Pizzeria Mozza, Go There or Copycat at Home

Chefs, Cookbooks, Cooking, Recipes By Oct 21, 2011

Butterscotch Budino with Caramel Sauce and Maldon Sea Salt … I could hardly wait.

My mid-morning arrival was greeted with the cacophony of cooking. Entering Pizzeria Mozza in Newport Beach through the rear kitchen door, the preopening clatter of pots and knife-work blended with well-chosen words from busy workers.

Freshly ground pork sausage formed an aromatic rope as it erupted from the grinder.

Redolent with toasted fennel seed, the coarse-ground bulk sausage would be a key ingredient atop two of eatery’s most popular pizzas. The one pictured here has knobs of the sausage atop lightly whipped cream (panna).  Soooooo good.

I would have gladly spent the day in the kitchen, but my mission was to talk with Nancy Silverton about her new book, “The Mozza Cookbook” (Knopf, $35). Silverton, Mozza’s co-owner-chef and the founder of La Brea Bakery, opened Osteria Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza four years ago in Los Angeles. Fellow celebrity chef Mario Batali and famed restaurateur Joe Bastianich are also owners.

The much-ballyhooed opening of the Pizzeria a few weeks ago in Newport Beach, made the restaurant’s phone ring off the hook with diners jockeying for reservations.

But here, the heart of the matter wasn’t how scrumptious everything is at the Pizzeria. The point was how meticulously Silverton translated her restaurant recipes into formulas that work successfully in home kitchens.

Her hard work and talent color every page of the book, teaming her fine-tuned palate and deep understanding of Italian cuisine, with consistent nurturing and problem solving.

Her recipe for pizza crust is one example. Even for a master bread-maker, someone that understands every tiny nuance, it’s no easy feat to create a dough recipe that when baked in a home oven rather than an extremely hot wood burning restaurant oven, results in a signature crust. She explained that she and baker Jon Davis worked relentlessly to create a formula that is different from the one used at the restaurants, but results in a crust that is equally delicious. She said that the ingredients are the same, but the process is different.

“I like a crisp crust with a structure that is open inside, filled with air, and puffy,” Silverton explained.

“I didn’t set out to replicate Neapolitan pizza or Chicago deep-dish pizza, or New York-style pizza. The crust suits my taste. My preferences.”

I think home bread-makers will earmark the pizza chapter of the book; pages 121 through 153 will be stained with ingredients and notes will fill the margins. But that leaves 300 pages left to recipes for everything from antipasti to pasta, entrees to desserts. Irresistible Mozza dishes for everyone, not just baking enthusiasts.

I asked her which recipe she would recommend for the novice cook. Without hesitation she said Mozza Caprese, her version of a Caprese Salad, a dish that insures full flavors even when tomatoes aren’t in season.

She uses small, on-the-vine tomatoes and slow roasts the colorful orbs with extra-virgin olive oil. Their skins shrivel but the tomatoes remain plump. Once cooled, the room-temp, stem-on tomatoes sit atop a generous mound of rich fresh burrata cheese that is graced with course salt and a smidgen of basil pesto. Microgreens add crunch and color.

To my mind, a side of Fett’Unta, is a must-have with the salad. This sop-it-up treat of thickly sliced rustic bread, is slathered with olive oil and deeply toasted either on grill pan, outdoor grill or a heavy-bottomed skillet. Piping hot with a crunchy exterior, the browned surface is rubbed with garlic and brushed with a little more olive oil, plus a sprinkle of finishing salt.

Thumbing through the mouth-watering photos of appetizers, I asked her about how she entertains in her Los Angeles home.

“I love to entertain casually,” she said, adding that her Hancock Park home has an old-school kitchen, not a professional showplace. “I love room temperature food; I don’t have to worry about the food getting cold. And I like to let guests eat at their own pace. Most often it’s in the backyard. I had a fireplace built that I can cook or grill in. And there’s a long table that will seat twelve, and often I put a big bowl of fresh fruit in the center.”

Here’s a shot of the busy lunch-time crowd at the pizzeria.

When it comes to dessert, fresh seasonal fruit can be delicious, but it will never put Silverton’s Butterscotch Budino out of business.

