Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Outside the Box Cooking

If you’re seeking an easy summer dinner option that’s minimal effort, satisfying and uses whatever you happen to have sitting around your fridge or pantry, consider the grilled flatbread. 

Having worked in professional kitchens most of my career, I’ve been spoiled with ovens that will peak to over 700 degrees when developing the perfect, crispy thin crust.  Unfortunately, my home oven (as is the case with 90% of residential ovens on the market) tops out around 500.  Enter a culinary epiphany… the BBQ grill.  Given the appropriate amount of time to preheat, mine peaks out around 650 degrees… not quite a commercial brick oven, but still a significant improvement over my other option. 

Now that we’ve dealt with the issue of how to cook your flatbreads, let’s tackle the more obvious issues of components.  You have to start with a good foundation.   This means your dough.  If you have the time, by all means, make your own dough from scratch.  I’m including my favorite dough recipe at the bottom of his post to give you a basic idea but ultimately, it comes down to personal preferences (I love a crispy thin, neapolitan style crust as compared to a yeasty, traditional crust).  Using a bread maker is also a great option to help with timing issues (think, set it and forget it) and most come with recipes that work well for that particular model.  If you need to use a premade, store bought dough, it may take some trial and error to find one that’s to your taste.  I’m a fan of Trader Joe’s Multigrain and Portland Pie Company’s Garlic dough. 

You’ll want to stretch out your flatbread into approximately 6x10” ovals, that way you can fit 3 comfortably on a standard grill top.  Lightly brush both sides with olive oil (or spray with a misto) and grill for about 2 minutes on each side to give your crust some structure.  You don’t want to cook it completely, but just get a good base going so your dough wont absorb any moisture from your toppings and will stay crispy. 

When topping your flatbreads, the sky is really the limit.  It really just boils down to what you like in your flavor profiles.  Personally, a good balance of sweet and savory usually does the trick for me.  Really, you can just utilize whatever is in your fridge that you’re looking to use up.  Some of my favorite combinations are a traditional margherita with quick roasted tomatoes (slice them up and toss in a non-stick skillet with olive oil, sea salt, pepper and basil), buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil chiffonade and the “fig and pig” made with fig butter, sliced Turkish figs, prosciutto, pancetta and shaved parmesan.   Again, it really boils down to whatever suits your tastes and your kitchen inventory.  

Thin Crust Pizza Dough

  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon pure olive oil, 2 additional teaspoons reserved
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon fast rise yeast
- Place the sugar, salt, olive oil, water, 1 cup of flour, yeast, and remaining cup of flour into the work bowl of your stand mixer
- Tear off a small pieces of dough and stretch into a flat surface.  Hold it up to a light source, if the dough is transparent, it's ready - if it tears, kneed for an additional 5-10 minutes.  (To give credit where credit it due, thank you to the brilliant Alton Brown for this technique). 
- Roll dough into a ball, coat with remaining olive oil, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 18-24 hours before using.

- Using the paddle attachment, start the mixer on low and mix until the dough just comes together, forming a ball. 
- Attach the hook to the mixer and knead for 15 minutes on medium speed.

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