Posts Tagged ‘joel fair’

Junior Chefs School and “Pasta-goon”

Just a few weeks ago, my uber-chef (and General Manager of Avalanche Pizza) Joel Fair and I enjoyed a hot afternoon at Junior Chefs School run by the fabulous Sarah Conley-Warbler and Kip Parker, manager of the Athens Farmers Market. This is a monthly school set up for local kids to learn from different chefs in the area (and even from pizza guys.)  Our target on this day was pasta, or as I like to call it “Eggy pizza dough that takes a dip in a Turkish bath.” (That tagline hasn’t quite caught on yet.)

First we made a well of of ONE CUP OF FLOUR AND CRACKED TWO EGGS IN IT.

We had made some examples of pasta including Taglioline, gargonelli, fettucini, squid ink and saffron carmelli, Rigatoni etc.

These kids were great learners and wonderful to work with. They caught on beautifully and, with the direction of Sarah, mastered the art of pasta.


 Then we passed the pasta dough through an Italian Pasta Machine to make it thin.

Cutting the pasta into Linguine and Fettuchini was done with the pasta machine and a Ciatarra, an italian metal-stringed intrument especially designed for making pasta.

That’s the ciatarra at the bottom of the above picture.

 Some junior chefs made some very long fettuchini that stretched almost three feet long.

 We were ready with food to add to our fresh pasta like (Clockwise from left) Integration Acres goat feta, local pattypan squash, local Bordeaux spinach from Rich Organic Gardens, imported Parmigiano Reggiano and at the bottom some Bottarga di Muggine, or salted and flattened grey mullet roe from Sardinia which tastes just like Beluga Caviar and is heaven atop pasta.

 Local tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil was the favorite with extra virgin olive oil and salt.


 Thanks to Kip Parker and his pasta rig,  we were able to cook a tremendous amount of pasta “ala minute.”

 The kids ate so much, Joel and I had to scramble to make more for the vendors at the market.

 It was so rewarding to see the abundant smiles of the self-made pasta makers as they slurped away. Thank you Sarah Conley, Kip Parker and all the Junior Chefs.

This kids pasta recipe is simple,  straightfoward, easy to remember and it works!

1 cup flour  (with a little more reserved on the side)

Two eggs

Pinch salt

Make a well in the middle of the pile of flour on a strong, smooth countertop. Add salt. Break the eggs into the well and using the fingertips of your best hand (hand #1), break the yolks and mix with the whites and circle the fingers slowly in a small circle. Using the other hand like a “Karate Chop” (hand #2) or a dough scraper push little amounts of the flour into the middle of the well and keep mixing around and around with fingers of hand #1.


Keep going around in a small circle in the middle of the well and incorporating the flour with the help of the Karate hand. Use the Karate (#2) to keep all the flour in a small an area as possible.

Take your time as the flour and dough will seem to not combine. Keep going pushing the flour and dough together, as the chunk gets harder use hand #1 to grip the mass like a baseball and squeeze, then push against the table picking up all the loose flour.  Take both  hands and rub together slowly to drop all the loose pasta and push into the ball.

The pasta should be formed in a hocky puck so keep folding the dough over and over. If it is too dry add a very small amount of water, if too wet add small amount of flour.

Once hocky puck is formed put it in saran wrap for at least 30 minutes to let the gluten strands rest.

After it has rested, it is time to roll the dough with a pasta roller of with a rolling pin.

My Winning Schiacciata con Maiale di Latte

My winning schiacciata. My friend Brad Rocco, a pizza maker from Gahanna, Ohio, also won third place in the Traditional category.

I was very lucky to have a winning pizza this year in the non-traditional pizza competition at the International Pizza Expo.  I placed First in the Midwest, then advanced to Third in the World. The judges chose me as one of the top pizza makers, and I was proud to have some of the best pizza professionals in the world taste and judge my creation.

And to think it all started with a text from my wife: “John, there is a small DEAD PIG in a box at the front door…?”

My pig had arrived. I wanted to get a locally obtained “mini-maiale,” but the pig farmers around here would only bring me live ones to dispatch. Thinking that this activity would not bode well with my kids’ emotional stability in the future, I ordered a dead one from the Internet.

My Schiacciata con Maiale di Latte, or roast suckling pig on a long, thick pizza was a great learning experience. It was a long process to butcher and cook this pig. I made it all the more complicated by cooking the pork legs (hams), belly (pancetta and bacon) and cheek (guanciale) by sous vide. This entailed cooking a vacuum-sealed bag of the meat along with herbs, garlic — and in the case of the belly and hams, salt — in a long, slow water bath at 146 degrees until the meat was ultra tender.

But first I had to butcher Charlotte…I mean the pig. Let’s hope I don’t butcher this attempt. If you are squeamish, or have kids around, don’t watch this video on how your pork chops get into those slick flat plastic trays. If you are a professional butcher, this will have you rolling around in painful laughter.

After breaking down this pig, I took the shoulder, rack and loin and roasted them alla Sardinia, where they slow roast the suckling pig (porcheddu) over oak coals covered with myrtle. I used rosemary, bay and an oak plank on my gas grill fitted with a rottiserie. I added a beautiful chunk of smoky wild boar bacon to lard the meat with, a great choice as this crisped the skin up beautifully.

For the legs, I wanted to mimick the wonderful salty goodness of a Virginia ham. I coated the hams in sea salt, garlic and rosemary, sealed them and set them in water at 146 degrees for 4 hours. I did the cheek and belly the same way, but for only an hour, because they were thinner than the ham.

Now I needed some advice on cheese for this large pizza, so who else could I call but my friend Matt Rapposelli, the Executive Chef at Ohio University. He recommended Cacao di Roma and pecorino. (Great call, Matt.) I had always heard that Bellweather Farms in Sonoma had fabulous sheep’s milk ricotta, so I contacted them, and the owner, Liam Callahan made some for me. Whatta great guy!

I knew I was going to make a great pie because I had my General Manager Joel Fair with me. This guy makes hundreds of pizzas each day and is the perfect sous chef. He stuffed some sweet pepper ends with Pecorino Tuscano with chili pepper flakes, for the top of the pizza.

Two great guys, Matt Rapposelli, Executive Chef of Ohio University and Joel Fair, General Manager of Avalanche Pizza. I met lots of really cool people at the Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, like Michael Della Monica and his wife, from Long Island Style Pizzeria. Their shamrock pizza was perfect for a St. Patrick’s Day.

Now I had to choose a perfect vegetable to pair with the pork. I decided on Peperoni Mandorloti from the Basilicata region of Italy. Roasted sweet bell peppers are sauteed with vinegar, sugar, almonds and raisins. I also used a little French roasted almond oil for effect.