Sunday, May 15, 2011

Stuff It!

Hundreds of morels found by Jon's family
Hethyr:  You probably know by now that I am a huge fan of morel mushrooms and I, for one, hope that you get several morel recipes from me this spring!  That would imply that we’ve been successful on our hunts.  Unfortunately, I think it’s still too early in the mountains (at least where we’ve looked) because, as of two days ago, we were still getting snow.  I’m hoping to try again in a couple of weeks, but until then we’ll enjoy the dried morels we received as a gift yesterday from Jon’s dad, step-mom, sister and brother-in-law.  They had a VERY successful hunt last week, gathering about 650 between the four of them!  Of course they wouldn’t disclose where they found them or they would have had to kill us.  I put our little jar of dried ‘shrooms in the pantry and wondered what mouthwatering dish I’d eventually use them in.  Well, it didn’t take long to figure it out.  About 24 hours, as a matter of fact.

Today, while shopping for clients, I picked up some fresh, locally grown asparagus to have as a side dish with dinner.  I had some chicken and pork tenderloins thawing in the refrigerator and thought the asparagus would make a beautiful side for either.  Well, I know I’ve mentioned my odd cravings in prior posts and today was no exception.  I started fantasizing (yes, food is like porn to me, okay?) about calzones at one point, knowing that we had some leftover ricotta from a recipe earlier this week.  Then I started wondering what kind of scrumptious fillings I could think of to put in my fantasy calzone…?...?...  Then I remembered the morels.  And the chicken.  Yep and yep.

When I mentioned my idea to Jon, I had barely gotten the name of the dish out before he was in full agreement that he, too, wanted this more than anything.  Ever.  Okay, maybe I’m imagining that he wanted this as badly as I did, but I guess we’ll have to see what he says…

It is hard to describe the sense of satisfaction and wonder I feel when I start with a few basic ingredients, spend a little time in the kitchen and end up with a sensory masterpiece.  I think it was this feeling that led me to fall in love with cooking in the first place.  I remember how proud I was of my first fruit pizza which I made when family visited Jon and me during college.  I think you can see the pride in my face in the picture.  =)  

Although the fruit pizza was a far cry from my current culinary creations, I still get that same giddy feeling when a dish turns out well.  I got that warm, fuzzy feeling from these calzones… not fuzzy like those massive caterpillars which seem to have attached themselves to my eyebrows in this picture.

Chicken and Morel Calzones
Serves 2 to 4
I love coming up with new Spring recipes!
  • 1 dough recipe (see below)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 ounce dried morel mushrooms (use fresh if you’ve got ‘em!)
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sliced cippolini onions or shallots
  • 1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Asiago cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Fontina cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 3/4 cup cooked, shredded chicken
  • 1 egg
  • Splash of water

Prepare dough (see recipe below).  While dough is rising, place dried morels in a bowl with boiling water, cover and let reconstitute for 20-30 minutes.  Drain, reserving liquid for another use, and coarsely chop mushrooms.

Place pizza stone on center rack in oven and preheat oven to 400°F.  Sprinkle pizza peel liberally with cornmeal.

Heat olive oil in medium skillet over medium heat.  Add sliced onions or shallots and chopped morels and cook until onions or shallots are translucent.  Add balsamic vinegar and cook until evaporated.  Remove mixture from skillet and cool slightly.

In a large bowl, combine ricotta, Asiago, Fontina, thyme, chicken and mushroom mixture.  Season with salt and pepper.

Prepare egg wash:  In a small dish, combine 1 egg with a splash of water.  Whisk with a fork.

Place half of the filling onto half of each prepared dough circle, leaving an inch around the edge to close the calzone.  Brush around the edge of each calzone with the egg wash, fold the dough in half and press closed.  Roll the edge up on itself and press down again so filling doesn’t leak out.  Brush tops with egg wash, then cut a few vents so steam can escape.

Transfer calzones to pizza peel one at a time and slide onto the preheated pizza stone.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until tops are golden brown and insides are hot.  Cut in half, if desired, or keep the whole thing to yourself.  =)

Basic Pizza/Calzone Dough
Makes one 10-inch pizza or two calzones
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry active yeast
  • 6-8 tablespoons warm water (100°F to 110°F), divided
  • 2 1/4 ounces (about 1/2 cup) white whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/4 ounces (about 1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Cooking spray
  • Cornmeal
Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water and let stand for 5 minutes.

