Maritime comfort food – garlic cheese fingers

In the maritimes, garlic cheese fingers with sweet and tangy donair sauce for dipping is a popular treat at many pizzerias. Apparently, this is a local phenomenon, the likes of which does not exist or is not popular in the central or western provinces of Canada. Every now and then I crave a really good garlic cheese finger, along with a super garlicky caesar salad – yum! and um, pass the breath mints afterwards.

This winter, I learned how to garlic cheese finger at home. Yes, I just used garlic cheese finger as a verb. That part was easy, but what was in the donair sauce? I was hesitant to find out…did I really want to know? I thought mayo might be involved….I was wrong. It is kind of like watching sausage being made – do you really want to know? Well, the truth wasn’t so bad. Again, this is a special occasion kind of treat, to be shared with friends. I made some for my Dad’s birthday dinner, along with some homemade spaghetti with meat sauce and a salad, and it was a hit. So, once again, don’t judge. I don’t eat like this everyday 🙂

Garlic Cheese Fingers with Donair Sauce:

pizza dough (feel free to use your own recipe, or even a store crust if you like)

2 cups all purpose flour (you can sub in up to 1 cup of whole wheat flour)

1 tsp sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons quick rising yeast

1/4 tsp. salt

3/4 cup hot water (about 120 degree F)

2 tsp olive oil

method: sprinkle 1 tsp sugar into hot water then sprinkle yeast in as well. Let stand for 10 minutes.

In large mixing bowl (I use the paddle attachment here) combine flour and salt. Turn the mixer on low, and slowly pour in water/yeast mixture. Add olive oil. Mix for about 2 minutes until ingredients are thoroughly combined. Change paddle attachment to dough hook (if you don’t have one, just knead on the counter – that works just as well and burns more calories). Knead dough for about 8  minutes. If dough is sticky, you can add a touch more flour. Form dough into a nice smooth ball and put into a large greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap, then a dish towel. Let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, but longer is OK, too. If your kitchen is cool and drafty, try letting your dough rise in the oven (the oven is cool of course). Boil a saucepan of water, and once it is boiling, simply place the pot of boiling water next to your bowl of dough in the oven. There! You have a nice warm, humid place for your dough to rise.

After your dough has risen, pat or roll it out into the pizza pan of your choice. I use a stone baking sheet. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes or so. Now spread some garlic butter on your pizza dough. I combine 2 or 3 cloves of fresh garlic (minced) with about 1/4 cup softened butter. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Spread that evenly on your dough and now sprinkle liberally with mozzarella cheese. How much cheese is up to you. I don’t normally measure…I think it is entirely up to the chef! For that matter feel free to add a pinch or dried oregano , too, or what ever flavour profile you like.

Bake in the bottom third of a 500 degree F oven for 10 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and crust is golden and puffed.

Donair Sauce:

1 can of sweetened condensed milk (a can is about 2/3 of a cup)

1/4 cup white vinegar

3 or 4 cloves of fresh garlic, minced

Yep. That’s it. Combine the above 3 ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

I have used fresh garlic in this sauce, and roasted garlic as well. I did prefer the roasted garlic, since it is so mild, so if your oven happens to be on, throw a head of garlic in some aluminum foil and roast it in the oven for 45 minutes or until it is very soft. You can then literally squeeze the cloves into the sauce. Roasted garlic is also great in mashed potatoes, too. I would also note that spreading olive oil and garlic over the pizza dough is equally delicious, and somewhat more heart healthy. Enjoy a taste of the maritimes!

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