The budino, a creamy, caramel-colored pudding, is served topped with caramel sauce, plus a little crème fraiche-spiked whipped cream and crunchy Maldon sea salt. Petite Rosemary Pine Nut cookies are served on the side. Words fall short when it comes to describing how scrumptious this dish is.

“Don’t be afraid to get that sugar dark,” she advised readers making the pudding-like budini. “Use a heavy bottomed pan and remember, if the smoke alarm in your house doesn’t go off while you are cooking the sugar, you’re not there yet.”

Can’t you picture the joy on the firefighter’s faces, greeted by sweet-salty butterscotch instead of flames?

Pizzeria Mozza is at 800 W. Coast Highway, Newport Beach   949-612-9579

Register photographer Ana Venegas and I powered through the pizza with panna and fennel sausage, plus the Mozza Caprese. Delicioso.

Mozza Caprese
Yield: 6 servings
1 1/2 pounds fresh burrata cheese
Maldon sea salt or another flaky sea salt, such as fleur de sel
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Basil Pesto, see cook’s notes
30 to 40 slow-roasted cherry tomatoes, recipe included
High quality extra-virgin olive oil
Garnish: 30 to 40 fresh micro or miniature basil leaves or 6 large fresh basil leaves
Cook’s notes: To make pesto: In a food processor combine 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts, 2 peeled garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil. Add 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves; pulse until finely chopped. Add 2 more cups of basil leaves, 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil and 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Process just until pureed, adding more oil if necessary; be careful not to over-process. Stir in 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning.
1. Cut burrata into six equal segments and place each, cut side up on a salad plate. Season with sea salt and spoon 1 teaspoon pesto over each portion of cheese.
2. Use scissors to cut tomatoes into clusters of one, two or three tomatoes. Carefully lift the tomatoes by the stems and gently rest atop each serving of cheese. (The size of the tomatoes determines how many to use, if they are small use 3 to 5, if smaller use 5 to 7.) Drizzle about 1/2 teaspoon of high quality olive oil over each salad (see finishing oil in cook’s notes in Slow-Roasted Tomato recipe), scatter micogreens or small basil leaves (or large basil leaves snipped with scissors).
Nutrition information (per serving): 290 calories, 55 percent of calories from fat, 14 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 30 mg cholesterol, 3 g carbohydrates, 31 g protein, 630 mg sodium, 1.1 g fiber
Source: “The Mozza Cookbook” by Nancy Silverston with Matt Molina and Carolynn Carreno (Knopf, $35)

Slow-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
Yield: about 36 tomatoes
2 (9 ounces each) packages Sunsweet tomatoes on stems, or 1 pound sweet small tomatoes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2. Place a wire rack on top of a baking sheet. Gently lift tomatoes out of boxes, taking care to keep tomatoes attached to stems as much as possible and place on rack. Brush tomatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in preheated oven until skins are shriveled but tomatoes are still plump, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove tomatoes from oven and allow them to cool to room temperature. Use tomatoes, or cover with plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to one day or refrigerate up to three days. Bring tomatoes to room temperature before serving.
Nutrition information (per serving): 50 calories, 20 percent of calories from fat, 1.1 g fat, 0.8 g saturated fat, 2 mg cholesterol, 8 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 30 mg sodium, 0.9 g fiber
Source: “The Mozza Cookbook” by Nancy Silverston with Matt Molina and Carolynn Carreno (Knopf, $35)

Yield: 4 servings
4 (1 1/2-inch thick) slices from a large loaf of crusty white bread, such as La Brea Bakery’s white table bread
Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing bread
1 garlic clove
3/4 cup finishing-quality extra-virgin olive oil, see cook’s notes
Maldon sea salt or another flaky sea salt, such as fleur de sel
Cook’s notes: Finishing extra-virgin olive oil as Silverton describes it is a very-high quality oil for last-minute drizzling. “The finishing oil we use is an Umbrian oil, Monini DOP,” she wrote in the book.
1. Prepare a hot fire in a gas or charcoal grill, or preheat a grill pan or heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat or a sandwich press.
2. Brush bread slices liberally on both sides with olive oil. Place the bread on the grill and cook it until crisp and golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the bread from the heat and rub the garlic clove over one side of each piece. Pour 3 tablespoons of finishing oil over the same side of each toast and season with oiled sides generously with sea salt. Cut the bread on an angle into halves or thirds and serve.
Nutrition information (per serving): 180 calories, 38 percent of calories from fat, 7.6 g fat, 0.9 g saturated fat, 3 mg cholesterol, 26 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 390 mg sodium, 0.8 g fiber
Source: “The Mozza Cookbook” by Nancy Silverston with Matt Molina and Carolynn Carreno (Knopf, $35)

