Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Asian Pizza?

Have you ever tried to make a weird meal on a whim just to see what would happen and if you could pull it off? That was the inspiration behind Asian pizza. I decided that pizza innovation has not often crossed into the realm of Chinese and Indian food. Sure, you can get Thai chicken pizza (very delicious, don't get me wrong), but I haven't seen much in the way of decent Asian flavors outside of a peanut sauce. Here's my lengthy and convoluted path to creating this wonderful International fusion.

Five-Spice Beef

Thanks to Lynne Rosetto Casper, I finally understand the keys to good stir-fry. There are still some shortcuts I've used that the purists will argue undermine the results. First of all, I don't use a wok. I have too many pots and pans to worry about storing a wok. Instead I have a large, deep saute pan. For cooking, I do use vegetable oil as it has a higher smoke point and does not alter the flavor of the food. For the five-spice beef above, I started by cooking my aromatics (ginger and green onion) in oil just until fragrant. After removing this from the pan, I wiped out any excess oil. Beef has it's own fat that will render to lubricate the pan and prevent sticking. I rubbed the beef with a fair amount of five spice powder and put it in the hot pan. I kept the beef in near constant motion to make sure it browned but didn't have a chance to overcook or cook unevenly. Once the beef was cooked, I returned the aromatics with equal parts oyster and soy sauces. After cooking to heat it through, I removed it all from the pan. The part that helped the most in all of this was preparing absolutely everything in advance. I'm pretty bad about chopping one ingredient while others are cooking, often to my own slight detriment. But this time I cut, seasoned and measured out every ingredient and had it on hand when I needed it. This made the stir-fry itself take less than 5 minutes total.

Since I love variety, I also prepared an Indian chicken salad for topping another pizza. This salad combines curried chicken with red grapes and cumined chickpeas. I did omit the yogurt in the chicken salad for fear that it would curdle or burn during baking.


Now for the full assembly using store-bought pizza dough. While the Indian chicken salad was sufficient for a pizza, the five-spice beef needed a medium (aka sauce). I quick sauteed some green onion shoots and whisked together a sauce of teriyaki, soy, hoisin, sesame seeds, and sesame oil. After spreading all the ingredients, I sprinkled the top with mozzarella cheese. It was difficult trying to think of a neutral cheese that would pair with Asian ingredients, but mozzarella worked well in this instance. After baking the pizzas in a 425 degree oven for about 30 minutes, I pulled them out and let them set up a bit before slicing. As a final touch on the Indian pizza, I put some of the cucumber raita right on top of the pizza (seen in picture). The chicken was well spiced and the cool yogurt of the raita counterbalanced any spice. The five spice beef, on the other hand, was sweeter with touches of anise. Both were quite marvelous in my opinion. Maybe I could sell the ideas to a pizza franchise...

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