Fairly recently, I’d say in the last six months or so, I started making pizza at home, when I discovered a small bag of pre-made dough at Trader Joe’s. Since that day, I’ve made it several times, by taking the dough and pressing it into a baking sheet, sticking the sauce and toppings on, then putting it in the oven. I even once made my own, grain-free crust while we were doing a paleo-type diet for a month. That one also had no dairy, but it scratched an itch. All told, I have made some pretty decent pizzas. They are a little moister than I’d like, however.
I’ve been kind of wanting a pizza stone since I started making pizza. I’ve just heard so much about how they cook the crust more evenly, make it into an experience closer to ordering. I wondered if they would also make the pizza a little less wet.
I’d seen the stones in kitchen stores, they’re not that expensive, but I hadn’t picked one up – for some reason, I was talking about pizza stones a LOT the week before December 25 (I hadn’t even intended this to be a hint!) thus, much to my surprise and delight, I found one under the tree with my name on it on Christmas morning!
After reading up on how to use pizza stones online, I felt a little intimidated – apparently, you can’t just put the dough on the stone, make the pizza on the stone, then put the stone in the oven – you actually have to preheat the stone, make the pizza while the stone is preheating, then transfer the pizza onto the stone already in the oven, somehow. This seemed rife with pratfalls. However, I ordered a wooden pizza pallet which arrived early last week, and even though I was still feeling kind of intimidated, I decided to rip of the bandaid and finally made my first pizza stone pizza last Friday!
Using one of those cheapie Pillsbury crusts in the biscuit tin (I know, I know – I have already conquered grain-free crust – why am I intimidated by making normal crust? It’s the whole yeast, rising, resting thing that skeeves me out a little, but I’m sure I’ll get to it eventually…), I dutifully put the stone in the oven and began heating it. Meanwhile, I set out to make the pizza (a Hawaiian!) on the pizza pallet, first by covering it with a generous dusting of cornstarch, so the dough wouldn’t stick…this of course, made it difficult to roll out – it wanted to keep snapping back, but eventually, I was able to get it rolled out almost the entire surface area of the pallet, and the cornstarch worked like a charm in terms of it not sticking.
Transferring it to the hot stone in the scorching oven was another story – I managed to do it, but botched it a little, sending some of my toppings & cheese falling to their deaths at the bottom of the oven. I should’ve trusted the cornstarch to do its job, but used a spatuala, and that was actually what ended up with the little botch. I should’ve just jiggled the pallet a little and used my hands. NEXT TIME.
I pulled it out 12 minutes later, and: YES! The crust was definitely evenly cooked, the pizza itself cooked and the cheese melted, but without the extra moisture I lamented in the baking pan. Even with the cheapie Pillsbury dough, it was pretty delicious, and of course, an opportunity to get rid of more of that lingering Xmas ham! Also, it held up well as breakfast leftovers into the following week - it was not as floppy (due to moisture) as its baking pan-created ancestors.
Next step: do it again, but make my own crust. I also want to try making other things on the pizza stone, will be seeking out inspiration for such masterpieces soon!
So, Ian and I made a 10-pound ham for Xmas dinner.
10 pounds of ham for two people (and a cat).
We did it on purpose, because we were gluttonous for the delicious leftovers. There were trimmings, too - don't get me wrong. Accompanying the ham, there was green bean casserole, bacon stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry-pomegranate sauce. And roasted root vegetables inside the ham pan, oh yeah. All of it delicious.
And it did not disappoint - in fact, today, January 5th, 11 days after Xmas, we are still eating ham leftovers. And remarkably, not sick of them yet.
Ham is SO much more versatile than turkey! And it was cured, so there is a little longer period of time before it starts to go bad, thank goodness.
Not only were there the obvious ham sandwiches, but these leftovers allowed me to get creative and make several things I'd never attempted before:
I made two batches of ham/cheddar/potato chowder, two ham/cheddar/broccoli quiches, a ginormous vat of hambone/white bean soup and my even my own devilled ham!
And it has all been delicious - the chowder in particular...and there may be just enough ham left to make a 3rd batch of that!
This is all really apropos of nothing other than: I love to cook. I love to eat. And I feel like a superhero when I cook things and they are insanely delicious. I feel like this week, I should be wearing a cape with a large ham emblazoned on my chest!
Photos of all leftovers are below, and should you wish the recipes, they are all pinned to my "Leftovers!" board on Pinterest. I recommend them all, but honorable mention has to go to the chowder - I think I will have to buy ham now JUST to make this again, once the ham is gone.
So, new year, new tactic with this blog I seem to have a bitch of a time maintaining. I know this is not particularly new or innovative, but I think I am going to turn this into a FOOOOOOD blog. Yes. Because we need another one. But you know what? I don’t care. Yes, there are thousands, maybe millions, and guess what? Here is one more!
Why food? What could I possibly have to contribute to the conversation? What could I possibly have to add? Maybe nothing. But it will sure be fun trying. Why NOT food?
Whether or not it’s new, I definitely have things to say about it. What it means to me. The conversations I’ve had about it. The issues I’ve traversed with it. And it seems to be something I come back to, again and again.
I love food. I love eating it. I love preparing it. I love watching movies and shows about it. It is probably the one thing in my life, besides my cat, that is all about pure joy. I enjoy cooking for others, but I equally enjoy just cooking for myself – it gives me the same joy and isn’t contingent on whether or not someone else thinks it’s good.
What will I write about food? OH! There is SOOO MUCH! I might write about what I have cooked. I might wright about how I’ve used my Xmas ham leftovers! I might talk about the latest episode of Top Chef (which I’ve watched religiously since it’s inception back when I was in grad school). I might talk about my personal struggles with food/body issues. I might talk about garden bounty. And there WILL be pictures! But it will all be related to food and the joy and comfort it brings me.
I don’t want to be a chef – I don’t want to taint something else I love with business aspects, with audience reactions, with the need to exist in a capitalist society. But it is an interest of mine that I can’t ignore, and perhaps writing about it in a more focused way will help me determine if it has some other purpose in my life beside joy, comfort and nourishment.
Day to day thoughts, rants and mental detritus.