Monday, September 7, 2009

Dinner and a movie

First, a few words from William:
Our choice – mine, actually, without objection from my lovely bride – for a movie was “Big Night,” a 1996 drama starring Minnie Driver, Ian Holm, Isabella Rossellini, Tony Shalhoub and Stanley Tucci.
Co-directed and co-written by Tucci (now starring in “Julie & Julia”) “Big Night” is about two Italian immigrant brothers (Tucci and Shalhoub) struggling to keep the doors open to their Italian restaurant in the Chelsea section of New York City. They withdraw all but $63 from their bank account and plan a major party when told that famed jazz and swing band singer Louis Prima would be dining at their restaurant.
If you like food movies, especially those with a great soundtrack, this is a good one. Realistic cooking scenes, and Prima, Rosemary Clooney and Claudio Villa are featured on the soundtrack.
Though considered a drama, “Big Night” has some very funny and poignant moments, especially with Shalhoub, who probably is better known as the strange detective “Monk.” I highly recommend this movie. It’s one of the best food movies I’ve ever seen.
I wasn't quite up to trying to make a timpano, but since I am still working on my mozzarella technique,I decided to make stromboli. Stromboli is sort of like pizza, sort of like calzone. It is a sandwich made from pizza dough and the filling is rolled inside the dough. If you don't like the meats or vegetables I used, feel free to substitute toppings of your choice in equivalent proportions. The next time, I am going to try sliced meatballs in a little tomato sauce instead of the sausage, and sauteed mushrooms instead of the black olives. I've inserted a step by step slide show of how to assemble the Stromboli at the end of the post.
Basic Pizza Dough, recipe follows
1/2 pound hot Italian sausage, removed from casings and crumbled
1 thinly sliced yellow onion
1 thinly sliced red bell pepper
1 thinly sliced green bell pepper
1 large jalapeno, seeded, stemmed and minced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 pound sliced ham
1/4 pound thinly sliced pepperoni or salami
1/2 cup sliced black olives
8 ozs sliced provolone (12 slices)
8 ozs sliced, fresh mozzarella
1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water to make an egg wash
1 cup finely grated Parmesan
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a large baking sheet and set aside.
In a large skillet, cook the sausage over medium-high heat until browned and the fat is rendered, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain well on paper towels. Discard all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan. Add the onions, bell peppers, and jalapenos and cook, stirring, until very soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and Italian seasoning and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and cool.
Punch down the dough and divide half. On a lightly floured surface, roll out half of the dough to a large rectangle, about 10 by 14 inches. Spread half of the cooled sausage mixture across the dough leaving a
1-inch border. Overlapping slightly, layer half of the ham, pepperoni, olives, provolone and mozzarella cheeses over the top. Using a pastry brush, paint the border of 1 long edge with egg wash. Starting at the opposite long end without egg wash, roll up the dough into a cylinder, pinching the edges to seal. Place on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the remaining ingredients. Let the dough rise, 20 to 30 minutes.
Brush the top of each stromboli with egg wash. Bake until nearly completely golden brown and starting to crisp, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand 10 minutes. Slice thickly and serve.
Basic Pizza Dough:
1 1/2 cup warm (110 degrees F) water
3 3/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/3 tsp sugar
1 TBS plus 1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/3 tsp salt
In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast, sugar, and 1 tablespoon oil and stir to combine. Let sit until the mixture is foamy, about 10 minutes.

Add the flour and the salt, mixing with the paddle attachment of your mixer or by hand until it is all incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Knead by hand or with the dough hook on your mixer for five to 8 minutes.
Oil a large mixing bowl with the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl and turn to oil all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm, draft-free place until nearly doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Use as directed.
A few suggestions: Less is more or sometimes, more can be too much. Since I am still trying to perfect my homemade mozzarella, I made a batch to use in this stromboli. I used the whole pound and it was a little too much cheese so I altered the recipe to call for 1/2 pound instead.
If you make your own cheese using the recipe on the blog, I have a tip to make the cheese even better. Don't overwork the curds. Once you have separated the cheese from the whey, gently knead the curds into a cohesive ball during the microwave process and you will get a softer cheese more like the expensive fresh mozzarella you can find at the grocery store or specialty market. The more you work the curds, the tougher and stringier the cheese will become. I have also expreimented with the amount of salt and in this batch added 2 teaspoons of kosher salt to the warm curds before kneading and that made for a more flavorful end result.

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