle of mushroom jus and brioche toast points made it a superb dish.

Back on planet earth and 22 hours after deciding to hunt, I struggled up a ridge in my usual mushroom hunting grounds. I had checked all the low-lying swampy forest but found no chanterelles so I gave up, caving in to my boys, who ranted about going to a large rocky ridge they call “Indian Rock.”
                   July 2009 466 July 2009 467

Just as we approached the top, Sam shouted, “Shamdrell…er… kantrell!” My eyes followed his point and sure enough, on an almost vertical, moss covered wall above the trail, he had found chanterelles. They were small, beat-up and dirty, but chanterelles nonetheess, perfect on pizza with an organic duck breast.

A word about chanterelle hunting: Beware of false chanterelles and Jack O’Lanterns. These mushrooms mimic the real one. False chanterelles have sharp gills, thinner stems and more orange brown than the funnel-shaped real ones. Jack O’Lanterns grow on wood in large clumps, and in the dark. The best rule is: If you wonder whether it’s a chanterelle, don’t pick it.

Chanterelle Pizza with Grilled Duck Breast and Apricots

3-4 ounces fresh chantrelles

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons chicken stock

1 tablespoon dry white wine

1 tablespoon chopped Italian flat leaf parsley

1 duck breast

Salt and freshly-ground pepper

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup shredded Gouda cheese

2 tablespoons shaved dried apricots

1/4 cup arugla

Use the Easy Dough recipe for round pizza (found in the right sidebar). Make it 4 hours before the bake.

Preheat oven. Place a pizza stone or the upturned bottom of a heavy sheet pan in the middle rack.

                  July 2009 ii 036 July 2009 ii 038

Chanterelles are notoriously dirty and hard to clean. Luckily, mushroom fanatics revel in the fact that they don’t have to wade through forests of prickly bushes and mosquitoes to do this. Do not soak chanterelles. They act like sponges and soak up an amazing amount of water. To clean, use a dry brush or blow on them. For really dirty ones,  turn on the shower and use one or two streams to blast some dirt away fast, then dry like mad.

I always eat as much of the chanterelle as possible. You may have read the stems are tough. Bullocks! The meatier the better, with this beauty. I cut the stems down the center or quarter the big mushrooms.
                                    1. July 2009 ii 040 2. July 2009 ii 045 3. July 2009 ii 050

1. Saute garlic in a skillet on medium-low heat with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil for 5 minutes or until translucent. Add another tablespoon of olive oil and the mushrooms as you turn heat to medium. 2. Cook for 3 minutes, tossing frequently. Remove mushrooms from the pan, keeping all liquid. Turn heat up to high and add the chicken stock and wine. 3. Reduce for 2 minutes, stirring gently, then add mushrooms again. Add parsley and stir for another minute. Remove from heat.
                                   1. July 2009 ii 042 2. July 2009 ii 053 3. July 2009 ii 059

1. Cut a cross hatch pattern on the duck skin to alleviate curling of the breast while cooking. 2. Salt and pepper the duck breast and place on the grill at high (500 degrees) temperature, skin side down. Do not walk away as the duck fat may cause a firestorm. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the skin is crispy and starting to turn dark brown. Turn the breast over and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Remove and rest on a plate for 10 minutes. 3. Place skin side up and slice thinly on the bias across the breast (not lengthwise)

Make a pizza round according to the Easy Pizza Dough recipe and place it on a cornmeal-dusted pizza peel or the bottom of a sheet pan. Add the shredded Parmesan and gouda, then the mushrooms. Transfer it to the pizza stone or upturned pan and cook for 7- 10 minutes or until golden brown. (See video)

                     July 2009 ii 062
Top the cooked pizza with slices of duck breast, shaved dried apricots and a chiffonade (strips) of peppery arugula. Serve Immediately.

                                                              July 2009 ii 061

           July 2009 ii 065