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Mushroom and Onion Pizza with Porcini Cream Sauce

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

[Recipe makes two 12-inch pizzas].

When I'm asked what my favorite thing is to cook, homemade pizza always crosses my mind (among a list of others).  But for whatever reason(s), I'm always hesitant using it as my answer since I usually get a dissatisfied "really?" as a response.  Maybe it's because they're seen as too simplistic coming from someone who cooks for a living?  Maybe it's because less-than-stellar memories of homemade pizzas come to people's minds?  Whatever the reason(s), I'm finally realizing that there's nothing to be ashamed of when using pizza as an answer.

Why, you ask?

A few years ago, I combined what I learned through countless attempts at pizza-making and created a culinary lesson for home cooks.  It talks about the perfect pizza dough recipe, why I keep my dough in the fridge for two days before I bake it, as well as why I believe par-baking is the way to go.  So for starters, I love making pizza because it combines equal parts of baking and cooking.  Crust aside, pizzas are amazing in the fact that they're so versatile.  The traditional red sauce with Italian sausage and herbs is great, but why not experiment with a variation of a béchamel sauce or homemade pesto?  And for the remaining toppings, you're given the opportunity to highlight different ingredients that are in season.  You can please the pickiest eaters, carnivores, and vegetarians alike.  To keep the reasons coming, what other type of food has been accepted by as many countries as pizza has?  What other food is enjoyed hot for dinner, and cold for breakfast the next day?  Okay, maybe that last one doesn't help my case...  Regardless, homemade pizza will always be a winner in my book.

Today I came up with a new combination of ingredients by taking a savory approach.  The crust starts with my go-to recipe, but also incorporates white truffle oil, dried onion, garlic, and thyme.  The sauce is a garlic béchamel sauce with fresh thyme and porcini powder whisked in.  And the whole thing is topped with a mix of perfectly seasoned mushrooms that have been roasted with fresh thyme, Marsala wine, and butter, some julienned red onions, Parmesan shavings, fresh mozzarella slices, tarragon leaves, green onions, fresh thyme, a drizzle of white truffle oil, and freshly cracked black pepper.  Have I converted any skeptics yet?

INGREDIENTS:

Pizza dough (incorporating 1 teaspoon dried minced onion, 2 teaspoons dried minced garlic, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, and substituting vegetable oil with white truffle oil)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound mushroom caps, quartered (or halved again if extra large)
Fresh sprigs of thyme
2 tablespoons Marsala wine
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 tablespoon porcini powder

1/4 red onion, julienned
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced

Parmesan shavings
Fresh tarragon leaves
Green onions, sliced on a diagonal
Fresh thyme leaves
White truffle oil
Freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Two days in advance, prepare the pizza dough and let rest in the refrigerator.

On the day of, follow the previous directions for par-baking your crusts.  Cool on wire cooling racks and reserve.

For the roasted mushrooms, either cook them in two batches, or at the same time in two different skillets.  Melt the butter over medium heat, and add mushrooms and fresh thyme.  Cook until all of the moisture has evaporated, but the mushrooms still have structure.  [Side note:  It's crucial that the mushrooms have released all of their moisture.  If not, they will in the oven, resulting in a soggy pizza].  Deglaze the pan(s) with Marsala wine, let the wine evaporate, and then season liberally to taste with kosher salt and pepper.  Transfer the mushrooms to a separate plate and cool to prevent further cooking from occurring.

For the sauce, melt the butter in a skillet, and cook the garlic for 30 seconds.  Add the thyme and flour, and whisk for an additional minute.  Gradually add and whisk in the heavy cream, making a béchamel sauce.  Turn off the heat and finish with the Parmesan, salt, and porcini powder.  Reserve.

Assemble the pizzas starting with the cream sauce, followed by the roasted mushrooms, red onions, and fresh mozzarella.  Finish baking until the crust and cheese are browned to your liking, roughly 5 additional minutes.  Transfer to wire cooling racks, and top with Parmesan shavings, tarragon leaves, green onions, thyme leaves, a drizzle of white truffle oil, and a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper.  Let cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

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