Thursday, October 5, 2023

Chef Collaborations: A Recipe for Success


Just back from cooking at Burning Man, Chef Pablo Gil of Bennu volunteered his pizza oven for our project with Chef Ryan McNab, a new chef just in from London. Chef Michael Coon got us all together. I came for the food but really, who could resist playing in the kitchen at Bennu?

First we had one of Pablo’s pizzas, our favorite: the Marinara with Stracciatella. Stracciatella is the inside of the Burrata; our favorite Italian cheese. We also watched as a couple devoured Chef Pablo’s Pibil Cauliflower, which is a total work of art. Bennu is located at Jesus #20 in San Miguel de Allende.

Chef Ryan McNab brought something new to the table; something that chefs Pablo Gil and Michael Coon, this food writer and three unsuspecting customers had never tried before: Panuozzo. A Panuozzo is a street food from the Campagna region of Italy. It’s much like a pizza sandwich in that the base is made from leftover pizza dough. As a chef in London, Ryan made them regularly so one might say he’s an expert. The pizza dough is stretched out and puffs up when it’s cooked in the pizza oven. The fillings are as limitless as that of a Mexican torta. We also decided along the way that they can be stuffed with sweet ingredients and made into a dessert.

We loved the taste of Ryan’s Panuozzo because it was both crispy and soft. Ryan offered this explanation “The Neapolitans tend not to bake them crispy and they were more like a soft pita. What makes mine extra crunchy is that I put the whole thing back in the oven for the second bake. As far as I know, this isn’t something that is normally done. I think it was a case of me doing it my way before I fully understood the whole concept, creating a “happy accident.”

And happy we were as Ryan made us two different types of Panuozzo: The Mushroom Panuozzo - a twice baked, slow fermented Panuozzo bread stuffed with thinly sliced portobello mushrooms, mozzarella, sliced garlic, black pepper, thyme, grated Parmesan and white truffle oil and the Pepperizo Panuozzo - a twice baked, slow fermented Panuozzo bread stuffed with mozzarella, sliced pepperoni, minced chorizo, red onion, grated Parmesan, black pepper and after the second bake crisp iceburg lettuce before folding and slicing to serve.

Three of Pablo’s customers were so fascinated with the results they wanted to try one so Ryan went back to the kitchen and made another round, serving his very first customers there in Pablo’s restaurant.

Look for Ryan’s Panuozzo coming soon to SMA.