With US Independence Day just the other day, YLC’s expat cookbook goes stateside! This month we turn to the Big Apple and the New Jersey area for inspiration and get help from a real expert – our own Amy Johansson!
Alfonsos is a classic Central Jersey red sauce joint that you might know from The Sopranos (think: Artie Bucco’s place). To most of us who were brought up there, these places can serve the purpose of a British local pub or a Swedish small-town kiosk. The convivial community atmosphere and careful Italian-American style of cooking takes my palate back to my youth. Sometimes you might spot a local luminary like Bruce Springsteen slow-dancing with his elderly aunt to an impromptu gig from a local Italian musician (true story!) on a weeknight with an empty house.
Carmine and his family own Alfonsos. Carmine looks tough as nails, but is a real sweetheart. As a teenager, I went in everyday and devotedly ordered his special vodka sauce pizza. Finally one afternoon he said to me “Your mom and pop are probably tired of giving me your allowance. You should be saving for a car. I’ll teach you how to make the sauce”. So here is Carmine’s vodka sauce pizza pie!
1 sweet onion (yellow or white), minced
125 ml cream
1 can crushed tomatoes
75 ml vodka
Brown the onions in some melted butter (approximately 1 matsked) or olive oil, but butter tends to give the creamier taste, approximately 5 minutes over a medium-low heat. When the onions are soft and on their way to brown, add the vodka. It will sizzle quite ferociously and if you’re standing directly above, you’ll get a pleasant contact high from the alcohol cloud that rises for a second. After the spark and sizzle, add the cream. Lower the heat and pour in the tomatoes. Cook and let the sauce thicken for approximately half an hour. Take off the heat and let cool to room temperature (or approximately that) while you prepare the dough.
You can of course buy the premade pizza dough from the supermarket, but if you want to have a more authentic New Jersey pizza/red sauce joint taste experience, make your own.
1 cup / 235 ml warm (32 -35 c) water
1 package dry yeast
3-3.5 cups/7-8 deciliters all purpose flour
1 tesked (teaspoon) salt
1 tesked honey
1. Find a sturdy mixing bowl and pour in the water. Sprinkle the dry yeast into it. Mix it with your fingers or a fork until the yeast dissolves into the water.
2. Add 1 cup of the flour (or 2 dl) along with the salt and stir with a wooden spoon. Add another cup of flour (another 2 dl) and at this point the dough will start pulling away from the sides of the bowl and start feeling/looking like a sticky soft mass.
3. On a clean and sizable-ish surface, sprinkle a bit of the remaining flour. At this point, move the dough mass from the ball to your work space and knead it, continually adding the remaining flour and kneading steadily until the dough no longer feels sticky. You can also use a bread machine or dough hook on your stand-up mixer, but you’ll have to figure the time/choreography out yourselves, as I’ve always just used my hands. Old skool. Anyway, if your hand is clean and not sticky with bits of shaggy dough, you are ready and you don’t need to knead anymore. (say that aloud it sounds funny).
4. Oil a large bowl with olive oil or rapseed oil and roll the dough mass around in the bowl to moisten it with oil. Then tightly wrap the bowl with clingfilm (that’s saran wrap to Americans), and place the bowl in a warm spot. The dough will rise until it doubles, roughly 35-45 minutes.
5. Unwrap the dough. Punch it down and then remove it from the bowl. Knead again, using the heel of your hand, roughly 45 seconds to 1.5 minutes depending on your hand strength and kneading technique. Place it back in the bowl, wrap it again and put it back in the warm space to rise again for 1 hour.
6. At this point, after an hour’s second rise, if you haven’t gotten impatient and hungry for pizza and gone out to buy store-bought dough, pre-heat the oven to 250 c. Roll out the dough to the size pie(s) you’d like. Add your vodka sauce, fresh mozzarella and fresh cracked pepper.
Cook until the crust is golden, the cheese bubbly and you are salivating at the oven door staring!
Amy moved to Sweden in July 2011 with 1 child, 1 Swedish husband, 2 large suitcases and no idea what she was going to do with her new life in Swedish subtitles. Two years and two more children later, she is starting up a retro-modern children’s resale store and is YLC’s expert on all things entrepreneurial.
You can find out more about her experiences at www.expatmompreneur.com.