Saturday, March 28, 2009

Pizza Magic

Does anything look less appealing than old pizza? Sure, I'm a firm believer that day-old pizza makes the best breakfast on earth....But it doesn't look good.

In looks pretty much like crap

So, for the first live-with-pictures update to this endeavor, I decided to tackle the old pizza.
That, and I just happened to have a pizza lying around. Therefore, may I introduce you to the second of the Great Abominations: the Transformation.

A transformation is talking one food and turning it into something completely different. This one sounds simple, but can actually be pretty complicated (witness tonight). Ready to bored the YumTrain to Flavortowne? All aboard for snax!

Case the Second: Chicken Penne with Stale Topping Sauce alongside Crustini (Oh yes, I went there)

Source Food: A modified Cali Chicken Bacon Ranch delivered from Dominos. I put it on thin crust and get roasted red peppers instead of diced tomatoes.

Pantry Items:

Milk (expires tomorrow, so just under the gun), Half Box of Penne (opened who knows when, but it's drygoods), Packet of Creamy Pesto sauce (A Re-Cook staple, along with many other instasauce powders), Frozen Butter (freeze it and it's good forever), Blockacheese (Parmesan this time, but any hard cheese will work. I know these are expensive, but often a few shavings will turn an 'I can't eat this' into a 'Well, I guess I can eat this afterall' meal. keeps forever). Lastly, I had some Fig Balsamic Vinegar that was given to me as a gift (not pictured).

Delivery pizza is by definition taking your chances, but I've generally had decent luck with this pizza from Dominos. This time was not one of those times. The pizza came tepid, chockablock full of floppy undercooked bacon, and buried under enough parsley to re-forest a strip mine. I choked down a couple of the edge pieces when it was still 'fresh' and let it loom on my desk for the remainder of the day.

Inevitably, the witching hour came again. That hour after I'm playing Warcraft for the evening, but not ready to sleep. When I'm awake but listless, I get bored. When I get bored, I HUNGER! Since I am commited to Value, and this baby didn't seem like breakfast material, I decided to See What Could Be Done.


My initial thought was some kind of bake. The idea was to cook up some pasta, strip off the toppings and make them into a sauce, then make the crust into breadcrumbs for a topping on the bake. Thus, step one (actually, step one was to start boiling pasta and turn the oven on to 350) was seperation. I decided that I wanted to pull the red peppers aside since I didn't want to just lose them into the sauce and I was afraid that they would gum it up. Thus:

How I manage to not just eat that all up right off, I'm not sure.
Next step was to place the crust pieces on the top part of my broiler pan and chuck 'em in the oven. As inundated with grease and sauce as they were, they weren't going to burn, but I wanted them warm and hopefully to firm up a bit. After that, I just tossed the chicken-cheese-sauce-bacon bowl into my small Calphalon nonstick. These pans are King and Lord of Cookery. I couldn't cook without it.

If you're poor (and lets face it, no one else would be reading this), you may have trouble justifying the purchase. Firstly, you can get Bed Bath and Beyond
20% off cupons easier than anything, and they frequently have after-holiday sales. I picked up my two pack (tiny pictured below, and a real whopper) for 40$. This pan means that I can be the laziest bugger ever and still cook a couple of times a week, easy. Nothing sticks to them. You can cook dinner, leave the soiled pan on the stovetop, let it set for a week, run some hot water, and then wash it completely clean with a sponge. Cheaper pans need the dishwasher which means I have to do the freaking dishes entirely too often. Consult the Vimes 'Boots' Theory if you still have problems with this concept.

But I digress. I put a bit of butter into the pan (I have no idea why I always do this...most of the things I'm re-cooking have plenty of fat in them to keep them from burning, and I often utilize this fat later in the process....but I feel better about putting the butter or olive oil in first). Once that is nicely melty, crank the heat up to high to get the mix going. I wanted the cheese to soften up and release and the bacon to actually cook all the way through. The thought was to use this bacon grease to serve in place of the 1/4c of olive oil called for on the sauce packet (since I was out of olive oil). This worked a little too well, and I had to put the whole mess into the strainer to drain off some of the excess fat.

While that was happening, I put the hot pan back on the stove and made up the sauce mix with the milk and powder and a little butter (to replace some of the fat I was draining away? No idea. Seemed like a good idea at the time). Sometime in this process, the pasta was done. Protip: never drain pasta until you're ready to eat it. Take it off the heat and let it sit in the water. It will eventually get mushy like this so don't leave it all day, but you can buy a bit of time this way if you misjudged how long the pasta would take (like I did here).

While the sauce was thickening, I pulled the crust pieces out of the oven for a check. They were still pretty floppy, but nice and warm and smelling ok. I grated some of the cheese over them and stuck them back in on Broil for a few minutes to shock them back into stiffness. A word of warning: Broil will ruin your life. It turns things from nasty to perfect to burnt to black to actually-on-fire-omg in roughly 8 seconds. The trick is to catch them at burnt (because you'll miss perfect every time). The trouble is that there is no way of telling how long they will remain floppy and gross before hitting the magic period. I have no advice for you here, as it seems to be different for me every time. Leave the oven door cracked so you can keep an eye on it (and who doesn't like blasts of searing hot all up and down their chest and eyes?). Next, I incorporated the maxmeatymix into the sauce.

This looks like dog-food and chewed up grass. No one is sorrier than I.

After a few good stirs, I put the heat on low-medium and tried to decide what to do with the peppers. I knew they would make some kind of sauce, but...the pasta already had a sauce. I decided to forgo the 'bake' part (I didn't want to wait on it anyway), and leave the crust as-is for a kind of side-dish to the pasta dish. I quick-ran (well, a kind of shuffle really, but it was like lightning) to the pantry and grabbed the Fig Vinegar. I cut into the wax seal to open it, and manage to cut the entire ruddy top off of the bottle. Cue another suffle into the other room for my Swiss Army Knife with Corkscrew, which not only got the cork-stub out, but also managed to coax the fig vinegar out and all over my hands and table. I blended the peppers in the food processor, and added enough vinegar to make it into a gooey topping-like consistency.

That's pretty much it. End result:

Lookit that. Right out of the Hobo Olive Garden.
Ease: C+ (none of the steps was all that complicated, but doing them all at once is a bit of a handful. also, some of the ingrediants were non-standard pantry fair (re: the vinegar))
Flavor: B+ (Crustini was actually pretty tasty, although you could probably say that if you put roasted pepper and balsamic onto sticks and mud. Pasta was pretty good, although too salty. Remember when using OldBacon that it's going to be salty. Sauce thickened into a kind of sludge about 10min later, but I had eaten my capacity by that point anyway)
Criminality: B+ (Pizza and Pasta are pretty harmonious ingrediant wise, but turing one into the other seems dangerous. Furthermore, using the curst in such a way offends reason)

No comments:

Post a Comment