Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Meet Julie!

Hi! I'm Julie and I live in Atlanta, GA by way of South Jersey/Philadelphia, PA (Go Flyers!). Throughout my childhood, my food standards were set high by my mom. Most nights, she presented us with amazing homemade meals that she labored for hours to prepare. It's embarrassing to admit that we took these efforts for granted until the night that Mom served Hamburger Helper. My brother and I refused to eat the offending casserole, opting instead to stay hungry. Our tastes ran towards food prepared from scratch, with love.

As a kid, I always loved to play in the kitchen. But when I went to college, my cooking really took off. Tired of cafeteria food, I tried cobbling together my favorite meals in a dorm
microwave (Stracciatella soup, for example: the eggs will curdle when microwaved, but it will still taste good). When I finally moved into a shared home with its own kitchen, I began learning the valuable lessons that every cook needs. Who would have guessed that hours of braising won't make lamb tenderloin tender? Although no roommate I've ever had was completely comfortable with me breaking down whole chickens, I was never afraid to try anything in the kitchen.

My cooking philosophy is constantly evolving. I love throwing together simple but satisfying meals, like carbonara or chicken roasted over root vegetables. But I'll always make time to concoct something elaborate, such as Slap Ya Mama Duck Gumbo. I believe that a little fat adds a lot of flavor, that one should always avoid food that comes in boxes labeled with chemistry-lab reagents masquerading as ingredients, and that grocery store tomatoes are worthless in winter. I cook from scratch whenever possible, and am incredibly proud that my family appreciates my efforts so much that they have forbidden me to use store-bought chicken stock.

When I'm not cooking, my hobbies include playing the guitar, taking photos, jogging around Atlanta, and scuba diving. I volunteer at the Georgia Aquarium and hope to eventually join their dive team. But most of the time, you'll find me working. I'm a clinical research coordinator, working on immunology studies. Eventually, I hope to return to school so I can become a PA (physician's assistant). I love working in the medical field and can't wait until I have the knowledge and skills to help people feel better.

My Signature Recipe: "The Broken Yolk" Pizza

Around these parts, we'll often have what we call "pizza nights". I'll prepare five days in advance by mixing up dough and letting it cold-ferment until the big day. I'll get a bunch of toppings and see how it all fits together on the pies. I love inviting groups of friends for the festivities, and it's even more fun when everyone jumps in to play with dough and create their own topping combinations.

Pizza dough is important. After a few years of experimenting, I came up with some dough that I'm proud of. It blends techniques from folks who know better than I do, namely Jeff Varasano and Peter Reinhart. 

For the home kitchen, it turns out reliably delicious dough that puffs up big, crisps nicely on the outside, and stays tender within. But my friends come for the toppings, one in particular.

My signature topping combination was inspired by Pizzeria Stella in Philadelphia. When I tried their tartufo pie, it was love at first bite. Since I live so far from Philly, I had to recreate it at home. Of course, my version is a little different. A blistery, perfectly chewy crust is topped with Fontina cheese, mushrooms, truffle salt, and an egg. The egg is what makes the pie amazing. The white is set, and the yolk warm and runny like it's sunny-side-up. When the yolk spreads over the pie, it ties everything together in a way that sounds delicious and tastes a million times better than that. This is my signature dish because it's the pizza that everybody requests when they come over for pizza night. It's the pie that folks hesitate to try but, after that first tentative bite, fall in love with and request again and again.

Here's how you can recreate the magic. Start with a round of dough, your oven pre-heated to its highest setting, and a screaming-hot baking stone. 

Stretch the dough into a round. Top it with Fontina and sliced mushrooms, then slide it onto your stone and bake until it's looking close to ready, but a little pale. Slide that sucker out, crack an egg on top, and slide it back into the hot oven for just a minute 

or two. It's done when the white is just barely set. Place the pizza on its cutting or serving surface. Quickly sprinkle it with truffle salt and anoint with a few swirls of olive oil. Then, using a fork, break the egg yolk and spread it around the pizza's surface. Serve immediately.

Please visit my blog! The Popcorn Diet

Dough (makes approximately four dough balls that stretch out to 10" pizzas):

13.6 ounces bread flour (I use King Arthur)
0.3 ounces salt
0.1 ounce instant yeast (a little less than a teaspoon)
9.4 ounces water, at room temperature

In the base of your electric mixer, or in a large bowl, combine all the ingredients. Using the paddle attachment (or a large wooden spoon if you're mixing by hand), stir the ingredients together until well-combined. In a mixer, the sides of the bowl should be clean. This will take about two minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a moist towel and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes.

Next, using the dough hook attachment of your KitchenAid, or kneading by hand on a lightly floured surface, mix the dough for about 8 minutes. Start slow and increase the speed to medium-high in the last couple minutes of kneading.

Turn the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let ferment in the fridge for as long as you can stand it. I let mine ferment for about five days.

On the day you want to make pizza, remove the dough from the fridge and let it rest at room temperature for about an hour to take off the chill. Divide into four even balls. Place each ball in a lightly oiled bowl or vessel (I use plastic takeout containers or Tupperware), cover with a spritz of oil and loose plastic wrap, and allow to rise for at least two hours.

When you're ready to bake, I recommend the Serious Eats skillet-broiler method for a Neapolitan-inspired pie. Alternatively, preheat your oven as high as possible, stretch the ball into a round, top accordingly, and bake on a stone or baking sheet. You can go crazy with an infinite number of ways to bake pizza, but if it's your first time, try to relax. No matter how it looks, it will taste good!

To make one individual Broken Yolk pie, you will need the following ingredients:

1/2 cup Italian Fontina cheese
1 cup sliced mushrooms (button, cremini, porcini, etc., or a blend)
1 egg, at room temperature
1 three-fingered pinch truffle salt
Good olive oil, to taste

Stretch out your pizza dough and top with the Fontina and 
mushrooms. Whether you use the skillet-broiler method or bake the pie on a stone, let it cook until it's almost done. When you're about a minute from pulling the pie, remove it and crack the egg on top (I sometimes crack the egg into a small bowl beforehand, just to avoid shell mishaps). Bake for another minute or two, or just until the white is set. Remove the pizza from the oven, sprinkle with truffle salt and olive oil, and then use a fork to break the yolk and spread it across the pie. Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful! I am terrible at dough! I am just not patient enough! I am inspired to try this now! :)