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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Herbs de Provence Focaccia Rolls with Fleur de Sel

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before but I am kind of obsessed with bread – the making, the baking, and the eating of it. It is my favorite thing pretty much. I have waxed poetic about these focaccia rolls from Budget Bytes before but I made them again with a few modifications and OH. MY. HOLY. SHIT they are good. Please make them. I promise they are super easy so you really have no excuse. NO EXCUSE!

The only changes I made to her recipe were these:

– I used bread flour instead of all-purpose just because I had more of it than all-purpose

– I mixed in about 2 tsps of Herbs de Provence

– I sprinkled both Herbs de Provence and fleur de Sel over the rolls after I brushed them with olive oil.

They are amazing! I ate two…..so far.

French Fridays with Dorie – Asparagus and Bits of Bacon

April is kind of a face your fears month for me in French Fridays. I am not an asparagus lover and just wait for next week’s post about sardine rillettes. It’s gonna be sick! Seriously. I haven’t even looked up what navarin printanier is yet. I’m kind of afraid. So yeah, I have to face asparagus, sardines, coconut and whatever navarin is all in one month. Is it obvious I didn’t take French? It wasn’t even offered at my school. Wait, that’s not true, you could take it from the local community college via CCTV or something. I chose German. Not one of my smarter decisions. Spanish would have been useful but my dad wanted me to do that so clearly, German was the attractive choice. Sorry Daddy, you were right.

Anyway, back to the asparagus. I know it’s a spring staple and everyone jumps up and down when it’s available fresh and everything but I have never really seen the appeal. The only time I have ever truly loved asparagus was when one of our cooking class chefs grilled it and then drizzled it with balsamic vinegar. So I decided to kind of blend that idea with this recipe. So here’s all the components chillaxing on the counter while the rolls and meatloaf were baking

I will say this for asparagus, it’s really cool looking. I love the close up photo I took of it that heads this post. I never realized how much purple prettiness was happening with asparagus. Instead of boiling it like the recipe suggested,  I heated up my grill pan, brushed some olive oil on and grilled the stalks for about 5 minutes until the grill marks were evident and the tops were looking a little wilty.

I sliced the bacon before cooking it because I really hate getting my hands all greasy breaking it up after it’s cooked and I threw the onion in a few minutes before the bacon was done so it could cook a little. I know Dorie said the onion shouldn’t cook at all but I was already changing so much I just thought, “What the hell?” When the asparagus was all done, I drizzled it with some really yummy balsamic vinegar and a little lemon juice and then sprinkled the bacon/onion mix over the top. You’ll notice I make no mention of walnuts or walnut oil. I’ve previously mentioned my nut aversion and when I read the ingredient list and saw walnut oil I knew I was going to sub in something else. I guess maybe the balsamic is taking its place? I just couldn’t justify buying a costly nut oil that I didn’t think I would even like when I know I LOVE balsamic and always have some on hand. It is clearly some kind of nectar of the gods. It’s my ambrosia. And before you go getting all impressed with my knowledge of ancient Greek and mythical foods, I’m going to admit that I learned this from reading Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. Yeah, I’m pretty awesome.

I actually really liked this recipe. Tristan said “Thank god for bacon!” but I think I might be turning into someone who likes asparagus. It’s pretty exciting actually. To go with our lovely spring side dish I made some slightly smashed potatoes with chives and parsley (and lots of butter), meatloaf, and no-knead focaccia rolls. Everything was good, but the rolls! The rolls! I think I will dream about eating them tonight. I love homemade bread so when I saw these on Budget Bytes the other day, I knew I was going to have a love affair with them. They are so good – please make them! I brushed mine with some herb oil before baking and I thought they had so much flavor that I didn’t even put butter on them! Yes, you read that correctly – NO BUTTER!

And to end things on a SUPER high note, here’s a pic of Tristan’s plate before he attacked it like a baby dinosaur! Name the movie in the comments if you can. I’m almost embarrassed to be quoting it, no scratch that, I am embarrassed, but it was cute! And it’s on Netflix Watch Instantly right now, allowing me to watch it multiple times while I do housework and such. That is all.