Gourmandistan

Pizza is always perfect, especially when pressed for time or fridge space

Red sauce. Pork sausage. Mozzarella. Black olives. Scallions. Shaved garlic. Parmesan.We have several go-to meals in Gourmandistan, often emulating take-out or delivery dishes. (Our usual remote location makes these options impractical.) While some may swing in and out of rotation, something that almost never goes unmentioned as a quick and easy meal option is pizza.

Sure, sometimes “quick” means Steve has to spend part of his day making pizza dough. But we usually have a couple of chunks sitting in the freezer, as Steve makes more than we need each time because he knows they won’t be sitting around very long. We’re constantly coming up with different combinations, depending on the time of year and what in the refrigerator needs using up.

Red sauce. Mozzarella. Caramelized onion, fennel and garlic. Sweet peppers. Capers. Anchovies. Olives.

Sometimes we go for the standard red sauce with meatballs or sausage, but there might be some peppers, onions, anchovies and capers that need dealing with. We’ve also used up leftover red pepper sauce and lamb “Bolognese” to good effect.

In spring and summer, we often go for the white sauce which makes a delicious base for whatever vegetables are in season.

With a little bit of prep (and a freezer full of tomato sauce, meatballs, etc.), Gourmandistan can get an amazing pie baked in about as much time as it would take to get one delivered. (That is, if we could get delivery.)

Here are some of our favorites (ingredients listed from bottom to top):

  • Red sauce. Meatball halves (partially cooked). Shredded mozzarella. Caramelized sliced onion, fennel (optional) and garlic.
  • Red sauce. Shredded mozzarella. Caramelized sliced onion, red and yellow pepper slivers and garlic. Rinsed salted capers. Anchovies. Kalamata olives.
  • White sauce with rosemary. Sliced boiled potatoes. Caramelized onions or leeks and garlic. Shredded duck confit, slices of partially cooked veal sausage or chopped country ham (optional).
  • White sauce. Sliced boiled potatoes (optional). Shredded mozzarella. Julienned scallions/ramps/baby leeks tossed with a small amount of olive oil, shredded prosciutto, black pepper, garlic slivers and grated Parmesan.
  • White sauce. Sliced boiled potatoes (optional). Shredded mozzarella. Lacinato kale ribbons tossed with a small amount of olive oil, black pepper and grated Parmesan.
  • White sauce. Mix of shredded fresh and/or smoked mozzarella. Sautéed chopped peppers, onion, fresh corn kernels and garlic. At the beach, we added peeled shrimp to the corn mixture at the very end of sautéing.
  • White sauce. Buffalo mozzarella. Shaved asparagus tossed with spring onions, garlic, chives and olive oil.

With so much variety leading to so much tastiness, Gourmandistan seems to never get tired of pizza. We’re sure to have many in the near future, so we’d certainly appreciate some novel suggestions. Our only request is “no pineapple”—for some reason, Gourmandistan has never quite gone Hawaiian.

PIZZA

  • Servings: makes 3 approximately 10-inch pizzas
  • Print

(dough recipe adapted from Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food)

In a large mixing bowl, stir together:

  •  2 tsp. dry yeast (one packet)
  • ½ c. lukewarm water

Mix in:

  • ¼ c. unbleached white AP flour
  • ¼ c. rye flour

Allow this mixture to proof, until very bubbly, about 30 minutes. Mix together in another bowl:

  • 3-¼ c. unbleached white flour
  • 1 tsp. salt

Stir this into the yeast and flour mixture along with:

  • ¾ c. cold water
  • ¼ c. olive oil

Mix thoroughly, then attach the dough hook to your electric stand mixer and knead the dough for about 5 minutes. You might have to add more flour if it’s too wet, but even after several minutes your dough should still seem a bit moist and sticky. (If a few bits are still adhering to the sides and bottom of the bowl, that’s probably the right texture.) You want an elastic, yet soft and moist dough.

If you don’t have an electric stand mixer with a dough hook, Steve salutes your sturdy constitution and stalwart wrists, and hopes you have a lightly floured board to knead your dough to the right consistency.

Put the dough in a large oiled bowl and cover. Let it rise for a couple of hours in a warm place, and your pizza dough is ready to roll. If you’ve decided to take the “tenderizing” refrigerator route, take the dough out of the refrigerator two hours before shaping.

***

An hour or more (the longer the better) before cooking, place a pizza stone in the center of an oven. Crank the heat as high as it will go (we use 550° F).

