Much Obliged, Ma’am


Cowboy culture is distinctive, no matter whether one encounters it on North America’s grasslands, or on South America’s.  In Argentina’s pampas, that culture takes on the character of Italian and French immigrants to the country and produces a great cuisine at play in this week’s entry, Gaucho Pizza.  Paired perfectly, by the way, with a great Argentine Malbec wine.

The duo is one found among the articles in Food & Wine‘s October 2004 issue.  The wine’s grapey (Grapey?  Now, there’s a profound classification) profile accentuates similarly sweet notes in the tomatoes.  The vintage’s mildness rounds a bit of the shallots’ edge. though that’s less than a factor than it would have been if onions had been employed, as was suggested originally.

The choice of protein also works well with the Malbec, as the wine’s fruitiness reduces the lamb’s slight gaminess just a bit.  Presenting the lamb in thin slices doesn’t hurt either.   The pampas are best-known for their cattle herds, of course, though plenty of lamb also is raised on the ranches (estancias, if memories of high-school Spanish are accurate).

As the pampas are grassy plains, naturally, the pizzas rise from a thin, crispy wheat-based crust.  Finishing them off directly on the oven grate gives the crust an almost croissant-like flakiness (the French influence?) while melting the cheese and lending the lamb a nice sear.  Finally, arugula is mounded on top after the pizzas finish baking, adding a peppery freshness.

Despite making their livings in different hemispheres, cowboys and gauchos share many common traits.  However, the Mediterranean influence also distinguishes the South American version.  Can you imagine any self-respecting Wyoming ranch hand washing down his grub with wine?  Still, North or South America, a compliment from a satisfied eater would inspire the cook to tip his wide-brimmed hat, “Much obliged, ma’am,” or, “De nada, señorita.”

*****

Gaucho Pizza

For the dough:

  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

For the pizzas:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 pound tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped rosemary
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 pound of boneless lamb, trimmed
  • 4 scallions. white and light green parts, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small onion, thinly slices (*1)
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • 4 ounces fresh arugula

Start by making the pizza dough.  In a large bowl mix the water, yeast and sugar and let stand until foamy, about five minutes.  Add the salt and two cups of the flour and stir until a shaggy dough forms.  Scrape the dough onto a lightly-floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about five minutes.

Pour the olive oil in the large bowl and return the dough to it.  Turn the dough to coat it with oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and let it stand in a warm, breeze-free place for 90 minutes, until doubled in size.  Punch down the dough and divide it into four equal-size balls.

Now, move on to making the tomato topping.  Place a medium skillet over a medium flame.  Add a tablespoon of the olive oil.  When it shimmers, add the garlic.  Cook for a minute, stirring occasionally.  Add the tomatoes and bay leaf and cook until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the thyme and rosemary.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and discard the bay leaf.  Turn off the flame and set aside sauce.

Season the lamb with salt and pepper.  Place another medium skillet over a high flame and pour in another tablespoon of oil.  When the oil shimmers, add the lamb.  Turn the lamb occasionally to allow it to brown all over.  Remove the lamb to a cutting board and let it sit for twenty minutes.  The interior still will be quite rare.

Meanwhile, remove a rack from the oven, so that only two remain, each about a third of the way from the oven top and bottom, respectively.  Preheat the oven to 500°.  Lightly oil two baking sheets with olive oil.  On a lightly-floured surface, roll out each of the four dough balls until they’re about eight inches across.

Place two pizzas on each of the baking sheets and brush them with the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil.  Top each with tomato sauce, spread to within half and inch of the pizza’s edge.  Cook pizza crusts for eight minutes, until they’re lightly golden brown.

Meanwhile, slice the lamb thinly, across the grain.  After removing the pizzas from the oven, layer the lamb evenly over the top of each pizza.  Scatter sliced onion and scallions atop each and distribute goat cheese thinly.  Season with salt and freshly-ground pepper.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil.

Slide the pizzas directly onto the oven grills and cook for two minutes, until the lamb is medium-rare and the crusts are crisp.  Place a pizza on each of four dinner plates and mound arugula on top.

NOTES:

1 – How long have you been reading this journal?  What do you think I’m going to substitute?  If you guessed a small shallot, you win a gaucho pizza. I’ll mail it to you.

55 thoughts on “Much Obliged, Ma’am

      1. You probably don’t know how to hotwire a vehicle, do you? I didn’t think so.

        In which case, I’ll have to kick through the floorboard and Fred Flintstone it. Which is going to take a while for a food truck. I should make it to California by 2024 or 2025, though.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I thought everyone in L.A. knew how to boost cars. Isn’t it the city’s second industry now, just behind movies? Coming on quickly too.

        My two years in Orange County – as a child, no less – gave me the skills to run one the East Coast’s most lucrative chop shops. Where do you think I get the money to buy all these ingredients?

        Like

      3. Well, if you’re not going to save my blushes, Tamara, who will?

        Much more talk like this, and I just might have to “liberate” that food truck parked in someone’s driveway the next neighborhood over. Scandalously unused. For now, at least…

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the support, Angela!

      Oh, there are…others, ranging from friends, to family, to romantic interests. Also, thanks to the freezer, um, myself.

