Suzi's Blog

Sincronizada: Ham and Cheese and …

Breakfast in Texas offers opportunities for diversity. First, find a good, really good Tex-Mex spot. Like Curra’s Grill in South Austin. Then peruse the menu, find something you’ve never heard of, and give it a fling. Like a sincronizada [yes, “synchronized”].

It looks like a quesadillas but only a Tex-Mex amateur would confuse the two. A sincronizada is a tortilla-based sandwich, using wheat tortillas that are layered sandwich style instead of being folded quesadilla style. The key ingredients in a sincronizada are one or two slices of ham and cheese. Ideally Oaxaca cheese.

To make this “sandwich,” just add the ingredients and  grill until the cheese melts. Consume at once.

Variations abound. The Tex-Mex versions this side of the border often have beans added and perhaps use a different cheese like Monterey Jack. The dish may be topped off with sour cream, salsa, or guacamole for richness.

At Curra’s a special ingredient is tiny chunks of already cooked potatoes. Melted cheese, ham, and soft potatoes. That was a perfect start to my day.

You can toss together you own sincronizada in moments. It’s a great alternative to that fast food breakfast you or your kids have been craving.

After the Sandwich There is the Piadina

There are sandwiches and then there are piadinas (pee-yah-DEN-ahs). Never heard of them? Neither had I until I picked up a copy of Grizzled Pizzas and Piadinas by Craig Priebe. Suzen and I are pizza fans so I truly bought the book for new pizza recipes, but we are now enthralled by the piadinas.

This is a Northern Italian flatbread sandwich, with a disk of dough that is flattened then hot grilled for a minute on each side. An infinite variety of fillings can be applied to the middle of the grilled dough, the piadina is folded, and the warm creature is devoured. Start to finish, it’s about an hour to make the dough, let it rest as needed, then grill and stuff. While the dough is resting, you have the perfect time to raid your refrigerator for filling options.

Not only are the filling possibilities endless, but so too are dough combinations. The dough ideas from the book inlcude:

  • Classic Unflavored
  • Jalapeno
  • Tomato Basil
  • Yellow Corn

With those ideas as a starter, you are free to craft a dough that can either complement or contrast with the piadina contents. Preibe offers classic fillings:

  • Soppresata with Parmesan Crisps and Honey
  • Eggplant and Peppers with Tomato Vinaigrette
  • Grilled Chicken with Peso, Pine Nuts, and Olives
  • Hard Salami with Greens and Fried Eggs
  • Deli Meets with Olive Relish
  • Grilled Cheese with Tomato and Basic
  • Pancetta, Arugula and Tomato

I was personally in favor of that last one, an Italian BLT. But we had spectacular leftovers that seemed destined for fate in our very own piadina. So, we made the jalapeno dough, then filled it with thinly sliced steak topped with guacamole and onions. Add some good Italian beer and you have dinner for two.

I’ve included the recipe for the jalapeno dough below, along with the grilling instructions. This dough is a light green color with some heat thanks to the combination of cilantro and jalapenos. For classic dough, just leave out the jalapenos and cilantro, but increase the water from ¼ to ½ cup.

Just off the grill, the bare piadina looks big and very likely inflexible. But while still warm, there is no difficulty in topping with filling and then folding over. The dough is thick, but not puffy, and not really chewy. The feel and texture of the grilled bread alone are very satisfying. When you start sampling your filling, you hunger cravings will be soon be ameliorated.

I know that you’ve just gotten used to the idea of panini and now piadinas come along. I won’t say which is better, but when I want something new and exciting, I headed am down the piadina path.

 

Green Piadina Dough

Yield: 4 piadinas

Ingredients:

12 slices of jalapeno chile peppers
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
¼ cup water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 ½ cups unbleached flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 teaspoon for oiling the dough

Preparation:

Place the peppers in a blender or food processor with the cilantro, water, and lemon juice and blend until smooth.

Add the flour, salt, and olive oil. Use a pulse action until the dough comes together. Continue to pulse the dough in quick bursts for about 3 minutes. This technique keeps the dough from overheating.

When the dough is ready, it will be soft, smooth, and firm. Lightly oil the ball of dough with olive oil. Wrap in plastic and let rest for about 30 minutes. This resting period allows the gluten to relax, creating soft, tender dough easy to roll out.

Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll them into rounds about 8 inches in diameter.

To grill, heat the cooking surface — a flat griddle or skillet or cast-iron frying pan — on medium heat, until it is extremely hot. Test with a drop of water, which will sputter across the surface quickly disappear, and the surface smoke lightly.

Cook one disk at a time. Lay a disk on the hot surface. If the cooking surface is hot enough, the dough will not stick. If it does stick remove the dough, and spray the cooking surface lightly with vegetable oil, or moisten a  crumpled paper towel with a drop of vegetable oil and wipe the surface of the grill.

Cook the dough for about 1 minute or until bubbles form on the surface.

Lift the piadina with tongs to check its doneness. The cooked side should have charred little bubbles. Turn over, and cook for another 1 minute, until the bottom is a light brown.

Stack the cooked piadinas in a clean towel and wrap them so they stay warm.  For best results serve within 30 minutes of cooking.

Source: Grilled Pizzas and Piadinas by Craig Priebe