Friday, January 28, 2011

The Joy of Focaccia

Peter Reinahart's Focaccia
via Josh at The Food Section, we have Russ Parsons discussing the wonders of properly prepared focaccia:
Real focaccia is a lot closer to pizza than it is to anything that could be used to make a sandwich. In fact, if you imagine a slightly thicker, crisp-crusted, rectangular pizza with very restrained toppings, you're just about there.

But although pizza can stand in for a full meal, focaccia is more of a snack, or at most an appetizer. In Italy, it's a popular walking-around food.

Also, although cold pizza may have a certain raffish charm, focaccia really needs to be eaten when it's hot to be at its best. It stales very quickly. Though I'm enjoying the slice of focaccia topped with Gorgonzola that I'm eating for lunch while writing this, in no way is it nearly as good as it was last night right out of the oven.

Then, I served it with Champagne to start a dinner party. Served warm, the crust was crisp while the interior, rich with olive oil, was tender. The cheese had melted and browned, and the flavor was much more mellow than you might expect from a blue. The whole thing was deeply savory and made a perfect foil served alongside radishes from the garden and some thinly sliced dried sausage.
It may seem quite banal to point out that focaccia is best right out of the oven... what isn't? Some things actually, but that's a bit of a digression... the point being that with focaccia it's a much larger drop off than with something like pizza or your average loaf of bread. This is not to say that cold/old focaccia isn't good... it certainly is... it's just significantly different (and much much more awesome) when it's fresh. I definitely feel like our home baking of it was a revelation, and I've yet to have anything close at a restaurant or bakery.

Parsons provides two recipes, including a Reinhart one that is quite similar to the one I've blogged twice. So if you're interested in making it focaccia at home...  and you should be, since it's dead simple... those are good places to start.

As an aside, I'm still shocked as to how disappointing food photos I took with my point and shoot are compared to ones taken since I got a DSLR. Undoubtedly, part of it is that I've gotten better skill wise, but sadly a lot of it really does seem to be equipment based.