Butterscotch Budino with Caramel Sauce and Maldon Sea Salt
Yield: 12 servings
For the budino:
3 cups heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3 extra-large egg yolks
1 extra-large egg
2/3 cup cornstarch
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup water
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons Scotch whiskey
For serving:
3/4 cup Caramel Sauce, recipe included
Maldon sea salt, or another flaky sea salt, such as fleur de sel
Whipped cream, see cook’s notes
Cook’s notes: For the whipped cream, Silverton beats 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon crème fraiche or sour cream with 1 cup very cold heavy whipping cream. She whisks the two ingredients together just until they thicken to soft peaks.
1. Fill a large bowl with ice water and set a smaller bowl inside. Set a fine-mesh strainer in the smaller bowl.
2. To make the budino, stir cream and milk together in medium bowl. In another medium bowl, whisk egg yolks, egg and cornstarch together. Combine brown sugar, salt and 1/2 cup water in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over high heat. Cook the sugar, without stirring, swirling the pan occasionally for even cooking, until the sugar is smoking, nutty smelling and a very dark caramel color, 10 to 12 minutes. (Don’t me alarmed: the sugar will become foamy and lava-like with slow-bursting bubbles.) Reduce heat to low and immediately add the cream-milk mixture in a thin, steady stream, stirring with a whisk as you add it. This stops the cooking process and prevents the sugar from burning. This will cause the sugar to seize, or harden. Increase the heat to high and cook until the seized sugar has dissolved and the mixture is liquid again, 5 to 7 minutes. Turn off the heat. Ladle out 1 cup of hot cream and sugar mixture and gradually add it to the bowl with the eggs, whisking constantly to prevent the cream mixture from cooking the eggs. Continue adding the cream to the eggs until you have added half of the cream. Gradually add the contents of the bowl to the saucepan with the remaining caramel, stirring constantly with a whisk, and cook the custard over medium heat until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove the custard from the heat and whisk in the butter and whiskey.
3. Pour custard through strainer into bowl set in the ice and ladle it into 12 heat-resistant 8-ounce glasses or 7-ounce ramekins, leaving 1 inch space at the top of each budino. Place on a baking sheet and refrigerate for several hours to chill. Remove the baking sheet from the refrigerator, cover each with plastic wrap and return to refrigerator until ready to serve. They can be prepared to this point 3 days in advance of serving.
4. To serve, if the caramel sauce has cooled, warm it over medium heat until it returns to a loose saucelike consistency and is barely warm but not hot. Remove budini from refrigerator and spoon 1 tablespoon sauce on each budino. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and top each with a big dollop (about 2 tablespoons) of whipped cream.
Nutrition information (per serving): 271 calories, 63 percent of calories from fat, 18.9 g fat, 7.6g saturated fat, 44 mg cholesterol, 15.1 g carbohydrates, 10 g protein, 476 mg sodium, 0.3 g fiber
Source: “The Mozza Cookbook” by Nancy Silverston with Matt Molina and Carolynn Carreno (Knopf, $35)

Caramel Sauce
Yield: about 2 cups, more than needed, but difficult to make in smaller portions
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 whole vanilla bean
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup

1. Pour cream into a medium saucepan. Using a small, sharp knife, split vanilla bean lengthwise. Use the back of the knife to scrape out the pulp and seeds and add all the scrapings and the pod to the saucepan with the cream. Heat over high heat until it just begins to boil. Off heat, add butter, stirring until it melts.

2. Combine sugar, corn syrup and 1/4 cup water in large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat; cook without stirring, swirling pan for even cooking and brushing down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush to remove the sugar crystals until the sugar becomes a medium amber color, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Remove vanilla pod from the cream mixture and discard pod. Gradually add the cream mixture to the caramel, whisking constantly to thoroughly combine, taking care as the mixture will steam and bubble. Serve the caramel sauce or set aside to cool to room temperature. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to one month. Before serving, warm the sauce in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring constantly to melt it.


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