Focaccia Topped with Everything Good

IMG_4746Happy new year everyone! I know, I know, I’m a little late. The holidays were so different this year that it seems like they just came and went all in one big blur and it’s so hard to believe that we’re in 2014 already. I didn’t really make any resolutions this year because I honestly don’t think I could handle any more change at the moment so I’m just going to continue on with what I’m doing and hope that 2014 is a better year. ¬†Are you guys cool with that? Good. Me too.

So about this focaccia…IT’S AMAZING! I’ve made this little guy several times over the years and have basically eaten the whole damn thing in one sitting every time. That’s how good it is. And it keeps getting better because I keep thinking of new little things to add or tweak. This time I did a half & half – one side is caramelized onion with gorgonzola and pears and the other side is caramelized onion with pear and Brie and dried cranberries. Oh and there’s this delicious, syrupy, tantalizing reduced balsamic vinegar drizzle over the whole flippin’ thing. If your mouth isn’t watering right now then we can’t be friends. Actually, scratch that. We can be friends because that means I get to eat this whole thing and you have to find yourself something else to chew on. Yeah, that works.

Focaccia Topped with Everything Good

(adapted from this Food & Wine recipe)

1 cup warm water

2 1/4 t active dry yeast

1/2 t honey

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup plus 1 T extra-virgin olive oil

1 t kosher salt

Toppings

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 large pear (I’ve used red or Bartlett), cored and thinly sliced

1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola

1/2 wheel of Brie, thinly sliced

1/2 cup of dried cranberries

1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar

In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast, and honey and let stand for about five minutes. Stir in 1 cup of the flour and a 1/4 cup of the oil and let stand for another five minutes. Stir in the remaining flour and salt and knead on a lightly floured surface until the dough is smooth and easy to work with. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and let it rise for about an hour.

While the dough is rising, heat a large skillet over medium/low heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onions and stir them to evenly distribute the oil. And now you wait. And wait. And wait some more. There are a lot of short-cut ways to “caramelize” onions but I like to do it the low, slow, old-fashioned way which means low heat, minimal fussing, and deliciously melty onions every time. If you wanted to you could turn them on very low and let them go for even longer than the hour it will take the dough to rise but you don’t have to. Just stir them every once in awhile and watch them turn brown and lovely. If they ever look too dry to you, just add a touch more oil. When they look nice and brown and delicious, take them off the heat and transfer them to a small bowl.

Preheat the oven to 450 and oil a rimmed baking sheet. Scrape the dough onto the sheet and stretch and press it to fit the pan as best you can. Dimple the dough all over with your fingers and drizzle it with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Let the dough rise for about 20 minutes until it begins to puff.

Scatter the onions evenly over the dough and then sprinkle one half with the gorgonzola – lay the Brie slices over the other half. Now arrange the pear slices over on the whole thing. Try to cover as many of the onions as you can with the pears and Brie because they tend to get a little dark in the oven if they’re totally exposed. Drizzle about a tablespoon more olive oil over the whole business and then slide it into the preheated oven. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until the dough is golden and the cheeses look melty and scrumptious, then set on a wire rack to cool a bit before serving. Sprinkle the dried cranberries over the Brie side.

When there’s about 10 minutes left before the focaccia is done, put the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring it to a low boil and cook for just a minute or two longer to reduce the vinegar to a nice, syrupy consistency. Watch this like a hawk – you do NOT want burnt balsamic vinegar. Remove from the heat and let it cool a minute or so before drizzling it generously over the whole beautiful focaccia mess you made. Now stuff your face.

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French Fridays with Dorie – Gougeres

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Celery Root Puree was the recipe this week but ummmmmmmm no. Just no. I can’t. So I made some cheesy bread poufs instead. These were the first recipe the Doristas made when this whole FFWD business began and I gotta say I was really sorry to have missed them. I do actually plan on making all the (appealing) recipes I’ve missed at some point but I was particularly looking forward to these. Bread + cheese = 100% a good idea. I made these super-easy little cocktail nibbles for our Festivus celebration but then I decided we had enough food probably so I froze them before I baked them.

In case you’re like “What’s Festivus?” here’s a little overview:

We had a Festivus shindig with our neighbors, complete with the traditional Festivus pole (made by Tristan)

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That’s our neighbor Jason wrapping himself around the Festivus pole while enjoying a turkey leg. Yeah, we had a good time. The gougeres were overkill that night so I made them last night to go with Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese which you should all try even if you hate buffalo wings like I do. It’s pretty flippin’ great. Having the gougeres ready to go in the freezer was so nice and easy. I just baked them for a few minutes longer and they puffed up all brown and beautiful and cheesy-like.

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I used the same “stinky” Gruyere in these that I made the crackers with last week and it was equally delicious. Stinky cheeses are the best cheeses after all. There are still some left in the freezer that I plan on making sometime during my dad’s upcoming visit. We’re also going to make the Finnish Pulla together and I was thinking of making him a Pizza Rustica too. Lots of good cooking coming up in the next few days! We’re also going to see either Les Miserables or The Hobbit or both. Good stuff.

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Found a link to the recipe online if you want to give them a try (and I just know you do).

French Fridays with Dorie – Lyonnaise Garlic & Herb Cheese Spread (aka Boursin’s Mama)

This post is kinda late due to two things:

1. Power outages in our area

2. A slight new obsession with Friday Night Lights (read: a somewhat all-consuming obsession)

I had full intentions of making this last night for Tristan and I to munch in the late evening but we had leftovers for dinner and immediately starting watching Friday Night Lights, which I feel compelled to mention is now available on Netflix Watch Instantly, and boom! it was like 11:30 PM and I hadn’t done anything yet. I feel pretty confused by how much I like this show since I have made it clear I’m not a sports nut but it is good stuff. And there’s five seasons of this good stuff. I am going to be pretty unavailable in the evenings for the next few weeks I think…

Back to the cheese spread though, I changed up a few of the herbs just because of availability. I got my herb garden all sorted last week and I now have lavender, mint, Italian parsley, chives, cilantro, sage, thyme, oregano, rosemary, and basil planted. Assuming the little f*@#king tree rats (squirrels) that have been digging in my potted plants don’t kill any of them, I think I have a pretty comprehensive spread happening. One thing missing though: tarragon. I bought some last year and never ended up using it so I left it off my list this year. I don’t really regret it since this might have been the only recipe it got used for so I subbed in some sage and rosemary to fill in for it. When we tore ourselves away from the tube to go to bed last night I realized I still had some work to do so I chopped all my herbs and shallot and garlic and mixed everything together to chill overnight. But this morning when I was in the shower the power went out and stayed out and I didn’t want to open up the fridge and let all the cold air out to grab the spread so it just kept chilling all day. I had planned to bring it to work and share with co-workers and stuff but this is almost better because I can bring what’s left to a potluck grill-out tomorrow night. We had it with bagel chips tonight but I bought a baguette to slice up for tomorrow to bring with. I really really really like this. Like pretty much eating that whole little mini pie dish in the pic by myself like it. Yum!

I never realized that so many people had an issue with ricotta until we did the Pizza Rustica in Baking with Julia and I still don’t get it. What’s not to like?? I did find that the ricotta I bought was pretty darn thick to begin with and didn’t really need to drain for the few hours that Dorie mentioned. It was draining from 6-11:30 last night and there was maybe half a teaspoon of liquid in the bowl. Weird. I would definitely make this again and plan to for any other summer potlucks I get invited to. Hope everyone else liked it as much as me!