Sunday was my stepson's birthday and when I called him mid-week to ask him what he wanted me to fix him for dinner he said pizza. Now to fire up the pizza oven for just the three of us is simply cray-cray, so I invited the regular gang over to help celebrate. And history proves that if I invite them for pizza, they will come! History also proves that I'll end up making about 5 different pizzas with an assortment of different toppings. I do make life a little easier on myself by buying fresh dough from Whole Foods, but my kitchen still ends up looking like this by the time I'm ready to start assembling the pies!
Yeah. It's quite the process. I usually grate about three different types of cheese, brown some sausage, slice the tomatoes, slice the fresh mozzarella and get out various other toppings from the pantry. If I'm feeling really ambitious, I even make my own tomato sauce, but mostly I just grab a jar of Rao's Arabiatta. On top of all that I always throw one "specialty" pizza into the mix.....something I've never tried before.....just to keep things fresh and interesting. And to challenge myself.
This time it all started when I stopped at Whole Foods to get the dough. They had just gotten in some beautifully fresh morel and chanterelle mushrooms, so I grabbed about 1/2 pound of each, because DAMN, they're expensive!!
Then I set out to find some inspiration which came in the form of a pasta recipe via Martha Stewart and Ina's Pastitsio Score.
This pizza is decadent. There's just no other way to describe it. Yes, it's rich. In a totally perfect way.
It takes a little pre-planning in that you have to saute the mushrooms ahead of time and make the bechemel but that's actually perfect for me because I like to get all of the prep work done ahead so when the fire is ready, the pizza's come together pretty quickly.
I started by spreading the sauce directly onto the dough and them piling on the mushrooms (which, of course, I didn't get a picture) and them topping all that with some shredded gruyere.
As it cooled, I sprinkled on some fresh, chopped tarragon. I know tarragon can be somewhat challenging to come by, so if you can't find any, I think thyme would be a great substitute here. That being said, I lurved the unexpected, subtle anise-y (new word) flavor that cut through some of the sinful richness of the rest of the pie.
Usually my "specialty" pizza is one that cater's more towards the more sophisticated palates of the females in the group. This is because the guys usually ask for meat, meat and more meat, which is always first out of the oven so they'll quit banging their forks on the counter. I no sooner had this one sliced and they were diving for it simply because it smelled so divine. The women may or may not have had to throw a few forearm shivers just to get a piece. We even had to fight off the "I hate mushroom" guy. Who hates mushrooms, anyway?
Just ask poor Raffy.
"Hey daddy....hook a dog up with a little bite, why don'tcha ya."
The birthday boy was thrilled!
Morel & Chanterelle Pizza with a Tarragon & Gruyere Bechamel
Inspired by Martha Stewart's mushrooms and Ina Garten's Pastitsio
For the pizza:
Pizza dough (I buy mine, but if that's not your thing, use your favorite recipe)
3/4 cup freshly grated gruyere
1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
For the mushrooms:
1/2 lb Morels, rinsed and roughly chopped, depending on size
1/2 lb Chanterelles, roughly chopped (these are seasonal and extremely costly, so the next time I do this I'll use shiitake, button and portobellos)
3 tbsp olive oil
6 tbsp butter
1 large shallot, finely diced
A couple of good splashes of Marsala
Salt and Pepper
For the bechemel:
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
4 tbsp butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and Pepper
1 1/2 cup freshly grated gruyere
For the mushrooms: In a medium skillet, heat oil and butter over medium heat. Add shallots, and saute until translucent about 4 minutes. Add morels and chanterelles and saute until liquid is released and evaporated and they are tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Add Marsala; scrape up any bits on bottom with a wooden spoon. Add salt, and pepper; simmer until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the 'shrooms, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
For the bechamel: Heat the milk, cream and tarragon together in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until simmering. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly for 2 minutes. Pour the warm milk, cream and tarragon mixture through a strainer (straining out tarragon) into the butter and flour mixture, whisking constantly. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, until smooth and thick. Add the nutmeg, 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper. Stir in gruyere until melted and smooth. (Note: I then removed from the heat and let cool until I was ready to use it. Upon reheating it tends to separate but just keep vigorously whisking and it will come back together.....I promise!) You don't want this too hot when you spread in onto the dough.
To assemble pizza: Roll out your dough to desired size. I then transfer my dough to a pizza peel sprinkled generously with cornmeal so it slides easily into my oven. Use what ever method works best for your style of baking. Spread bechamel generously over dough close to the edges but not all the way. Top with mushrooms and the remaining gruyere. Bake until browned and bubbly. Remove to cutting board and sprinkle with fresh tarragon. Let cool for about 5 minutes, slice and enjoy.