Christmas Vacation (the Griswold-free Edition): Pizzas, Pasta, and a Whole Lotta Carbs

29 Dec

Hello hello, my lovely readers and friends! I’ve returned from a lengthy and lovely Christmas Break (the joys of working in education: I still have a set-in-stone-employer-can’t-touch-it end-of-December vacation. HOO-rah!) with updates of the foodie variety. As expected, my sojourn to my family homestead (figuratively, not literally — I grew up squarely in suburbia, not the big ol’ fields and pine-filled woods of THT’s childhood) was filled with food. Literally filled. The stuffed turkey and I were vying for the heftiest belly on Christmas night, and I’m very okay with that.

It was pretty wonderful to be home, actually. I mean, having come from depressingly snow-free DC, how could I beat this winter wonderland?

Image courtesy of Felicia L. / Facebook.com.

Image courtesy of Felicia L. / Facebook.com.
“White Christmas,” anyone?

And with a mama this cute, my time at home was downright fabbity fab-fab. 🙂

Image courtesy of Felicia L. / Facebook.com

Image courtesy of Felicia L. / Facebook.com. Family resemblance, right down to the 80+ layers of warm clothing!

There were so many culinary highlights, that it’s hard to pin down my favorite dishes. My little sister made an amazing Asparagus SautĂ©, cutting the asparagus into 2-inch chunks and sauteing them with olive oil, a few minced garlic cloves, and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. My older sister’s Pignoli Cookies were so epically Italian and so darned tasty that any attempt to reproduce their southern-Sicilian magic would moot. (Or a “moo” point, if you’re Joey.) NOTE: If you’re interested in tackling their tastiness, here’s a delicious version of her recipe from Italian Food Forever.

And Grandma GKG’s Christmas Eve Italian feast, complete with Pasta with Broccoli Rabe, was, as usual, downright divine. (Spaghetti + sauteed broccoli rabe + parmesan + chicken broth + a topping of crushed croutons. Simple, huh?)

And as an alternative to turkey, my padre tried this recipe for Michael Symon’s Porchetta from Food Network Magazine. With its spicy pancetta and rosemary filling (an extra kick comes from oodles of red pepper flakes), it was a hit for the senses and the sinuses. Whoo!

Image courtesy of foodnetwork.com. Molto bene!

Image courtesy of foodnetwork.com. Molto bene!

My contributions were mostly of the sous-chef variety — scoring the pork roast, baking some bread, arranging tables, washing dishes, etc. However, I did make one of my absolute favorite pizza recipes, which I’ll now share with you, lovely readers.

Here’s a preview:

Image courtesy of Felicia L. / Facebook.com. Love the blur effect -- looks like steam on the oven window!

Image courtesy of Felicia L. / Facebook.com. Love the blur effect — looks like steam on the oven window!

One night a few days before Christmas, the task of dinner prep fell to me. (I know, how terrible … twist my arm, why don’t you, Mom? Tee hee.) I decided to make one of my specialties, White Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Mushrooms & Ham. I also whipped up a Pesto Pizza and Veggie Pizza, which are low-key additions to the pizza repertoire of any budding chef. (Pesto Pizza = pesto sauce, cheese, and sliced tomatoes; Veggie pizza = wheat crust, tomato sauce, and as many veggies as your fridge can hold.) The white pizza, however, is an elegant and stylish dinner treat.

White Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Mushrooms, & Ham

You’ll need:

  • 1 white or wheat pizza crust, rolled out and prepared for baking
  • 1 cup prepared bechamel sauce
  • 1-2 cups shredded fontina cheese
  • 4-6 slices of deli ham, sliced into thin shreds
  • 1/4 white onion, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 cup white button mushroom slices
  • Additional parmesan cheese, salt & pepper for seasoning

Here’s what you do:

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F. Prepare pizza crust on top of either a baking sheet or a baking stone.
  • To caramelize onions, heat 1 tsp olive oil in a small pan on medium-low heat. Add onions and cook, slowly, for 20-30 minutes, adding 1/4 cup of water every few minutes, or until water is absorbed each time. This slow method will render sweetness and delicious caramelized sugar from the onions.
  • To prepare the mushrooms, cook in batches over medium-low heat with a smidgen of olive oil. Do NOT add mushrooms all at once; keep space between each mushroom and flip once, allowing them to brown on each side.
  • To prepare the ham, simply saute the slices in either the onion pan or the mushroom pan once either vegetable is finished cooking. Allow the ham to crisp up slightly, for no longer than 5-10 minutes.
  • Spread the prepared bechamel sauce over the crust. Check here for a simple recipe. Top with shredded cheese, caramelized onions, and prepared ham slices and mushrooms. Additional parmesan is good here as a garnish, as is a grind or two of fresh black pepper.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until crust and cheese are lightly browned. Slice into small squares and enjoy as an appetizer or a main meal.

This pizza is SO darn good, it’s ridiculous. If you’d like something less labor-intensive, you can also use raw onions, raw mushrooms, and deli ham straight out of the package. The extra steps add a whole nother dimension, however, and are definitely worth the effort!

What are your favorite holiday recipes? What are your classic Christmas dishes, wintertime favorites, and seasonal delicacies? Happy eating!

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One Response to “Christmas Vacation (the Griswold-free Edition): Pizzas, Pasta, and a Whole Lotta Carbs”

  1. Marcella Rousseau February 1, 2013 at 8:49 pm #

    You know, you could almost pass for twins! That roast pork looks delish! Aha! So you’re Italian American. No wonder your family is so good-looking and cooks so good! (pardon the grammar.) : – )

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