Pizza night: Pepperoni, Adriatico

Despite making pizza almost every week for the past few years, there are only a few topping combinations that I keep coming back to.

Most common are the single-ingredient pies: pepperoni, which our five-year old insists on eating every pizza night (not that any of the adults are complaining), and Margherita, with just cheese, sauce and basil.

I have a few that were inspired by Peter Reinhart’s American Pie, which is a very foundational text for all my pizza making. That’s where I got the idea for pesto with goat cheese, which is both delicious and a visually striking green, and pizza with prosciutto topped with fresh arugula after it’s cooked, which is also a very pretty pie.

In the fall, I make a pizza with slivered Brussels sprouts and chopped bacon with no tomato sauce that we had at Motorino in New York City.

But one of my favorite go-to pizzas, probably behind only the one-topping pizzas in terms of how often I make it, is copied from the Twin Cities’ own Punch Pizza: the Adriatico. The Punch menu lists the ingredients as: “Feta, caper, onion, saracene olive, oregano.” I adhere to that loosely; you definitely need to have the raw onion, which gets sweet in the heat of the oven, the olives, the capers and the oregano — usually dried applied after the pizza is out, but also good with fresh. I don’t always have feta on hand, so that one is optional. This week, I used artichoke hearts.

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There are times at the farmers market when you see a vegetable you just can’t resist, even if you have no idea what you’re going to do with it. That was the case last weekend at the Midtown Farmers Market when I saw beautiful, massive Napa cabbages from Mom’s Garden. I had to have one.

But once I got the cabbage home and saw the large percentage of my crisper drawer it occupied, I realized I had to do something with it, and quick. One solution: potstickers.

Back in the early days of this blog when I was in my twenties, childless and mortgageless, I was all about big “project” recipes like making potstickers or ravioli from scratch. But for the past few years I’ve been a lot more focused on “easy elegance” — things like one-pot chicken soup, pastas with just a few ingredients, variations of rice cooked with various ingredients: jambalaya, paella, arroz con pollo, mujadra.

Something about this giant Napa cabbage just spoke to me, though, because before long I had biked the kids up to United Noodles for potsticker wrappers and more chili crisp.

For my filling, I chopped the cabbage very finely, tossed it with salt and let it sit for 20 minutes before squeezing as much water out as possible. I mixed the juiced cabbage with ground pork, scallions, ginger and a spice mix from Fly by Jing that we had from a Christmas gift.

Shaping potstickers seems like the sort of thing that would be very easy if you grew up doing it or you had weekly or even daily practice. During my two-month stint working in a restaurant kitchen we had a potsticker dish on the menu that I remember making a few times. Shaping potstickers this week it was very clear that I was not practiced — I kept starting my folds too far along the arc, leaving almost no room at the end to make the fourth crease. But while it’s fun to strive for perfectly uniform folds, it doesn’t really matter. They are going to be good anyway. Our son, who is five, was very excited about helping, and I only found myself refolding a few of his.

We made 58 dumplings, which is quite a feast for a family of four. I cooked them at the same time in two pans, and tossed half of them with copious amounts of Lao Ganma “Fried Chili in Oil.” I was kind of late to the chili crisp bandwagon — I remember a while where I was reading about chili crisp but it seemed very trendy so I rejected it. This was a bad instinct! I’ve subsequently embraced different versions of chili crisp, and it’s interesting how they’ve completely supplanted sriracha for me. (Interesting if you remember what it felt like to put sriracha on your food in the late aughts.) The great Huy Fong shortage of the last couple years probably didn’t help — I’ve yet to find another brand of sriracha that comes close.

Is this the start of a renaissance of complicated cooking projects? More potstickers, more dumplings generally, ravioli from scratch? I doubt it! But, you never know what an ingredient will inspire.