***

While oven is warming, make any toppings that need cooking (e.g., caramelized onions).

Get sauce together, then cool it to room temperature. We freeze our roasted tomato sauce in one-cup increments, which is the perfect amount for one pizza. It often becomes a little watery, so we cook it down a bit after thawing and re-season it. For a white sauce, we use a basic Béchamel.

Grate cheese and chop any raw ingredients that are going on the top.

***

Punch dough down into tight ball. Divide into three approximately equal pieces. (If you only want one pizza, wrap the other two pieces in plastic, then foil, and freeze.) Roll a piece into a circle approximately 11 inches in diameter. Roll the outer perimeter inward, forming a circle about 10 inches in diameter with a raised outer crust.

Place the pizza dough on a peel topped with a sheet of parchment paper. Brush the raised crust with olive oil. Use the tines of a fork to prick the inner crust.

Top the pizza, then insert in oven. Check after ten minutes to see if crust is brown and top is bubbly and brown. If not, wait one or two more minutes or until the pizza reaches the desired level of doneness. Remove with the peel, place on a pizza pan, cut and serve.

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27 comments

  1. Making delivery style meals oneself is wise, since very few delivery meals are edible. Having said that, astonishingly, there is a real Italian pizzeria/deli within less than 5 minutes walk from where I live, which is rated best pizza in London, by Time Out!
    …and most of the time I still make my own pizza 😉

  2. I guess I am biased because I am Italian but I do think pizza is “food from the gods”…. I love it in any shape or form, even bog standard supermarket frozen pizza (at least the ones I had in Italy). I know this dough and it is a good one, especially if you leave it maturing overnite in the fridge. (I also love their old Chez Panisse Pizza, Calzone and pasta cookbook)
    I find that Peter Reinhart’s neo napolitan is better though, with a more contemporary feel (a lighter, puffier dough).
    I tried Jim Lahey’s no knead and it did not work for me. I would also recommend a high hydration dough from renowned Italian pizza guru Gabriele Bonci, whose book has been translated into english/the preview on amazon. com gives u the recipe for: it is for “pizza al taglio” pizza (slab pizza cooked in an oven tray), which is the best type of pizza for home bakers… it is really spectacular, light, with an amazing open crumb. I also recommend reading the whole Pizza Lab at Serious eats: really good tips.
    On wood ovens: I did a pizza course back in Italy and we tried blind tasting pizzas cooked in an electric oven and in a wood oven: do huge difference in taste! . My teacher said that the alleged superiority of a wood burning oven is…. more psychological than real…. what was clearly different was the texture and the colour: electric oven pizza was crispier. I am not a great fan on Napolitan pizza, which I find too sloppy very often. Now in Italy there are more and more pizzaioli, both professional and amateur, that go for very long, cold fermentation, using very, very little yeast: like 7 grams fresh yeast per kg of high gluten flour. The dough is matured over three days in the fridge and re results are spectacular.
    as a passing note: I have many American books on pizza making and I have noticed that in very many the tomato sauce is cooked, whilst in Italy is always raw: tinned tomatoes, passed through a muli and seasoned… that’s it. …ops.. I wrote too much… happy pizza to everyone! stefano (and now I am off to make some dough).
    ps In Naples at Table, Arthur Schwartz descripe an ingenious alternative to pizza: pizza finta aka fake pizza: toasted bread covered with mozzarella and tomatoes and then broiled…. yum!

    • What a great comment! Obviously we’ve never tried to be “authentic,” despite Steve’s Neapolitan heritage. 🙂 That’s fascinating about the ovens. I’ve always wondered about that. And you’re right, Americans do typically use a cooked sauce—though Steve’s mom’s was very lightly so. Cooked just enough to get the tin taste out of the canned San Marzanos, which undoubtedly was the best she could do back in the day from a U.S. grocery. Love the Lahey bread, for what it is, but haven’t tried the pizza. We will definitely look at Reinhart’s. His stuff is always good.

  3. ….sorry my tipyng is bad: I meant to say that we did not notice any difference in taste comparing pizzas cooked in a wood oven and pizzas cookd in an electric oven.

  4. I’m such an American despite my French and Italian heritage, but I gain weight just looking at pizza. Does that keep me from eating pizza? No, but it has to be good, no great pizza. Love your post.

  5. I’ve got pizza dough in my freezer, too. Always make at least twice as much as what I need for that night’s pizza. And yes, very often I’ll clear the crisper for the toppings. I, too, draw the line, however, at pineapple.What would my ancestors say?

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