[Recipe] A Niman Ranch Pizza 20 Years in the Sausage-Making

We fancy sausage. Italian sausage. With peppers and onions. And some mozzarella and sauce too!

When it comes to sausage-making, we are all eyes if the link is Niman Ranch.  Over the years we have gotten to know Sarah Willis and her humanely and sustainably-raised beef, lamb and pork at Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink and most recently Genuine Pizza® and Harry’s Pizzeria®.  We believe so strongly in Willis’ mission that we made a commitment last year to exclusively source all our pizzerias’ pork and beef from Niman Ranch and have since then rolled out new menu items like Italian Sausage Pizza so our guests have more ways to enjoy them.  On special occasions, we are able to experience the roots of where it all began in person and reaffirm why we do what we do in the first place.  Next month we will have another such opportunity at the 20th annual Hog Farmer Appreciation Dinner celebrating the farmers living Niman Ranch’s mission on the ground with a feast cooked by a handful of its favorite supportive chefs.

Click here to watch culinary assistant Brandon Green make the sausage pie shine at Genuine Pizza Aventura.

“When I was first invited to visit the original Willis family farm and cook at the 2011 hog farmer appreciation dinner, going there and seeing where it all started that was the ah ha moment for me,” Michael explains. “We work really hard to operate our restaurants and create experiences for guests – and take care of our people. It’s all consuming. When we can get out and make a personal connection it really is everything, especially having enjoyed working with their ingredients for so long and in so many different ways.”

From September 6-9, Michael, Brad and I will make a trip to Iowa for a weekend of activities that connect the dots between source and recipient culminating in Saturday’s feast, a collaboration with chefs including Cal Peternell, Andrea Reusing, Ann Kim, Charles Phan and Todd Fisher.  Follow along on the Michael’s Genuine Instagram for an inside look at the people and the place that makes us feel good about this Italian Sausage Pizza in more ways than just taste.  Make it at home or enjoy it at a Genuine Pizza or Harry’s Pizzeria near you!

Italian Sausage Pizza with Peppers & Onions, Tomato Sauce & Mozzarella

Makes 1, 12-inch pizza

1 ball Pizza Dough (recipe follows)
1/4 cup tomato sauce (use your favorite)
4 oz mozzarella cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup sliced roasted red bell pepper
1/4 cup yellow onions, sautéed until translucent
1/2 cup Niman Ranch Italian Sausage, sliced 1/2-inch thick on the bias

Pre-heat the oven to 500F.

Place pizza stone or baking pan on the middle rack and preheat it along with the oven for at least a good 20 minutes.

To prepare 1, 12-inch pizza, dip the ball of dough into a little flour, shake off the excess, and put the dough on a clean, lightly floured surface. Stretch the dough with your hands, turning the ball as you press down the center. Continue spreading the dough into a 12-inch circle either with your hands or a rolling pin. Leave the dough slightly thick so the topping does not seep through. Dust a pizza paddle (if you don’t have a paddle you can use a rimless cookie sheet as a substitute) with flour and slide it under the pizza dough; it’s easiest to top the pizza with the dough already on the paddle. Using the back of a large spoon, and starting from the center and spiraling your way out, distribute the tomato sauce in a thin, even layer. You want to see some of the dough peeking through. Sprinkle the mozzarella on top, then the peppers and onions and finally the sausage. Slide the prepared pizza onto the hot pizza stone or baking sheet and bake until the crust is properly browned, about 10 minutes. Check the bottom of the pizza to make sure it has been cooked properly—it should be rich brown and burnished. Transfer the pizza to a cutting board and cut into slices. Serve immediately.

Pizza Dough

Makes enough dough for 4, 12-inch pizzas

½ cup (120 ml) beer, such as lager or pilsner, at room temperature
2 tablespoons mild honey
1 (1/4 ounces/7 g) packet active dry yeast
3 cups plus 6 tablespoons (455 g) bread flour, plus more for stretching the dough
1/3 cup (40 g) whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for oiling the bowl

In a small bowl combine the beer and honey with 1 cup (240 ml) room temperature water. The beer will foam a great deal when being poured into the measuring up, so let the foam subside before adding more liquid to get to the right volume. Sprinkle the yeast over the liquid and stir gently to dissolve. Let the mixture stand until it starts to foam, 5 to 10 minutes.

In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine both types of flour and the salt. With the mixer running on low speed, add the oil, then the yeast mixture, increase the mixer speed to medium, and mix until the dough comes cleanly away from the sides of the bowl, 3 to 5 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead by hand for 1 to 2 minutes. The dough should pretty sticky and stick to your hands and the counter. It should leave behind a sticky trail; if you think the dough is a bit too wet, it is probably just perfect. Gather the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl; turn it over to coat with the oil. Cover the dough with a clean, damp towel and let it rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

Gently punch down the dough, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in the refrigerator overnight and for up to 48 hours. (You can start the dough the night before you plan to make the pizza.)

Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a clean, lightly floured counter and knead gently for a few minutes. Divide the dough into 4 equal balls, about 8 ounces (225 g) each—the size of large tangerines. Roll the ball under the palm of your hand until the top of the dough is smooth and firm. Use immediately or wrap the dough balls individually in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 2 weeks. If using right away, lightly dust the dough with four, and cover with plastic wrap to prevent the dough from drying out. Let the dough come to room temperature, for about 1 hour, before using.

Hands! You Might Need Both for 3 New Focaccia Sandwiches at Genuine Pizza

A tasty line up of new dishes are in the window at Genuine Pizza, including a first for Michael’s pizzeria menu… sandwiches!  Featuring our fresh-baked focaccia, three roasty, toasty bundles offer a favorite for everyone including Chicken Pesto, Meatball and Fresh & Roasted Veggie.  You’ll find them beginning today for $12 at both Aventura and Atlanta locations, in addition to two new pizzas — Italian Sausage and Four Cheese with Spinach, a Baby Spinach Salad, and punchy Roasted Red Pepper Spread, a snack served with focaccia soldiers.

Yeah, baby. New Spinach Salad with tomato, walnuts, roasted red peppers, egg, bacon, feta dressing.

“We’re always looking for ways to make the menu better,” says Bradley Herron, TGHG Culinary Director. “Everything’s on the table, all the time.  We felt like there was an opportunity to take a look at the things we love as much as our guests, and build on that in new ways.  We spend a lot of time and energy making really delicious focaccia in house and wanted to highlight it more, so developing a few sandwiches just made good sense.”

Sourcing all beef and pork from Niman Ranch is one such opportunity.  Spicy Pepperoni and Short Rib are among the most popular items on the Genuine Pizza menu period, let alone pizzas, so the team developed the Meatball Sandwich and Italian Sausage Pizza to showcase their responsible-raised, high quality products in a delicious new format.

Visit genuinepizza.com for the menu including new items, restaurant hours and locations, and to order online for delivery or takeout.

Genuine Charcuterie, a Meaty Primer from the Rock

Thomas and his Biltong, a south African jerky that is even better “wet,” or not taken full term.

We have some seriously meaty situations going on in the Genuine kitchens right now, and all the chefs have their hands in somehow.  From MGFD Miami’s chef de cuisine Bradley Herron’s fruitful aftermath of a class he took with chef Danny at Harry’s Pizzeria (who gets their own action through pop-up chef leftovers,) down to MGFD Grand Cayman, where chef Thomas Tennant has already cured one and is onto his second leg of prosciutto.  That’s where we focus today,  curious about the salty, sometimes spicy details of how our island-ensconced chef  cures these meats into my favorite snacks, from biltong to ‘nduja.  I sat down with chef Thomas to learn about water loss, humidity and other meat-curing technicalities that make the finished products so delicious.

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Housemade Sausages & Dogs for Tonight’s Legendary Food Cart

Thomas' sausage smells great!

Tonight Camana Bay hosts singer/songwriter John Legend for a concert on The Festival Green off the harbour, so MGFD Grand Cayman executive chef Thomas Tennant thought what better excuse then to roll out our food cart!  I popped into the kitchen last night to find everyone hard at work after my late bar meal of house salad with smoked yellowfin tuna and roasted local turnips, and our tuna tartare – a favorite Schwartz dish rarely seen on the menu at home.

Eddie's pigskins before & after (now ready for the frier.)

Apparently afterhours is when all the action takes place, namely prepping housemade pig products.   The first stage of chef de cuisine Eddie’s famous chicharron was in the turned-off oven drying out, a two-day trick that makes for the fluffiest skins I’ve ever tasted.  Thomas was filling natural pig casings with all sorts of sausage mixtures including one made from the restaurant’s pate, another of Jamaican jerk pork with allspice, as well as barbecue pork.  Merguez was on his to-do list, as well as hot dog – a more complicated preparation which according to Michael includes double grinding, freezing, and blending. I’m guessing the smaller, angel’s hair-like sheep’s intestine he was untangling was for the dogs.

"The world's most tangled shoelace!!" says Thomas.

Even if you don’t have tickets to tonight’s 7:00 p.m. concert, you can still patronize the MGFD Cart, which will be rolled on The Crescent in Camana Bay beginning at 5:00 p.m., hopefully with a shorter line!  I’ll be there to document the finished products, trying not to 86 our menu all by myself.  And, since meat in tube form without beer doesn’t really count, I recommend washing it all down with Schonramer, Gold Fest (Schonram, Germany 16.9 oz,) my favorite new beer now on our list here in Cayman.  Sign me up for a sippy cup!

The venue in the distance, from our apartment balcony. Michael thinks we should sell seats!