      To think, in previous eras, there would’ve been no other choice but to leave leftovers for the local wildlife. No internet, either, which means the only means I would’ve had of telling all of you about this food was to open the window and shout it. I mean, really, really loudly too.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You said it! The weekend provides time to explore, but during the week, especially after an exhausting day in the office, there’s something particularly satisfying about pulling a package from the icebox and reveling is something homemade.

        Like

      1. Yes, there are various types of flour:

        Wheat mixed with white;
        Whole Wheat;
        Almond;
        Coconut;
        and many, many more!

        If you put dry oats in your blender and pulverize it, you’ll have Oat Flour! 😀

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Ah yes, Tamara, I forgot about coconut flour! That oversight should be rectified one of these years, when this blog stops in Guam.

        It’s funny, isn’t it? As humanity advanced, it became more and more focused on wheat grain, yet in the latest generation, that advancement has taken us back to some of the other 1,762 varieties available.

        Ain’t progress swell?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Ah men! I would love to be a guest at your house. I know of almond flour, but coconut? I bet I would love coconut flour, because I love anything and everything coconut.

        Liked by 2 people

      4. For what it’s worth (not that you wondered anyway), I do prefer Metric’s logic and precision, though it seems to have…no soul.

        Give me my cups, quarts and teaspoons, and I’ll give you cupcakes, stir-fry and tomato soup. Convert it to Metric, and it feels somewhat like a scientific experiment. With all the charm you might expect from a product emerging from beakers and test tubes.

        Liked by 2 people

      5. Your attitude has been noted, comrade. Oh yes, it has been noted.

        …and, if you never saw “Dr. Zhivago,” you likely have no idea what I’m on about.* Even less so the usual.

        *Starting a sentence with “and,” and ending with a preposition. Where has my grammar gone?

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Keith, when you explain English to m in terms of adjectives, propositions, and the like, you truly lose me. Unfortunately, I have failed to understand the grits of it.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Flattering, Angela, and the best way I have of returning the favor is to make your anticipation glow.

        For example, one of these years will introduce cooking from Guam, and will include coconut flour!

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Definitely, Angela. Any nut or grain that’s milled (i.e., ground) qualifies. Just on these pages alone, planned or debuted already, are whole wheat flour, rice flour, spelt, buckwheat, cornmeal, almond flour, teff (an Ethiopian grain)…

        Much of this adventurousness comes in inspiration of a long-time friend (and more recent reader) who pursues a gluten-free diet. Though she’s never commented here, thanks, Kristen!

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Great instincts, Angela!

        Now that the secret is out, almond flour has gone into cakes, pastry crusts and, of course, almond cookies. Some of which have appeared on these pages already, and others which will, eventually.

        I doubt someone of your creativity and artistic talent is completely lost in the kitchen. You just haven’t found your vehicle yet, but it’s out there! Until then, maybe your MIL will bake up something with almond flour.

        After all, you took her mushroom-hating son off her hands, and she kind of owes you for that, doesn’t she?

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely, Tamara! Any number of flours would work well here.

      In addition to your wheat flour, there also is spelt, rice flour, buckwheat… To name just three.

      Each features a different profile, any of which would compliment one or more of the ingredients perched above. The best, overall, though – total picture – is whole wheat flour, your suggestion. Go for it!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Why thank you, JoAnn!

      While I couldn’t stand lamb when I was a child, I most certainly appreciate it now. The secret in this case is to make sure it still is a bit rare when it goes on the pizza. It’ll cook a little more when it’s on the pie, yet it will retain its juicy tenderness. Just perfect.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s funny because I didn’t like lamb that much when I was growing up either even though my father raised lambs for a while. My favorite now though is shawarma 😋😋

        Liked by 1 person

      2. A page from my own journal, JoAnn!

        Of course, the difficulty in producing shawarma requires me to visit a restaurant or a specialty store if I want any. Oh, I suppose that, for enough money, I could have a shawarma spit installed in the kitchen. However, that dream is deferred until the first billion or so is acquired. Besides, living in a large metro area with a significant Near Eastern population (here, at least, mostly Lebanese Christians) means shawarma is but a short drive away.

        Have you ever tried chicken shawarma?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Chicken shawarma? No, but I can’t imagine it not being delicious.

        Some things it’s definitely worth just buying from a restaurant. One of the worst kitchen failures I’ve had is trying to make a falafel sandwich at home, including making the falafel from scratch. Just horrendous. There was a place back in New Jersey where I used to get them and I just wanted to pass out every time because they were so good!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Sure, JoAnn. Anywhere populations accumulate, props go to those who offer the homesick the truest taste of home. Those places, in turn, attract adventurous outsiders who want to see if it’s really that good. That’s where people like you and me come in.

        By the way, a version of shawarma, once-removed but still recognizable, is planned for one of these years or another. Yes, it cast its spell on me too!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw shucks, ma’am.

      See, this is what happens when Italians and French start influencing cowboy culture.

      “Gotta drive four hundred head of cattle across the mountains by this weekend, and then, as if that don’t top it all, our sommelier just, plum, up and quit.”

      Liked by 1 person

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