Sunday, February 26, 2006

Recipes for REAL men, Volume 5

Recipes for REAL men, Volume 5 - Eatzza the Ultimate Pizza

Americas favorite fast food is...

Wait for it...

No, it's not Pizza, it's french fries. In fact according to some sources, at least half , and perhaps as much as 3/4 of all potatoes grown the world over are used for french fries (and 1/2 to 3/4 of those are used specifically for McDonalds french fries).

Given the popularity of fries you'd think our favorite fast food entree would be a burger, but actually, it's pizza.

See, I WAS going somewhere with this, I wasn't just trying to be clever.

Oh, and I'll be posting my french fry techniques at some point in the future.

Anyway, pizza is an interesting food. It came to America as a popular lunch snack of Neapolitan (as in from Naples) factory and construction workers, and meat packers; first in New York, then rapidly spreading to the rest of the country as italian and greek immigrants spread out.

NOTE: Greeks didnt make pizza, but they made something similar to stromboli and calzone, so when they came to America pizza was a natural food for them to get into.

Even with the wider spread of pizza however, it wasnt a universally popular food, mostly limited to Boston, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and oddly enough St. Louis.

Pizza didnt REALLY take off until after WWII, when the burgenoning car culture made it easy for teens to socialize in pizzerias, and for families to take the pizza home with them.

My favorite bit of pizza trivia? The world pizza is derived from an old italian word meaning "a point," which became the Italian word pizzicare, "to pinch", and is also related to a Neopolitan Italian dialects word for "It's burned", apizzia.

There are a few different common styles of pizza, including sicilian, neapolitan, greek, pan, and deep dish. There are also some pizza LIKE dishes such as stromboli, and calzone.

Oh, something important to mention here, calzone is NOT folded pizza, or a pizza sandwhich, as is sometimes sold as calzone around america. Calzone is a rolled and baked pastry dish, using a pizza like dough, and meat, cheese, and vegetable fillings without sauce.

To make a calzone, you lay the fillings, along with a dry ricotta cheese, out along the length of the dough, taking up 1/3 the width, then fold the sides over, pinching them together to make a tight seal. Pinch the ends together tightly, and fold over, flattening them against the top of the roll. Finally roll the entire assemblage over so that the smoothe side will be baked on top, make some small slits, or punctures in it to let some of the steam out, and brush it with an egg and butter wash.

Stromboli is CLOSE to the folded pizza that some sell under that name, but it too is a pastry dish using a pizza like dough. Stromboli however includes sauce inside it. Basically to make a stromboli you sauce the whole crust, then put toppings on one half, and fold over; pinching and rolling the edge tightly to seal. Egg and butter wash as with calzone, but brush both sides, and do not puncture it. A stromboli should inflate as it is cooking, and presuming you made your dough properly, the steam won't explode the stromboli.

Importantly, stromboli and calzone dough should contain eggs, and should be brushed with an egg and butter wash to produce a hard, crusty and shiny shell.

I personally like two styles of pizza, pan (not deep dish), and sicilian style.

Pan pizza is probably most familiar to you as the style of pizza that Pizza hut is famous for(only whe I make it it doesnt suck); and it is NOT deep dish, which isn't actually a pizza at all, but more of a tomato and cheese pie. Pan pizza crust should be thick and doughy, and slightly oily; the toppings are spread out most of the way to the edge, and it's baked until the edges are crispy

Sicilian pizza is very thin, with a decent sized crust edge to hold on to; and it should be flexible but lightly crispy with a savory sauce.

The great part about making pizza, is how simple it is once you know how. Other than the dough, pizza is assembled more than anything else. Oh, and leftovers make great Pizza toppings

Now the dough.....

I hate to admit this, but I'm a not a very good baker. I used to make a lot of bread, but I was never very good at it. I'd rather stick all the fixings in a bread machine and let it do the work.

That said, my favorite pizza crust looks like this:

1 1/2 cups of sourdough starter
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup strong bread flour (high gluten flour)
1/2 cup fine cornmeal or semolina flour
1/4 cup of finely greated parmaggiano
black pepper, oregano, garlic, and basil to taste

Depending on your starter, you may need to add 1/2 cup of warm water. If the dough gets too dry, add a little more starter, or a bit of water. If too wet, add a bit more cornmeal. If you are going to let the dough rise a bit (for a pan pizza), add a bit more starter; and if you want a very crusty dough, or if you are making a stromboli or calzone you can add an egg and some butter. Oh and for a deep dish pizza you may want a bit more olive oil depending on your taste.

Mix into a thick dough, (as with a soft french bread) and let rest for 15 minutes or so, then knead. Once you've kneaded the dough, cover it and let rest for 1/2 hour covered on a countertop.

