Monday, September 3, 2018

Cast-Iron Skillet Calzone

The kids headed to school this week! Matthew is officially a 3rd grader and as enthusiastic about school as ever. Emma was filled with a bit of worry and anxiousness as her first day of Kindergarten approached. Understandably since this was to be her first day of school EVER. Just as when I sent Matthew to preschool, I was a little sad thinking that Emma was no longer going to be with me all day, every day. But at the same time, I know she is ready to spread her wings, make some friends, and learn from someone other than me. She came home after that first day with a big smile on her face and full of excitement to head back the next day. In fact, she hasn't even given us any trouble about waking up early in the morning. Normally, Emma is a pain to kick out of bed but since school began she gets up with a smile and immediately puts on her school uniform and comes downstairs for breakfast.

And speaking of her school uniform, Emma looks so adorable wearing her little plaid jumper and carrying her gigantic teal backpack. I do miss her during the day but the one who really misses her is Lucy. Lucy balled her eyes out as Matthew and Emma drove away. In fact, she has cried pretty much every morning since as well because she so desperately wants to go to school with them. I have gently tried explaining that she is not old enough for school yet and she just looks up at me with tear-filled eyes and says: "But Mommy I AM big enough! I am potty trained now!"

Especially now that school has started, our schedules are about to get busier than ever making mealtime a challenge. One of the most popular requests in this house is for homemade pizza. Pizza made from scratch start to finish can be a real pain to pull off on a weeknight. But you know what's an even bigger pain? Calzones!

Who has time to make dough and then intricately craft individual calzones for each member of the family? Certainly not me, especially on days when Matthew has homework. That kid needs all the encouragement he can get when it comes to homework. So much encouragement, that after he goes to bed, I am in dire need of a large glass of wine.

But back to weeknight calzones. Leave it to the brilliance of America's Test Kitchen to come up with a way to make one giant calzone in a cast iron skillet that can serve a large crowd. I actually stumbled across this recipe in my instagram feed and immediately copied it down to make in the coming week. My feast day was coming up and that traditionally means that I get to choose the dinner. I like pizza just as much as your typical kiddo and knew that it was a recipe the whole family would probably not have any qualms consuming. I used the pizza dough recipe from my favorite cookbook The New Best Recipe, but if you are in a time crunch and don't have 90 minutes to dedicate to waiting for your dough to rise, I'm including a recipe for a foolproof, quick pizza dough that is pretty amazing as well.

Even though the recipe explicitly states to allow the calzone to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before slicing, we were impatient and starving so we dished it up as soon as it came out of the oven. The result was a bit of a sloppy mess that was extremely difficult to cut and serve. It still tasted incredibly delicious but if you are looking for perfect, neat slices, please do not follow our poor example but rather actually heed the recipe instructions and wait (albeit impatiently) for it to cool! My pictures might have been prettier had I done so!

This was absolutely delicious. And of course it is - you didn't need me to tell you that. It has all the tasty stuff in it! Sausage? Good! Pepperoni? Good! Mozzarella? Gooooood!

Cast-Iron Skillet Calzone
adapted slightly from America's Test Kitchen

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound hot Italian Sausage, casings removed
4 ounces pepperoni, quartered
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds pizza dough (see recipe below for a quick version)
8 ounces (1 cup) whole milk cottage cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon pepper
1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded (4 cups)
1 cup marinara sauce
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 2 tablespoons water

Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat to 450 degrees. Heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add the oil and heat until shimmering. Add sausages and pepperoni and cook, breaking up pieces with a wooden spoon until the sausage is no longer pink, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant. Transfer meat mixture to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Wipe skillet clean with paper towels.

Place dough on lightly floured counter and divide into one 22-ounce piece and another 10-ounce piece (roughly two thirds and one third). Press and roll larger piece of dough into a 16-inch round. Transfer to now-empty skillet, letting excess dough hang over the edge. Set aside.
Combine the meat mixture with the cottage cheese, basil, and pepper. Sprinkle 2 cups of mozzarella over the surface of the dough in the cast-iron skillet. Dollop the mixture over the top of the cheese in an even layer. Spread the marinara sauce over the top, then sprinkle with the remaining 2 cups of mozzarella.

Brush the overhanging dough of bottom crust with the egg wash. Press and roll remaining dough into a 14-inch circle, then loosely roll dough around a rolling pin and gently unroll it over the filling. Trim overhanging dough to ½ inch beyond edge of skillet. Pinch edges of top and bottom crusts firmly together. Roll overhang to be flush with the edge of skillet, then crimp with tines of a fork.
Brush the top of the calzone with the remaining egg wash. Cut eight 1-inch vents in the top of the dough in a circular pattern. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the crust is golden brown, about 30 minutes, rotating the skillet halfway through baking.

When finished baking, let the calzone sit to cool for 30 minutes before slicing into wedges and serving.

Quick and Easy Pizza Dough

Note: For use in the recipe above, double this recipe. It'll make a little more than 2 pounds of pizza dough.

1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
2-3 cups flour (see note)

In a large bowl or in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix the water, honey, oil, yeast and salt. Add the flour gradually until a soft dough forms and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. The exact flour amount will vary depending on where you live, so go by the touch and feel of the dough versus the exact cup measurements in the recipe. The dough should be soft and smooth.

Knead the dough for 2-3 minutes in the stand mixer using the dough hook. If kneading by hand, this will take at least twice as long.

Let the dough rest, covered, for 10 minutes. Then, shape the dough into pizzas or use in the calzone recipe above!

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