Place flour and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times. 

Pour yeast mixture through chute while processor is running, then add additional water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until dough forms a ball (see picture at left).  Process for 30 seconds.

After an hour, if the dough has risen enough, a couple of fingers pressed into dough will leave an indentation.  Punch down dough, cover and let rest 5 minutes.

FOR PIZZA:  While dough rises, preheat oven to 500°F.  Place pizza stone in the center of preheated oven about 30 minutes prior to baking pizza.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a 10-inch circle.  Place dough onto a pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal.  Top and bake according to recipe.

FOR CALZONES:  Divide dough into two equal pieces and one at a time, on a floured surface, flatten each dough round with a rolling pin until about 8 to 10-inches in diameter.  Fill and bake according to recipe.
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Jon:  I love the concept of a calzone.  It provides all the satisfaction of a pizza with its tasty browned dough, gooey cheese, saucy... um... sauciness.  But there's something extra cool about the calzone.  Maybe it's that a calzone is like a little gift-wrapped present... a doughy package with a surprise inside.  Feasting upon good food that has even better food stuffed inside of it is fun.  It's like biting into a chocolate donut and discovering a creamy filling.  Or grabbing a piece of chocolate-covered who-knows-what from a box, wondering if you'll hit the jackpot with a caramel or coconut center (or gag because you got the orange one).

Gumbys Pizza

Remember Tidal Wave gum, the gum with a gooey fruity liquid in the middle?  Your taste buds would go haywire for one glorious minute before you had to spit the bland, tasteless remains out of your mouth. Calzones also remind me of pepperoni rolls from Gumby's pizza in Champaign, IL.  They were great with a side of Pokey Sticks at 3am during the college years.  Pepperoni rolls were nothing special... in fact, they were pretty low quality.  But once again, there's just something about the mysterious appeal of food that hides inside of other food.

I think it's funny and fitting that "calzone" refers to "stockings" or "trousers" in some Italian dialects. Earlier today I suggested to Hethyr that we make a breakfast stocking sometime soon.  Of course, when I say "we" I really mean "she," but whatever.  A calzone with bacon, eggs, potatoes, cheese and black beans? Yum.  That would be a mighty fine trouser.

Anyway, this calzone was outstanding.  The morels and balsamic vinegar are what really did it for me.  But something else might satisfy your cravings, which is the beauty of the magnificently versatile calzone.  So my advice to you... go stuff something inside of something else and enjoy it.


  1. Sad to say, I have never made a calzone. But things are about to change! I do however, fully enjoy "stuffin' things" -- stuffed peppers, magic middle cookies, pita pockets . . .
    But really, Jon, I just couldn't resist typing "stuffin' things"!

  2. Hethyr,

    This blog made my mouth water! I love mushrooms! Unfortunately, I am not the greatest cook, but perhaps I can improve with your recipes! Love it


  3. More-elllls! I love it!

    However, my issue with calzones is that I'm always so excited to enjoy what is inside that I burn the heck out of the roof of my mouth! I improvised last night because I haven't ever found gluten-free calzones (will have to make myself) and just had a GF wild mushroom pizza with roasted garlic and arugula instead... if I fold it, it kind of looks like a calzone, or at least it did this morning when I was having the other half of it for breakfast (cold)!

    You guys crack me up... thanks for the laughs!

  4. Thanks so much for the comments, ladies!

    Mom, we can't believe that we didn't come up with that name. We are so disappointed in us! ;)

    Rebecca, I'm going to try to get some not-so-difficult recipes posted soon. I just realized the other day that a lot of the recipes I've posted lately can be fairly tough to make. Guess it's because this is my creative outlet these days, so I'm always trying to whip up something new and impressive... however, new and impressive doesn't have to mean difficult! Spring and summer produce is so wonderful on its own that I'm sure I'll be posting some simple but delicious recipes very soon. =)

    Jodie, I must admit that I burn the hell out of my mouth every time I eat a calzone. I just can't wait to dig in! If/when you try a GF calzone, I want details and pictures! I'm probably going to be using less flour with spring and summer produce just around the corner and you'll have a kitchen soon, right?!? Hopefully you'll get to enjoy some of the recipes coming up! =)

    Again, thanks for letting us know you're out there and reading!