This rest lets the glutens form some structure in the dough, and lets the dough relax; so forming the pizza without tearing is easier.

Remember, the sourdough here is primarily for flavor, not neccesarily just as a leavening agent (though if you are making thick pan pizza, letting it rise works well).

If you are going to make a thick pan pizza, you want to let the volume expand 30% or so. Too much though, and the dough will be too airy. Then you need to punch the pizza down either by hand or using a dough mixer or food processor.

Once the dough has been prepped, you can refrigerate or freeze it (though I don't recommend freezing); and it will stay good for a few days, though it won't rise any further.

I have two different "favorite" assemblies, one for pan pizza, and one for sicilian.

Ultimate pan pizza:


Italian sausage
Linguica sausage
Bacon (American style black pepper cured, cut very thick)
Boneless Chicken Chunks (grilled or sauteed and sliced)
Feta cheese


Black pepper


Mozzarella (shredded)
White Cheddar or jack (shredded)
Parmaggiano (grated)
Romano (grated)

Mix a bit of cracked black pepper, oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes in with your cheese for better flavor.


Savory black pepper basil and oregano tomato sauce as below, or a meat sauce. I like to use my 2 pound Meat Sauce , though it needs to be thinned out a bit (as is noted in the recipe).


Bake the pizza in a thick straight walled pizza pie pan, at least 1" high (chicago purists like a 2" thick pizza with crust wrapped up and over the side of the pan like a pie). Wipe the pan down on the inside with olive oil, and dust with medium cracked cornmeal or semolina before laying the dough.

Don't toss or roll the pizza, stretch and fold it a few times on a cold stone, or on the bottom of a cookie sheet, griddle, or heavy skillet that you've stuck in the freezer.

Once the dough has been worked, ball it up, then just stretch it out to a large button shape, and press it out to the edges of the pan, pushing the edges of the dough a bit up the side of the pan (or up over the edge for chicago), and let it sit covered for about 10 minutes.

Lightly brush the crust with olive oil, or garlic butter before laying out the sauce and toppings.

Spread the sauce out fairly thickly, not quite out to the edge (about 1/2" in is fine), and then put a light sprinkling of cheese on, along with your first layer of toppings.

Drizzle some sauce on top of this layer, and then add a thick layer of cheese.

Spread the rest of your toppings out, and sprinkle the crumbled feta cheese over the top, and dust with parmaggiano and romano.

For chicago style add a thin but full coverage layer of sauce on both the top, and bottom of the pizza, thena layer of cheese and sauce in between every layer of toppings, and then dust with the grated cheeses and a bit of shredded cheese over the top.

If you make it thick enough, it takes between 15 and 30 minutes to bake it in a pan at 450-550 degrees (depending on your oven, the pan, how many toppings you used, and whether you put on a heated stone first - oh and chicago style can take 45 minutes or more). The crust should be crispy, shiny, and browned at the ridges; also the top layer of cheese should be moderately browned.

1-2 slices of this thing (assuming a 16" pie sliced 8 ways) is enough to fill ME up.

Ultimate Sicilian Pizza:

Extra Pepperoni
Extra Italian Sausage
Extra Bacon




Mozzarella (shredded)
White Cheddar or jack (shredded)
Parmaggiano (grated)
Romano (grated)

Mix a bit of cracked black pepper, oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes in with your cheese for better flavor.


Savory black pepper basil and oregano tomato sauce. If you don't have your own, a basic sauce can be made with the following:

16oz of no sugar added tomato puree
6oz can of unsweetened tomato paste
1/2 cup of olive oil
1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar (use the cheap stuff, it's not as sweet)
1/2 cup of grated parmaggiano
2 tblsp fresh finely minced oregano
2 tblsp fresh finely minced basil
1 tblsp cracked black pepper
1 tblsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp onion salt
2 cloves of garlic crushed and minced (more or less to taste - roast for milder flavor)

Heat the oil and throw all the seasonings except the cheese in at once, and just stir around until the garlic is lightly browned, but before the herbs are too burned. Pour in the wet ingredients and stir thoroughly to combine. Bring to a simmer and add the cheese, and heat at just below simmer for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour stirring to avoid clumping or burning of the cheese. The longer you simmer, the more the flavors combine; but you aren't looking to separate the fats or thicken the sauce much so be careful.


This pizza should be tossed quite thin, and baked directly on a pizza stone.

If you buy a pizza stone they are usually a very dense sandstone, or a high grade terracotta.

