Growing up, we often ate Stouffers, like most people my age I know. Just today, I was reminiscing with a friend about lima beans or brussel sprouts in butter sauce and frozen lasagna. I clearly remember my sisters enjoying the welsh rarebit, an aged cheddar sauce spooned on top of toast - and we all happily ate the French bread pizza. And we certainly weren't the only ones.
A colleague of mine always buys Stouffer's French bread pizza when her sisters come into town and stay with her. It's not something she eats every day, or even once a month. It's a special treat that reminds her of her childhood and family.
I didn't make Bon Appetit's Eggplant Marinara Flatbread with Stouffer's French bread pizza in mind. But after a couple of bites, it began to click. The crunchy, yet yielding Pugliese bread felt familiar. And even though I substituted smoky mozzarella for shredded - the cheese was still melted and smooth - salty and complex. The goat cheese tasted creamy against the tangy, homemade marinara sauce. Despite the good intention of gourmet ingredients, the flatbread summoned up a terribly recognizable favorite; a very happy coincidence.
Gourmet French Bread Pizza
Adapted from Bon Appetit's (October 2010) Eggplant Marinara Flatbread
Serves 6 appetizers, 3 entree
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
1 eggplant, sliced into 1/2 - 3/4" thick rounds
Salt/pepper to taste
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 small carrot, diced
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 pinch granulated sugar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
14 oz crushed tomatoes
1 square or rectangular Pugliese or Ciabatta loaf, sliced in half horizontally
2 oz goat cheese, crumbled
4 oz smoked mozzarella, thinly sliced
1/4 cup basil, chopped
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place the eggplant rounds in the pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover for 10 minutes, flipping the rounds half-way through. Remove the rounds to a plate and reserve.
While the eggplant is beginning to cook, sauté the chopped onion and garlic in 1 teaspoon of olive oil over medium-high heat in a small sauce pan or pot. Once the onion is tender, about 4 minutes, add the carrots. Saute for another 2 minutes and add the paste, sugar and spices. Allow the flavors to come together, about 2 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes and simmer until you are ready to assemble the pizza. Taste for seasoning before use.
Clean out the eggplant skillet with a paper towel. Drizzle the bread side (not crust) of the Pugliese or Ciabatta with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Heat the skillet over medium-high heat and add the bread, dough-side down, and allow to toast golden brown (about 2 minutes).
Remove and place the bread on a aluminum foil lined baking sheet. Top the bread with 1/2 of your tomato sauce, smearing the surface evenly. Sprinkle with 1/2 of the basil. Top with the goat cheese crumbles and then add the eggplant rounds in an even layer. Top with the smoked mozzarella, the remaining tomato sauce and the remaining basil.
Bake for 15 - 17 minutes, until the mozzarella is melted and the pizza is heated through. Slice into 6 squares (a serrated knife helps) and serve hot.