September 13, 2009

Connecticut-Style Pizza

Hi there! I'm Raymond's partner, Vance, and he's asked me to guest-blog one of my favorite recipes:

Throughout my youth I enjoyed thick, cheesy, savory pizza slices that couldn't be folded in half if you wanted to. Some people immediately think this must be Chicago deep-dish pizza; they're wrong. It's Connecticut-style pizza! Locals usually refer to it as "greek pizza", although the connection to Greece is questionable at best. It's almost exclusively made by Italian pizza joints. Personally, I think the best is from Tony's Pizza, in Willimantic, CT.

During my high school years in Connecticut, I worked at a local pizza parlor, and so I luckily have some insight into how this pizza is made. Info about it is very scarce online. I don't remember my restaurant's exact recipe (gosh, it's been over a decade!) but I remember the basics, and was able to recreate it by modifying standard pizza recipes. Without further ado, I give you ... Connecticut-style pizza!

Prep time: ~2 hours
Bake time: ~15 minutes

Crust ingredients
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup luke warm (not hot) water
1 package (1/4 ounce) quick-rise yeast
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. vegetable shortening

Sauce ingredients
10 oz. store-bought pizza sauce
2 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Cheese ingredients
3 parts whole milk mozzarella (about 8 oz.)
1 part mild white cheddar (about 3 oz.)

There are several secrets to Connecticut-style pizza dough: a little bit of sugar, more oil than usual, and rising in the pan for part of the time. First, whisk the water, yeast, sugar, and 1 tbsp. of the olive oil in a bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes. Then, manually mix in the salt and 1 1/2 cups of the flour with a fork, beating until it's smooth:

Using either a hand-mixer with dough hooks (what I used) or stand-mixer with same, gradually mix in the remaining flour in 1/4-cup increments. You may not need all of the flour. Once the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and forms a fairly dense lump around the dough hooks, you know you've added enough. Continue to mix for 5 minutes, on a high setting.

Coat the bottom of a large bowl with the remaining 1 tbsp. olive oil. Remove the dough from the mixing bowl, and gently form it into a sphere using your hands. It should be soft to the touch. Put it into the oiled bowl, and add another dash of oil to coat the top:

Cover the bowl, and set it in a warm area of your kitchen. Let it rise for 45 minutes. In the meantime, "season" your pizza pan if this is your first time making pizza with it; this is another secret of Connecticut-style pizza! Coat the pan with a thin layer of vegetable shortening:

and bake it in a 500 degree oven for 10 minutes. Immediately turn off the oven and remove the pan, wiping the excess shortening off with a paper towel. Don't leave it in too long, or you'll have rubberized glue. Also, don't wash the pan: the coating is very important for crust texture. Set it aside to completely cool. Then, coat it again with vegetable shortening.

Once the dough has risen for 45 minutes, transfer it to the pizza pan. Connecticut-style pizza needs to spend the remainder of its time rising in the pan; this is very different from New York-style pizza, which is baked immediately. If your pan is very large, you might use all of the dough. For my pan, about 3/4 of the dough was plenty. Once you press it out into the pan, it should be roughly 1/4" thick. To make a nice edge, don't pinch it. Instead, use your fingertips to press under the edge and make it bulge out.

Let the dough rise in the pan for 15 minutes. While it's rising, make the sauce. The key to the sauce is extra oregano. For the base, you can pick whatever store-bough brand you like most. Mix together the sauce, oregano, basil, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl. After 15 minutes, pour it on the pizza. Holding the pan by the edges, shake the pizza side-to-side to coat the bottom with just the right amount of sauce (this is how we did it at the restaurant). If you want to cheat, you can spread it out with a spoon.

Let the sauced dough rise for another 45 minutes. If any large bubbles rise in the dough during this rise, pop them with the tip of a sharp knife. Towards the end of this time, preheat the oven to 500 degrees again, and prepare your cheese mixture. Unlike New York-style pizza, which often uses pure mozzarella, Connecticut-style pizza uses a mix of mozzarella and mild white cheddar. Mix the two cheeses lightly in a bowl, and after the dough has risen 45 minutes, cover it very liberally with cheese.

Add toppings of your choosing (I just like plain cheese pizza), and pop it in the oven. Bake it about 12-15 minutes, depending on thickness, the number of toppings, and your oven. The cheese should be noticeably browned, and the bottom of the crust should be tan to light brown.

Enjoy your Connecticut-style pizza!

September 9, 2009

Broiled Mussels With Dynamite Sauce

Dynamite sauce is Japanese mayonnaise with hot sauce (such as Sriracha chili sauce). I don't know why they name it "dynamite", perhaps because it is spicy. You can get smelt roe (masago) in the frozen seafood section in most Asian supermarkets. This easy recipe makes a tasty appetizer or can be an entree as well.

1 box green mussels (2 lbs.)
1 cup Japanese mayonnaise (Kewpie brand)
1/2 cup smelt roe (masago)
1 tablespoon half and half
Sriracha sauce (according to taste, I used 3 tablespoon)

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl except mussels. Line mussels on a baking tray. Spoon mayonnaise mixture on top of mussels, enough to cover the meat.

Broil mussels until it starts to brown and bubbly, around 5 to 10 minutes. Serve warm.