Thursday, March 22, 2018

home made char siu 叉燒 pizza - part 3

I didn't know about San Marzano tomatoes until I bought this can of Italian can tomatoes at Trader Joe's. Up until now I have been using domestic canned plum tomatoes also bought at Trader Joe's. I thought I would give the pricey Italian one a try.
I pulverize the canned tomatoes with a food processor. I like a bit of texture so I don't go crazy with the processor.
I have found that a can of tomatoes consistently makes enough sauce for four 12-inch pizza. I am not too fuzzy with the herbs used to make the sauce. I use what I have in the pantry. Oregano is a must. I happen to have some Mexican Oregano so I use that. Basil and Thyme goes well with Oregano too so I add a small dash. I generally use a bit of garlic granule. The key is to concentrate the tomatoes sauce by reducing it under extreme low heat. It is best to put in the garlic later so the fragrance does not get boiled away. One think that I never find mentioned in cooking is, what you can smell in the air are the fragrance molecules boiled away.

I reduce the sauce by about 1/3 to 1/2. I may add some salt to taste but bear in mind the salt contribution from the toppings used.

I have made many pizzas with my home made char siu. My char siu is smoked in a propane smoker and taste very similar to Louisiana tasso rather than store-bought bad char siu. It has a lot of umami. I like it as it is much healthier than using pepperoni. I like to use a bit of Parmesan cheese and topped with good amount of Mozzarella. The Parmesan adds more depth and umami to the pizza. For the dough I use the fresh pizza dough from Trade Joe's. I use the plain flour one. A bag is just perfect for a 12-inch pizza. I roll it out gently and then use my fists to stretch it to the right diameter and it is ready to be topped.

Of course, I don't make the char siu when I plan to make the pizza. Doing so would be insanely labor intensive. I make the char siu in a big batch and then store them in the freezer after portioning them into individual vacuum bags.

I bake it in convection mode at 380 F for 8 minutes in the middle rack and the topping would just be perfect. One single biggest challenge for home made pizza is how to get the perfect crust of the pizza bottom. I discovered a trick that works really well.

As soon as the pizza comes out of the convection oven I put a slice in the pre-heated cast iron skillet. It takes a couple of minutes to toast the bottom to perfection. The advantage of this technique is you are really finishing the slice that you want to eat. A 12-inch pizza typically lasts me 2 meals plus snack. If I take out a cold pizza from the refrigerator, I put it in the same skillet but put add a lid so it functions like a tiny oven to warm up the topping too while toasting the bottom to perfection.

I should mention that with this techniques, the energy use is the most minimal. Using convection mode of the oven requires very little pre-heating of the oven required. I also avoid the dripping problem associates with bottom heating of an oven. The toasting of the bottom in a skillet is most energy efficient. All these steps hardly stink up the house and throw the least amount of oil vapour into the air.

So what is the verdict of using Italian San Marzano canned tomatoes instead of domestic Roma tomatoes? I was expecting the Italian one will explode with flavors but that didn't happen. The difference must be more subtle than I expect. I think I will have to make two batches side by side to find out. The Italian tomatoes is 166% more expensive than the domestic one.

In the most recent patch of pizza I tried adding some anchovies. While the anchovies adds a lot of concentrated umami and depth, some bites can be very salty and a touch too fishy. I then try adding the anchovies into the sauce instead, and that works well as the anchovies is now distributed evenly on the entire pizza.

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