A Taste of Italy: Andrea Michaelson

It was while she was enrolled in architecture school at USC that LA-based interior designer Andrea Michaelson fell in love with all things al dente. "I met a young man who was from Italy, and ended up spending a considerable amount of time there," she says. "I was lucky: I had a lot of exposure to good food early on." The legacy of her transatlantic culinary studies prompted Michaelson and her husband Marc, a retired stock investor, to install a wood-fired oven in their expansive Beverly Hills residence. The stainless steel-heavy kitchen is where Michaelson spends much of her time, prepping for the frequent dinner parties the couple hosts. Domaine scored an invite to a recent gathering, along with the couple's close friends: Gerry Bross and Peter Grisdela of Hollywood Sierra Kitchens, Restoration Hardware trade specialist Suma Lipari and her husband, Salvatore Lipari, and Sotheby's real estate broker Lydia Giraldo. The guests enjoyed apertifs in the Old World-flavored living room before adjourning to the wisteria-flanked outdoor dining room, whose stark, cement walls stand in contrast to the house's many ornate, classical European moments. "A writer friend of mine calls the decor Bladerunner Borgia," reveals Michaelson, who--ever-the-gracious-hostess--shares three of the menu's recipes below. dh-entertaining-andrea-michelson-title-03
Il Fustino Olive Oil "Having a high-end, extra-virgin olive oil is crucial. My favorite brand to use is Santa Barbara's Il FustinoDepending on the flavor I want to create, I use their Sicilian, basil, or garlic olive oils." From $16, Il Fustino
dh-entertaining-andrea-michelson-title-01 Ingredients 3 ½ cups mixed wild mushrooms 3 ½ cups baby button mushrooms, almond cap, or almond top mushrooms 5 baby potatoes, boiled and peeled 4 garlic cloves, crushed 4 tbs fresh sage, chopped 4 tbs olive oil 8 tbs heavy cream Salt and black pepper Parchment paper 1. Preheat oven to 400 F.  Cut four square sheets of parchment paper, about 14-inches long and wide. (Note: the size is not critical--they can be smaller, and I usually trim them later) 2. Wipe the mushrooms clean using a wet cloth or a little brush. Leave some whole and cut some into large pieces, depending on their size. Ideally they should all be roughly the same size. 3. Cut the baby potatoes into 3/8-inch-thick slices, after boiling and cooling them to a lukewarm temperature. 4. In a large bowl, gently toss together all of the ingredients together using your hands. Take care not to break the mushrooms. Adjust the amount of salt and pepper to taste. 5. Divide the mix between the parchment paper sheets. Lift the edges and scrunch them together at the top to create tight bundles, then secure with oven-proof string. Tie string into a knot or a little bow. Place the parcels onto a baking sheet. 6. Cook parcels for 17 minutes. Take out and leave to settle for 1 minute. Serve the parcels sealed, so that guests open them up themselves. Serves 4 dh-entertaining-andrea-michelson-title-04 Ingredients 1 8-lb lamb shoulder 3-4 garlic cloves, sliced ¼ cup olive oil ¼ cup red wine 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary pulled off the stem and 1 sprig left whole 1. Pierce the lamb with a knife and insert garlic slices. 2. Combine remaining ingredients to make the marinade, then put the garlic-studded lamb shoulder and marinade in a ziplock bag or shallow dish and let rest overnight in the refrigerator. You may need to add more oil and wine to cover the meat so that the meat is submerged. 3. After marinating overnight, heat the oven as hot as it goes, and then let the heat fall to a moderate temperature, roughly 350-400F. 4. Place the lamb in a terracotta dish or another heat-proof container and add some fresh rosemary. Let it roast in the oven for approximately 30 minutes per pound for medium-doneness. (I prefer to cook the lamb in my wood-burning oven because I enjoy the smoky, barbecue taste it adds.) Serves 10 dh-entertaining-andrea-michelson-title-02  
Ingredients for Tomato Sauce and Topping: Ingredients for Pizza Dough:
  • High-end extra-grade olive oil (I love Il Fustino, as mention above)
  • Coarse salt (I prefer to use Fluer de Sel de Camargue)
  • Canned San Marzano peeled tomatoes (I like Cento San Marzano Peeled Tomatoes and San Marzano Whole Peeled Tomatoes.)
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese  (I like Fior di Latte, Galbani Mozzarella Fresca, or Antichi Sapori Mozzarella di Bufala Campana)
  • Fresh grated Pecorino or Reggiano Parmesan Cheese
  • Fresh basil (wait to chop until right before you use it in order to maintain its freshness and keep the vibrant color)
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • Toppings (it's fun to have an assortment--from grilled vegetables to pepperoni)
  • 1 2.2 lb bag of Caputo flour
  • 1 teaspoon of active fresh yeast. If you cannot find fresh yeast, you can use ½ teaspoon of dry yeast, diluted in 600 ml (about 2 ½ cups) of room temperature water (around 79F)
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  1. Make the (uncooked) sauce: Puree one can of peeled tomatoes into a food mill or blender.  I prefer the former, as it picks up the seeds and prevents it from entering the sauce, unlike the blender.  Add one crushed garlic clove and salt to taste. 2. Prepare the pizza dough: add water to a mixing bowl, stir in salt to dissolve. Mix in yeast with your hands and swirl to dissolve. 3. Add flour. Mix for about 8 minutes on low in a Kitchen Aid type mixer with a paddle attachment. 4. Remove the dough from the bowl and cover with a wet, warm dish towel for 45 minutes to 1 hour. 5. Lightly oil a large bowl. Form the dough into a ball, transfer to the bowl, and turn to lightly coat with oil. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. 6. Remove plastic and pound dough with your fist, then return to the refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours (and a maximum of 24 hours) or until 30 minutes before it's time to prepare pizza. 7. Divide dough into 8 equal pieces.  Shape pieces into balls and place on a lightly floured surface, leaving a few inches between the balls. I place this into my warming drawer for about 20 minutes, but if you do not have a warming drawer, you can cover the dough with towels to keep it warm; that way the dough starts to rise naturally. 8. Once the dough has risen a bit, I start to stretch it out (or you can roll it) into a circular shape.  Use your fingers to pat it down into a circular pizza shape. 9. I love cooking my pizzas in my wood-burning oven, if you have one too: place the dough on a pizza peel covered with semolina flour so that the pizza can easily slide. Then place the tomato sauce, using only about 1/3 of the sauce, and add it to the middle of the dough, avoiding the ends. I spread it evenly with a spatula, then add some thinly sliced fresh Mozzarella cheese on top of the sauce. If you do not have a wood-burning oven: you can use your oven at its highest temperature. Place the pizza on a pizza stone, and add the sauce and cheese as directed above. If you don't have a pizza stone, you can place the pizza directly on the grill. 10. I cook the pizza for about 3-5 minutes in my wood-burning oven, because it's so hot.  If you do not have this type of oven, cook until the crust is crunchy and the cheese is melted and bubbling. 11. Drizzle some salt, olive oil, and fresh basil on top, cut with a pizza knife, and serve. Yields 8 pizza doughs   Photographs: Andrew Arthur