Sunday, March 20, 2011

Holy Stromboli!

Many years ago I worked part-time for a wild woman caterer in Dallas. Chris was 100% Italian American with thick dark curly hair and an extra couple of pounds around her middle. She had a sharp sarcastic wit that no one could escape, but that was OK because we all knew if she picked on you that meant she loved you.

Probably her most important quality was her ability to cook anything well. She had some of the world’s greatest recipes up in that head of hers. Many of them were for the delicious variety of sandwiches that she sold out of her store front at lunchtime. Her tuna and egg salads were two of my favorites and I now admit that for some strange reason they are startlingly close to the ones featured here on my site (thank you Chris).

Looking back, I’m not sure if it was my ability to work both the front and back of the house or the fact that my husband had a pick-up truck with a top, but I was always asked to work every event.

Anyone who has ever worked in catering will testify to the fact that transporting food and supplies to a venue is an art in itself. Sometimes the better part of an hour is used packing, wedging and propping boxes, crates, jars and tubs just right so there won’t be any catastrophic events on the drive to the destination. I’m here to tell you no matter how hard you try to secure everything you usually land up trying to navigate the freeway while steadying a bus tub of meatballs in teriyaki sauce with your foot.

I’ll never forget on one occasion arriving at a small rental hall to set up for a wedding reception only to find that one of the chafing dish lids had taken flight during the trip and landed into the second tier of the wedding cake. Thanks to a bunch of fresh flowers, a couple of cans of Betty Crocker frosting and lots of imagination, we were able to camouflage it so well that even Bridezilla’s mother never knew the difference (thank you Jesus).

The one recipe that had to be the most requested by her clients was Chris’s recipe for pepperoni Stromboli. She started with homemade dough and filled it with tons of cheese and pepperoni. Since learning how to make her recipe all those years ago, I have no doubt made versions of it a hundred times for parties of my own. I have made it with caramelized onions, olives, mushrooms, roasted garlic, sundried tomatoes and every combination of cheese and meat you can imagine.

A couple of weeks ago when I was trying to decide what snack I would bring to my first food blogger meeting, this popped into my head. Since it is just as delicious warm or at room temperature it is perfect as a potluck dish. I have to say that it even held its own around the other bloggers' delicious dishes and that is saying a lot.

I highly recommend this recipe if you really want to present something extra special to your guests. Serve this with a side of olives and some chilled white wine and you’ll swear you’re in some place exotic like Dallas in the early 90s.

Pepperoni Ham and Cheese Stromboli

1 cup warm (110 degrees F) water
1 (1/4-ounce) envelope active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon oil
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 - 8 ounce package shredded Italian blend cheese
1 cup shredded Asiago cheese
1/2 - 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, depending on taste
12 ounces thinly sliced pepperoni or 6 ounces thinly sliced pepperoni and 6 ounces thinly sliced deli ham, chopped
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast, sugar, and oil and stir to combine. Let sit until the mixture is foamy, about 5 minutes.

Add 1 1/2 cups of the flour and the salt, mixing by hand until it is all incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Continue adding the flour, 1/4 cup at a time, working the dough after each addition, until all the flour is incorporated but the dough is still slightly sticky. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth but still slightly tacky, 3 to 5 minutes.

Spray a large mixing bowl with non-stick cooking spray. Place the dough in the bowl and turn to oil all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm, draft-free place until nearly doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Roll dough out on to a lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half and roll each half our to a large rectangle that is about 1/4" thick. Sprinkle with half of the cheeses (leaving a 1" border on one long edge), followed by the Italian seasoning, pepperoni and/or ham or any other desired topping. I've seen some recipes that call to have the ingredients overlap but I like leaving some gaps so that the layers will stick together when it is sliced. Brush the clean long edge and short edges with beaten egg.

Starting with one of the long sides, roll dough and fillings up jellyroll fashion. Pinch edges to seal. Transfer roll to a non-stick baking sheet seam side down. Let rise for 15 minutes. Repeat with the remaining dough and ingredients; brush tops with beaten egg before placing in the preheated oven. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes; sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and return to the oven for another 5 minutes. Remove and cool for 10 minutes before cutting into thick slices diagonally and serving.

Makes 2 loaves

This is really a fun a rewarding dish to prepare just don't rush it. I encourage to use your imagination with your filling ingredients. You really can't mess it up if you use your favorites.
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