Sunday, January 27, 2008

the fatted calf

One of our number arrived in town Saturday evening from the US. Among the things she carried down was a 22 lb. standing rib roast to be cooked in Marie's outdoor oven.

Fernando built this oven on Marie's terrazzo four years ago. It is fired with dried coconut husks and reaches an astonishing level of heat. After firing it up you wait two hours before it is cool enough to begin cooking. Otherwise, it simply incinerates anything to put into it. The host packed the roast in salt, waited for the opportune moment, then shoved it into the oven to cook for four hours. The results were superb! I have not eaten any good beef ~ aside from the occasional burger ~ for at least a year. I'm a veal person myself. This was well worth the wait. By the time I fought my way to the carving site so much was gone that a photo was impossible. But take my word for it.

This party was, like all our big get-togethers, a potluck. My contributions were green salad, a lot of veggies peeled and ready to roast in the horno, and focaccia. I have what I think is the best focaccia recipe ever. I've tried many but this is fool proof, the kind of recipe I like. If I've posted this before and you've read it, fast forward to another day. If not, enjoy!


4 cloves garlic mashed
3/4 c olive oil

2 cups warm water (105°F to 115°F;)
2 teaspoons dry yeast

4 – 5 cups (about) flour
2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoon chopped fresh or dried basil ( or herb of choice)

24 hours before beginning bread, heat together the mashed garlic and the olive oil in a small saucepan on lowest flame for about 15 minutes. Swirl pan constantly. DO NOT LET BOIL OR GARLIC WILL BURN. Remove from heat and let sit to steep, covered but not refrigerated.

Place 2 cups warm water in large bowl. Sprinkle dry yeast over; stir with wooden spoon. Let stand until yeast dissolves, about 10 minutes. Add 4 cups flour, cup at a time, salt, and 2 tablespoons of the chopped herb to dough and stir to blend well (dough will be sticky). Knead dough on floured surface until smooth and elastic, adding more flour by tablespoons as needed, about 10 minutes. Form dough into ball. Put about 2 tablespoons of the garlic-oil into large bowl; add dough, turning to coat well.

Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm area until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down dough; knead into ball and return to same bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm area until doubled, about 45 minutes or less

Coat 15x10-inch baking sheet with 1 tablespoon garlic oil. Punch down dough. Transfer to prepared sheet. Using fingertips, press out dough to 13x10-inch rectangle. Let dough rest 10 minutes.

Drizzle 2 tablespoons oil over dough. Sprinkle remaining chopped herb evenly over bread. Let dough rise uncovered in warm area until puffy, about 25 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Press fingertips all over dough, forming indentations. Drizzle with another tablespoon of oil. If using olives, press into dough.

Bake bread until brown and crusty, about 20 - 25 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Camera battery died before I had a chance to shoot baked bread, but it came out fine; crusty and chewy. I'll make it again soon and take a "finished product" shot.)

Makes a great hamburger bun and delicious toast!

I usually bake it on a round clay platter instead of rectangular pan. Just press out into circle instead.

The dough is very sticky when you start out but picks up flour nicely and is easy to handle and becomes smooth and elastic quickly. But be sure to knead it a minimum of 10 minutes, even though you may think it “feels” done.

If you prefer a bread with a bit more salt, sprinkle Kosher or sea salt on the top before baking. You can substitute any herbs you prefer, or add things like chopped red onion, chopped red pepper, or olives. If you put olives on the top, press them into the dough so they don't get dry and fall off. This bread is very versatile and the dough will hold up well with several additions. It just may take longer to bake.

When I think it is done, I tap it lightly with a fingernail. If it sounds hollow, it’s probably done. But for a crisper crust, give it 5 more minutes!

If you don't use all the olive oil you have prepared, save it for other uses, especially salad dressing or for dipping the focaccia. Yummy!

Tomorrow is a trip to Manzanillo to check on the tile order and reconsider the color of grout I picked for the floor, plus exchange a box of green tiles for a box of blue ones. I'll be glad when this is all done so I can't change my mind yet again.


At 8:42 AM, Blogger mary ann said...

I bet that beef was delicious! And I've never known anyone to make their own foccacia ~ clever woman. We here in Frisco rain/cold could do with a shot of your tropical weather.


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