Gastronomical Gear, Vol. 3: Pizza Stone

While certainly not an everyday necessity, my new favorite piece of equipment in my kitchen has to be this beautiful pizza stone.

I am something of a pizza fanatic, eating it at least once a week, and to get pizza at home that can get anywhere close to rivaling those baked in lovely wood-fired ovens, you'll need one of these. The stone serves as a porous, pre-heated surface that aids the crust by removing moisture and distributing heat evenly across the base. Homemade, store-bought, or even reheated delivery will never be better than when cooked on a pizza stone.

Most commercial stones come with instructions for use, but there are also several online resources to answer any questions as to their proper use and how to achieve the best results. If you don't want to spend the extra money for a name-brand, you can head to your local hardware store and pickup an unglazed terra cotta tile that will do the job perfectly. Just be sure to get unglazed, the glaze is usually made with lead and that is not an appetizing topping.

For homemade use, I dust the stone with a bit of cornmeal, then place in a cold oven, pre-heat to 500 F, and let the stone sit in the 500 F oven for about 30 minutes before cooking. Pop the pie on the stone and cook until the crust/cheese are golden brown. Simple as that.

With results like this, who can argue?

A peel is a great tool for moving delicately constructed pizzas onto the screaming hot stone with minimal difficulty.

Here's another post with my basic pizza dough recipe (I usually alter this recipe to 16 oz. AP flour and 4 oz. Semolina flour for my pizza dough.)



Quest for the Best

When presented with that oft popular 'last meal' question I have come to a realization that anything on tortillas with salsa and fresh lime would have to fill that role. In fact, if I had to choose one thing to eat every day until that fateful end, tacos would certainly be my choice. There's just something so soul-satisfyingly perfect about the utter simplicity and deliciousness of a few ingredients happily married in a hand-held delivery device.

In that never-ending quest to find the 'Best' I took a Labor Day journey to the east side, and what I found was pure heaven. Las Cazuelas.

What this East Austin eatery might lack in the 'fanciness factor,' it makes up for in ambiance, authenticity and an amazing array of menu items. While they do offer a good deal of Tex-Mex, the real gems as Las Cazuelas are the more traditional Mexican fare. Wonderful things like Menudo, liver and onions, a tripe plate, even braised goat. As a chef (and eating with other chefs) it's things like these that make your eyes light up and your stomach grow exponentially.

Back to the tacos. Las Cazuelas has a pretty straightforward offering when it comes to tacos, anything from plain potato or nopales to more interesting choices like lengua or chicharron. After perusing my options, I opted for one chicharron and one tripe taco. My compatriot had two of the lengua tacos. The chicharron taco came with a simple dressing of onions and cilantro, and delivered in crispy unctuous fried-pork goodness. The tripe taco was simply the braised tripe served with some of it's braising companions, tomato and chile. Both were served on homemade tortillas and accompanied by lime. (I didn't get to try the lengua tacos but judging by the cleaned plate and the satisfied expression on my friend's face, I'd say they delivered as well.) One bite from each and I knew I'd be coming back to Las Cazuelas many more times to partake. The ridiculously huge Micheladas and the Tejano-filled jukebox didn't hurt. All in all a great meal with good drinks in a wonderful atmosphere. Best Tacos Ever.


Return to the Fray

In what has certainly been an eventful summer, this blog has been forgotten and neglected. While I may have not been posting into the blogsphere, I most definitely have been reading and keeping up with all things culinary.

What have I been up to, you might ask? Here's a bit of what has kept me inspired and interested (and certainly busy):

First and foremost: Work

Where I've been eating: Olivia, Parkside, Fino

Some Web Interest: Ideas In Food, KevinEats, ChuckEats

The Boob Tube: Top Chef: Masters, Top Chef: Las Vegas

Stay tuned for new recipes, more photos, equipment reviews, and a host of all things culinary.