RECIPE OF THE WEEK FROM THE STAFF AT HIGHFIELD HALL & GARDENS, LISA WALKER!
Twenty-four days ago (but who’s counting) my husband and I were given one of the greatest gifts we will probably experience in our lifetime (children notwithstanding, but hey let’s admit that most days teenagers are no great gift!). Our wonderful friends Gail Blakely (Highfield’s own Culinary Director) and Helen (Hoagy) Ladd were unable to use their reservation to stay at little cottage in Provence, France. This on its own would be an incredible adventure but the cottage was no ordinary cottage it was La Pitchoune or more commonly and lovingly referred to as La Peetch, or the house that Julia built. Yes, we were staying at Julia Child’s house in the little village of Chateauneuf de Grasse about 20 minutes outside of Nice. The cozy but modest stucco cottage is currently an Airbnb and offers cooking classes (for additional fees) however the kitchen remains relatively untouched since Julia’s days and still has the original pegboard hung by her husband Paul upon their first occupancy in December 1963.
We cooked in the kitchen 4 of the 5 nights there and while I would like to tell you we immersed ourselves in Julia’s book The Art of French Cooking and made her traditional favorites like Boeuf Bourguignon, Coq au Vin, or even the Provencal favorite Pissaladiere, we didn’t. Instead, we cooked with the season, it was summer and hot, and we had access to incredible fresh seafood so most days we would visit the local poissonnier and return with delicious fish to grill and have with fresh baguette and salad. Friday nights however in our house (usually no matter where we are) is pizza night, so when Friday, September 3 came around we debated whether to try and find a local pizza place or just forgo our weekly tradition, but we were in Julia’s kitchen and if she were there she would certainly encourage us to make our own pizza, wouldn’t she? Oui!
We headed out to the local supermarket, SuperU (ah SuperU, we miss you!), and began shopping for the traditional items needed the mozzarella cheese…proved to be more difficult than we expected. Sure, the SuperU had an incredible cheese selection to rival any specialty cheese shop in the US, but we needed pizza cheese, shredded mozzarella, and all we could come up with was fresh buffalo mozzarella (which would have been fine with me but not for a purist like my husband). Finally in the refrigerated section with the milk and yogurt we came across a small assortment of “shredded” cheese. While there were various bags with images of pizza on them all of the bags were Emmental, Swiss, or gruyere, with the exception of one small bag of organic mini-cubed mozzarella, perfect!
Back at the cottage we were nearing aperitif time and I still had pizza dough to make so I went to my tried and true no knead bread/pizza dough recipe from Alexandra Stafford and her book Bread, Toast, Crumbs. Two hours later the dough was ready to roll and so were we! We were limited a bit with our pizza tools, at home we have pizza stones, here we flipped over baking sheets and used those to form the crust. We also used a generous amount of cornmeal to keep the dough from sticking to the bottom of the pans as we were going to transfer the pizza to the grill for cooking. Wayne topped his pizza with onions, mushrooms, prosciutto, and salami (from our charcuterie board), I topped mine with onions, mushrooms, and anchovies (a la Provence!). We cooked these on the gas grill which had been heated to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, once the grill was hot, hot, hot, we slid the pizzas onto the grates and closed the top. We checked the pizza after 5-6 minutes and ils étaient parfaits! The grill produced a wonderful crispy crust yet chewy crust, and beautifully melted cheese on top. Our Pizza Chez Julia was a success!
Note: Usually our pizza night is ordering pizza from our local shop, Moto Pizza (in both Sandwich and Falmouth) as it means a night off from cooking for me, but I have to say after the fun we had making our pizza and then eating it, we might choose to do homemade more often in the future. Bon Appetit!
Pizza Chez Julia or Pizza a La Peetch!
Dough recipe from Bread, Toast, Crumbs
- Toppings – any and all toppings of your choice! Why not try something different like ricotta and squash blossoms!
- Cheese – anything goes, traditional shredded mozzarella, buffalo mozzarella, Emmental, ricotta, feta, vegan cheese, whatever floats your boat!
- Sauce – any sauce you like, we just used a spaghetti sauce with chunks of tomatoes, but anything goes from red sauce to pesto to olive oil and garlic.
- Dough recipe (from Bread, Toast, Crumbs) – while, yeah, anything goes, I have found there is a difference with using pizza flour. In the US King Arthur makes a great pizza flour.
- 4 cups (512 g) bread flour or all-purpose flour, plus more for assembly
- 2 teaspoons (11 g) kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon (4 g) instant yeast
- 2 cups (456 g) lukewarm water
- To make the dough: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and instant yeast. Add the water.
- Using a rubber spatula, mix until the water is absorbed and the ingredients form a sticky dough ball. Pour a drop or two of oil over top and rub with your hands to coat.
- Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel or plastic wrap and set aside in a warm spot to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in bulk.
- Cover a work surface or cutting board liberally with flour — use at least 1/4 cup and more as needed. The dough is very wet, so don’t hesitate to use flour as needed. Turn the dough out onto your floured surface and use a bench scraper to divide the dough into 4 equal portions.
- With floured hands, roll each portion into a ball, using the pinkie-edges of your hands to pinch the dough underneath each ball. If you are not baking the pizza the same day, transfer each round of dough to a plastic quart container, cover, and store in fridge. If you are baking right away, let the balls sit on their tucked-in edges for at least 30 minutes without touching.
- Making the Pizza: There are various options to make the pizza, how you choose is up to you, maybe try them all and decide which method you prefer.
- We grilled our pizza and didn’t have a peel so we used the back of a baking sheet, we put a very generous amount of cornmeal on the sheet and gently formed the crust by stretching the pizza as best we could into a circle.
- After the toppings were added we slid the pizza onto the hot grill and cooked with cover down for 5-6 minutes.
- Pizza Stone, if you have a pizza stone, slide the pizza onto the preheated stone in the oven and cook.
- Cast Iron skillet – if the skillet is well seasoned sprinkle a little cornmeal on the bottom of the skillet and form the pizza into the skillet, top and pop in the oven for a “deep dish” pizza experience.