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Pizza night: Pepperoni and ham with pepperoncini

After a series of rainy or cold spring weekends, as of this Friday the Ooni is back in action. I’ve had the oven for five years now, and every year that goes by the season gets shorter: I am a little less gung-ho about dragging it out of the garage on marginal days in March and April, and quicker to switch to sheet-pan pizza, prepared and eaten fully indoors, in the fall or late summer. According to my spreadsheet, the last use in 2023 was in August — that’s uncommonly early, but probably explained by getting on a Detroit-style pizza kick after our visit to … Charlotte, North Carolina. But that’s another story!

I am using the same sourdough recipe I’ve been using for the last few years: 75% hydration dough fermented at room temperature overnight, then formed into 350g balls and refrigerated till pizza time. This has been pretty reliable, but on Friday the first pie out of the oven was a little tough. I wonder if this is to do with the particular batch of bread flour I am using — I have been buying 50 pound bags of bread flour milled by Baker’s Field in Minneapolis. They use different wheats at different times of year (probably true of all flour!) and this latest batch seems to have less of the strength I associate with a high-gluten flour. Or maybe I’m just losing my edge!

The night’s pies were pepperoni and ham with pepperoncini. Pepperoni is always the most popular around here and was fully devoured; there were some leftovers of the ham pizza. It’s nice to have the oven out again!

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Whole chicken (one-) pot pie

For the last few months I’ve been making the same chicken soup almost every week.

This is how it’s made:Take a whole chicken and put it in a pot. Cover it with water and add salt. Bring it to a boil and cook for 45 minutes. Remove the chicken and let it cool for half an hour, then pick off the meat from the carcass and set it aside in a bowl. Return the bones and skin back to the pot and let it simmer the rest of the afternoon.

An hour before dinner, remove the bones and season the broth with fish sauce, soy sauce, scallions, ginger and cilantro. Let simmer. Meanwhile, cook rice noodles (bánh phở) then rinse and add to bowls, along with chopped scallions and cilantro. About five minutes before serving, strain the broth — I just use a spider skimmer to save dishes — add the chicken meat and bring the soup back to a boil. Ladle it over the noodles and herbs. Serve with chili sauce.

The recipe is from David Chang and Priya Krishna’s cookbook Cooking at Home. The book’s subtitle: “How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Recipes (And Love My Microwave)” really sums up the approach to cooking and many of the “recipes” in the book, many of which are just guidelines or jumping off points.

I’ve been cooking that way more lately, too. It’s a change from my late teens and twenties, when I was a stickler for recipes, insisting on following the steps letter for letter and no substitutions in the ingredient list. But whether because of old age, the compromises involved in raising children or just getting tired of it, in the last few years I’ve found myself reading recipes a lot less closely, only skimming them to get the gist and falling back on kitchen habits.

The nice thing about using recipes as a place to start rather than a hard set of rules is that it makes you adaptable. For example, that noodle soup described above? It could pretty easily turn into chicken pot pie.

Boil the chicken the same way, pick the meat, and strain the stock.

Then in the empty dutch oven, melt four tablespoons of butter and cook chopped onion and carrots. Add flour to make a roux, then slowly add in the stock to make a thick sauce (sauce velouté). Add the picked chicken and frozen peas, cream and a squeeze of lemon. Season with salt and pepper.

You’ll need a pie crust. You could use a store bought crust, but here’s how I make mine: Put a generous scoop of white flour in a food processor, then add a tablespoon of sugar and a teaspoon of salt. Run the machine to mix that, then drop in about seven tablespoons of butter, cut into chunks. Run the processor to cut the butter into the flour. Drizzle a quarter cup of water over the mixture and run the machine till the mixture comes together into a single mass, adding more water if it seems too dry. Turn it on to the counter, need it a couple times and form it into a disk and chill it in the fridge for half an hour before rolling it out.

Roll it out into a circle the same size as the top of your pot. If your pot has a lid, you’ve got an easy template — jut put the lid on top of the dough and trim along the edge. Cut some vents into the dough lid, then transfer it on top of the chicken stew.

Bake for an hour at 375ºF. If the top crust seems too pale you can always turn on the broiler at the end.

And there you have it: a one chicken, one pot pot pie that started life as chicken soup.

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