If you don't have a pizza stone you can go buy a 1-2" x 2 foot square (i.e. 4 square feet) slab of various stones from a countertop fabricator, or a stone yard (a quarries retail shop) for a lot less than they charge for high end pizza stones.

Not quite as good, but even cheaper (about $20) is a large thick terracotta saucer that they put big flower pots on.

Terracotta and sandstone are porous, which allows the hot expanding air up through the crust, and the hot expanding steam out of it; and the mass of the stone absorbs the heat, and bakes the crust evenly and directly.

Oh and for making dough you can't get better than a marble slab, though granite works well too (and it's cheaper); and again buy them from the stonemason, not from the kitchen store.

No matter what you use as a pizza stone, if it's a porous stone, you should season it with olive oil, by heating it to as hot as your oven can get (leave it under the broiler for 30 minutes or so) then letting it cool until you can jsut touch it, pour a little oil in the pan, and spread it around with paper towels. Then heat it up again till the oil jsut starts to smoke, let it cool, and wipe out the seepage.

Some folks like to use a cast iron skillet, or a cast iron pizza pan. This works great, especially for deep dish pizzas, but you end up with a very different character of crust than with a porous stone.

When you go to cook the pizza, again preheat the oven for at least 15 minutes using the broiler at its hottest setting, WITH THE STONE IN THE OVEN.

If your brolier doesnt heat the oven up evenly with the stone in the oven (some electric broiler heating elements or gas broiler burners are small and poorly positioned for example). set your oven to bake at it's highest temperature then once the oven cycles off on reaching temperature, switch to the broiler.

Five minutes before you are ready to cook the pizza, switch the oven to bake, on the highest temperature it can bake with (some ovens allow you to bake at the same temp as high broil, some will shut the heat off entirely if you try that. Know your oven.)

The idea is to heat the stone up fully, so that the pizza is cooking from the second it touches the stone. If you don't heat the stone first, the top will burn and dry out before the bottom is properly cooked.

Toss the crust out 'til it's just thick enough to hold together in the middle. It will be slightly thicker at the edges.

Don't try any of this fancy tossing up in the air, basic pizza tossing is really quite easy with good dough. Just flatten the crust out into a disk until it's between 1/2" and 1/4" thick, pick it up over your flour dusted hands, make two fists, and gently rotate the dough using your fists to make an even circle.

Dust the surface you are assembling the pizza on with medium crack corn meal or semolina. This will add texture, and keep the pizza from sticking.

If you have a pizza peel, it's easiest just to assemble the pizza on the peel; otherwise use a large cutting board covered with parchment paper.

Lightly brush the crust with olive oil or garlic butter, crack some black pepper over it, and dust lightly with finely grated parmaggiano. Sauce the pizza lightly leaving about an inch of clear space all around the edges, and lightly sprinkle part of the toppings over the sauced crust.

Cover thoroughly with the cheese (you jsut barely want to see some sauce peeking out through the cheese), then distribute the rest of the toppings, and lightly dust with parmaggiano.

Transfer the assembled pizza to the stone as fast as possible, and DON'T OPEN THE OVEN FOR AT LEAST 8 MINUTES if your oven is at 450, or 6 minutes at 550.

After 6-8 minutes check your pizzas crust by lifting up on the corner. The top should be golden and browning, with fully melted cheese; and the bottom should be almost fully cooked. If not, your oven isn't hot enough; but theres nothing you can do about that except leave the pizza in for 2-5 more minutes (which will tend to dry the pizza out a bit, and may burn the edges before the center is properly cooked).

A volcanic pizza oven can cook a pizza in 3 minutes; but it cooks at 800 degrees or thereabouts; unfortunately most of us don't have volcanic pizza ovens.

Once the bottom is almost fully cooked, turn the broiler on, and finish the pizza under the broiler, until the cheese has lightly browned aroud the edges of the pizza (shouldn't take more than a couple minutes, and may not be necessary at all).

Let the pizza sit for about 2-5 minutes before you cut it so the cheese wont run all together after being cut.

UPDATED: I've modified my crust and cheese mix a bit since then, I went into more detail on technique, and I added a new tomato sauce recipe. Kicking it to the top here, and updating with all the recent Recipes for REAL Men

And be sure to check out:

Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 12 - Lard Ass Wings
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 11 - Bacon Double Macaroni and Cheese
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 10 - It's the meat stupid
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 9 - Labor Day Potatos
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 8 - It's a pork fat thing
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 7 - It may not be Kosher...
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 6 - Andouille Guiness Chili
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 5 - Eazza the Ultimate Pizza
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 4 - Two Pound Meat Sauce
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 3 - Highbrow Hash
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 2 - MuscleCarbonara
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 1 - More Beef than Stew