Thursday, December 18, 2008
Holiday Apps Part III: Sausage and Cheese Stromboli
I've talked before about how much I love planning a party - maybe even more than actually having the party.
My pre-party ritual is always the same. I sit down on my couch, wine glass in hand, and spread all my favorite cookbooks out in front of me. I turn on Food Network or a DVR'd episode of Martha so that I'm completely immersed in the entertaining spirit. I then flip through my books, flagging things I haven't made before or old favorites, juggling all the possibilities in my mind.
Then, just when I think I've got the perfect mix of textures, flavors, and contrasts and have begun envisioning myself as Hostess of the Year with an article about me and my fabulous parties in The New York Times, my husband walks by and asks the dreaded question....'Are you going to make any real food?' The scene then plays out like something from an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode. The deja vous-ness of it all makes me dizzy and I turn red as I calmly try and explain that everything I serve is real food (which is true - read my blog - it's not like I'm the queen of lettuce cups or anorex canapes or anything...) But it doesn't phase him - he just replies, 'I don't want to have to eat 20 of something to get full...' and walks away, leaving me reeling to figure out what this means in the context of a cocktail party. Why God -oh why does he do this to me? (Brief moment where I assure myself that I am the queen of the kitchen, then healthy sip of wine...)
But the truth is - men and women probably have different agendas when it comes to eating at parties. Us ladies want something tasty that a) won't stick in our teeth b) isn't too messy that it could ruin our outfit and c) is petite enough to manage while talking and still looking gorgeous (i.e. two bites or less.) Men, on the other hand, seem to have one pre-requisite for party food - something that fills them up. The whole caveman thing, I guess.
So, in order to keep matrimonial peace when it comes to entertaining, I now try and include at least one 'real food' option for Kris in my stable of appetizers. And honestly, after years of battling, I now realize it's a good thing. Because even though I envision my cocktail parties as glamorous soirees where everyone easily drifts from room to room like floating snow in a shaken globe, the truth is they're usually a little closer to a scene from Roadhouse, or at least Breakfast at Tiffany's. They're loud and chaotic and fun - and you can't always even get to the appetizers (which create a bottleneck in my narrow kitchen) - and by the time you do - you may be grabbing at what's left, hoping and praying there's some 'real food.'
So, for this appetizer series, the real food is a sausage and cheese calzone, sliced into fat wedges for people to grab and roll with though out the party, hopefully dipping in warmed marinara en route.
Sausage and Cheese Calzones, with Warmed Marinara
* This recipe is my take on Andrea Immer Robinson's Sausage Bread. I love her show 'Pairings' on Fine Living. They don't air it enough.
13.8 shredded oz can refrigerated pizza dough (I used Pillsbury)
1 lb sweet Italian sausage
1/2 teasoon dried oregano, divided
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (preferably fresh-grated)
1 (17 oz) jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped, then thoroughly dried by pressing with paper towels
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons pine nuts, gently toasted in oven for 3-5 minutes on 325, optional
1 (8 oz) ball fresh mozerella, sliced into 1/8 inch slices
1/4 cup parmesan
tiny pinch kosher salt or sea salt
1 large egg, beaten, mixed with a splash of water
1 jar of your favorite marinara for dipping.
Add your sausage to a medium/large non-stick skillet heated over medium heat. Break up with a wooden spoon, and cook, stirring occasionally until sausage begins to brown, about 12-15 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon oregano, nutmeg and garlic and cook 2-3 minutes more, until garlic has softened. Take the pan off the heat, stir in red bell pepper and pine nuts and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400. Roll out your pizza dough on a lightly floured surface into an 8 by 16 inch surface. Gently transfer the dough to a parchment lined baking sheet sprayed with non-cooking spray. Layer your slices of mozzarella down the center, overlapping and stopping a good two inches before each length-end. Then, using a slotted spoon, sprinkle your sausage mixture over the cheese, being careful to leave 2.5+ inches free width-wise so you can fold it over. Fold one end over, then the other so that they overlap. Fold and tuck ends.
Using two large spatulas, very carefully flip the stromboli over so that it is lying on its seems. Brush the top lightly with your egg wash, then sprinkle evenly with parmesan, oregano, and kosher or sea salt.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Cool ON A WIRE COOLING RACK (to prevent it from getting soggy) for 5 minutes before cutting into the size slices you desire. Serve with warm marinara, heated in the microwave.