Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Different Kind of Pizza

So I'm coming up on my two-week anniversary working at the Chilmark Tavern and I must say I am thoroughly enjoying it. At first, I was rather skeptical since I had no prior experience at a fine dining restaurant. The Tavern decided to give me a try and have started me out as as busser. I don't mind it, though I must say that it is hard to go from being a server for a few years and then take a step back and start bussing again. 

The head chef, Paul O'Connell, has created a simple menu that incorporates several island-grown and island-raised ingredients. Comprised of a handful of appetizers, entrees and desserts, the menu's dishes are quite complex and meld together a variety of flavors. For instance there is a steamed and butter basted lobster that is served with a corn-basil chowder, smoked bacon, sweet 100 tomatoes and Yukon gold potatoes. I can't say that I have seen a lobster served like that elsewhere. I heard the manager, tell a customer that "its not a traditional lobster dish", and he is right. 

Aside from the non-traditional lobster, they serve the waitstaff dinner before the reservations arrive (I think I explained this a little in my last entry), most of the time its pasta, but today it was a different kind of pizza (sorry no photo... again).

It was baked on a large sheet pan, and cooked on a fluffy crust, more similar to a bread than a crust. Instead of a rich, robust tomato sauce it was served with a ricotta-basil or at least a ricotta-pesto mixture. It was topped with roma tomatoes and julienned ham. The bread was very thick, nearly an inch in some parts, but the cheese was evenly spread throughout. As I ate it, I thought about the ease in creating such a pizza and wondered if it would work the same way with tomato sauce and chunks of sun-dried tomatoes to add texture. I think it would. It might be similar to a lasagna in taste but definitely have a contrast in texture. 

I'm excited. I was thrilled with the pizza and I am thrilled to try it myself. However, I don't know how confident I feel about the process. Should I cook the bread first, or should I cook them together? I know that ricotta isn't like cottage cheese so it won't have a lot of excess liquid that would make for a savory bread pudding, but the tomato or the pesto might. I'll just have to try a couple of different ways and find out what works best.  

Pan-fried Chicken Sandwich with Wilted Kale and Peppered Tomatoes

This is going to be a short entry today, I have work in half an hour. But I just wanted to write about this delicious sandwich I made for myself this afternoon. I had some chicken in the fridge waiting to be cooked and a tomato that was going soft on me. I wasn't in the mood for pasta since I have been eating a lot of it at work. Usually before our reservations come in, the chefs prepare a small dinner for the waitstaff. Its been pasta for the last few times, combos like ham and roasted peppers with peas and a light sauce or a pesto with parmesan and chicken— I am definitely not complaining. 

But to save the pasta dishes for work and curb the appetite until I head in, I made a sandwich. A few weeks ago (I know I haven't been touch lately— please forgive me) I made a pan-fried chicken sandwich with ranch and slightly cooked tomato slices that was to-die-for. I toasted the bread and seasoned the chicken with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. The tomatoes were nice and warm and had a robust flavor. I loved it. 

So this time, I decided to take a somewhat different path. I seasoned my chicken with salt and pepper, but a little heavier on the pepper. I cooked it in my favorite little All-Clad pot with a touch of canola oil and covered it with a lid to help maintain some moisture. I removed the chicken to let it rest before I cut it and added the fresh cut kale to the pot. Turning off the heat, I let the little pot do what it could to wilt the kale and cut my chicken and tomatoes into slices. I peppered the tomatoes with fresh cracked pepper and cut the chicken at a bias about  1/4" to 1/2" in thickness. They weren't full chicken breasts so I put an equivalent to about a half to two-thirds of a chicken breast in my sandwich. 

I toasted two slices of multi-grain bread just enough to add texture and spread just a squirt of mayonnaise on each piece. I placed the kale on one slice and covered it with a piece of mild white cheddar and piled the warm chicken on top to help it melt. On went the tomatoes and there it was, a tall, pan-fried chicken sandwich with wilted kale and peppered tomatoes— sorry no photo. Mmmmmm. Bon appetit.