Wednesday, March 22, 2017


Sometimes life throws tiny curve balls in your way.  I'd left a beef brisket in the oven overnight to cook slowly at a low temperature. In the morning, the pan was cold, the beef was uncooked, the oven dead. Like all people who work in IT, my first idea was to turn it off and then turn it on again. (This IS a legitimate fix so don't sneer.) So I'm sitting there at 05:00 with my head in the oven and nothing is happening and the brisket is a disaster and I won't be able to bake soda bread and St. Patrick's day dinner is ruined.

Incidentally, I was reminded as I sat there with my head in the oven, of the meme that was circulating recently about naming something that young people wouldn't understand. I realized that references to putting your head in the oven would have been the perfect answer to this. Nowadays, with electric ignitions, gas ovens are no longer lethal. And it is probably the electric ignition that is broken in my oven. A gas oven is basically a box with a gas line and the electric ignition. If you replace the ignition once in a while,  you can keep it working indefinitely. And I'd rather stick with my 1990s "almond" enamel range until I'm ready for my "forever range" which won't be for some years yet.


ANYWAY, besides the St. Patrick's Day dinner, I had plans this weekend to try a new pizza dough technique and not having an oven really threw a wrench into that plan. So I researched stove top pizzas. And then Sunday evening, Seamus, who wasn't super-enthusiastic about pizza made on the stove top, tried turning the oven on, and it worked, as if nothing had ever been wrong with it. (See, turning it off and then on again IS a legitimate fix.) But NOW, I was almost disappointed because I'd planned a blog post about stove top pizza and I was going to have to bake the pizza in the oven.

It has been one of my lifelong projects to make professional-tasting pizza in my home oven. To that end, I've read numerous recipes and experimented with different techniques. I recently bought Franny's Simple, Seasonal Italian Cooking specifically because I read a review stating that it has awesome pizza recipes. Franny's dough recipe is similar to any other pizza dough, only you proof it in the fridge for at least 24 hours, and then you need another four to twelve hours for the dough to rest. It's easy to make, assuming you have a dough hook, and if you don't have a dough hook, you could probably knead by hand and get good results.  Anyway, the new-to-me technique in this recipe was to finish the pizza under the broiler. My oven was able to withstand the rigors of switching from heat to broiler multiple times and the result was four extremely delicious, professional-tasting pizzas. (Three with a topping of broccoli, garlic, lemon, and parmesan, and one ordinary pepperoni pizza.)
Kitchen in full pizza-making mode.
The finished pies. (Unmelted cheese on top because the recipe instructs you to sprinkle with more cheese after baking.)

What culinary challenge are you trying to master? Could you manage to live without an oven? (I know there are people who never bake and actually use their ovens for storage. I can't imagine doing that myself.)


  1. Having had success with panettone, I'm now thinking about giving pita bread a go. I've made grilled pizza, so I'm wondering how similar a stovetop version would be....seems to me it can't be that far off, can it?

    The first time the electric ignition of my stove went on the fritz was Christmas Eve a few years ago. There was much panic, but we managed to get it working for Christmas dinner, using the off/on trick. But soon after, that trick stopped working.

    I can't imagine living without an oven, but I do admit to sometimes using it for storage - I have no good place to store my cast iron griddle that is the length of two burners. I've been keeping it tucked next to the fridge, but the dog has discovered it there and loves licking it 'clean'. It took quite a bit of work to get it well seasoned, which I don't want to ruin by using soap to wash off the dog saliva, but I also don't want dog saliva sitting on my cast iron pan. So I end up storing it in the oven, because it's too heavy and long to fit anywhere else out of the dog's reach.

    1. I have never attempted panettone, but on instagram I saw the picture of the one you made, and it looked delicious.

  2. I keep wondering what sort of pizza dough the no-knead bread would make, especially if I use the enameled cast-iron pot as the cooking pan.

    1. That would be an interesting experiment. It might turn out to be a great deep dish pie.

  3. There are so many things in this post.

    What culinary challenge do I seek to master, you ask? The challenge of making something for dinner that is nutritious, not too calorie-laden, tastes good, and (here's the kicker) that the other two members of the residing family will want to eat. There is often open rebellion from them.

    I completely get being disappointed at being cheated out of a blog post. That hasn't happened to me lately, though, as I have hardly had time to write down any blog posts at all, because I am too busy writing things to my elected officials.

    My oven has not (yet) betrayed me. I am expecting the refrigerator to betray me sometime this year, as it is 22 years old. But when we go to buy a new one there will be a fight.

    Your pizzas look great! I would send my family over to eat at your house, but I fear they might reject the pizzas if they do not have a band of mozzarella cheese hidden in the circumference of the crust. You guessed it - while you are busy making beautiful artisanal homemade pizzas that your family will fawn over, I am stuck with heathens who prefer Pizza Hut stuffed crust pizzas.

    1. A refrigerator crisis is definitely worse than an oven crisis!

  4. I could NOT do without an oven. The microwave, yes, but not the oven.
    Love those pizzas, they look terrific.
    I really hate to cook, though. I love to eat. Just not the prepping bit.