Calzones for a Crowd
December 26, 2007
Cooking for one—when I was in college (though, let’s be honest, cooking was pretty rare during my college days) and when we were in D.C., while Kevin was in grad school and sometimes had night class—was tough. It’s difficult to buy portions, divide up recipes and, more than anything, to get excited about cooking for yourself. Cooking for two can have many of the same problems in terms of portions and recipe quantity, but, at this point, I’m pretty used to it.
Even though I’ve gotten the hang of cooking for two, I still revel in having an extra person or two (or ten) at the table when I’ve cooked breakfast, lunch or dinner. That’s one reason why I love Family Dinner so much. It’s also a major reason why I enjoy going home for the holidays. As you’ve probably noticed from the last few days’ posts, my status as a food lover does not make me unique in my family. Holidays often center around meals (and snacks and sports and card games, too).
While my mom had a file folder bulging with recipes to try over this long Christmas weekend, I was pretty sure I’d have my chance to cook for the crowd too. And while I absolutely adore cooking for a crowd, it’s also not without its challenges. Especially when the appetites you’re aiming to please span more than fifty years and various likes and dislikes.
As Sunday night rolled around, I got to thinking about a dinner that would suit the evening, which was going to be anchored by an important Vikings game and a blizzard, and the appetites. The answer came to me: calzones. I was looking for something that involved a “project” of sorts—something I might not do on an ordinary night. Making pizza dough fit the bill. And I definitely wanted something cozy. A packet of dough swollen with delicious ingredients satisfied that criterion. And, of course, I had to have something that would please everyone. By stuffing four calzones with different fillings, I had my perfect meal.
We settled on the following calzones: (1) Italian sausage and spinach, with mozzarella, (2) Canadian bacon and cheddar, (3) roasted peppers and mushrooms with fontina, and (4) pepperoni and mozzarella. An informal poll after dinner revealed that the meat lovers were satisfied (more with the sausage than with the pepperoni, which just wasn’t bulky enough to fill the calzone’s pocket), the mushroom hater had plenty to enjoy despite the calzone featuring roasted veggies, and the more traditional palates weren’t pushed outside of their comfort zones (Canadian bacon was the favorite there). A great success. And infinitely adaptable for one, two or ten—both in terms of numbers and appetites.
Step One: make your favorite pizza dough (such as this one)
Step Two: make your favorite tomato sauce (such as this one)
Step Three: choose your fillings (see above for our choices the other night)
Step Four: Preheat the oven to 350. Split the dough in half, rolling each half into a 9-inch circle. Slather one half of each round of dough with a thin layer of sauce, leaving at least a 1-inch border. Top the sauce with the filling of your choice (really, the bulkier the better, because the filling will cook down in the oven). Fold the empty side of the dough over the stuffed side to form a half moon. Pinch and crimp the edges to seal the calzone. Transfer the calzones to a baking sheet. Brush the tops of the calzones with olive oil and pierce each one several times with a sharp knife. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the calzones are golden.