Monday, February 2, 2009

Super Bowl Sunday and Pizza

Hey, what can I say...I wanted the Cardinals to win, but at least we got a good game, down to the final minute. But, super bowl weekend means food, and even though I was feeling a bit under the weather, and even though it was just the two of us, I cooked a bunch of stuff anyway.

Here's how Significant Eater and I started the day...

Yep, that's Niman Ranch bacon (one of my favorite, readily available brands), along with Arrowhead Mills stone ground grits, a fried Tello Farm's egg and, oh yeah, Mitch's sourdough you know, sourdough drives me crazy.

So I figured WTF, make more's super bowl Sunday. This time, the bread took the shape of pizza. Now, is there anyone more crazy than NYers when it comes to pizza? We've all heard "this is the best," no "that's the best," on and on and on...fwiw, in Manhattan we like Arturo's, UPN, Patsy's (uptown), and maybe one or two others, but on any given day, the pizza, even at one of the stalwarts, can suck. So, might as well make my own.

Now, pizza making, along with bread baking, can turn into obsessions. With pizza, the thing that really matters is the crust. No amount (which, of course, should be minimal) of topping is gonna making a crappy crust taste good. Not gonna happen. That's why, in general, the best pizza in Rome is pizza bianca - basically, a crust with some great olive oil and a bit of salt.

As I said, obsession. One of my favorite pizza making sites is Jeff Varasano's Famous NY Pizza Recipe site. Here, Jeff has reverse engineered the uptown Patsy's crust, when it was simply the best pizza to be had. And, the site is brilliant, one which pizza makers can read and reread over and over again. Though I gotta tell Jeff that I refuse to defeat the locking mechanism on my oven in order to get the temperature up to 800 degrees - just not happening. And that is one of the serious limitations to home pizza making...the oven just doesn't get hot enought. The pizza at Arturo's is baked in an old coal-fired oven , that when really cranking approaches 1100 F.

But, I digress. Books and libraries have been devoted to pizza. Peter Rheinhart, one of the guru's of modern bread baking, has written a tome on pizza. And it goes on and on. So for this pizza making attempt, I actually followed one of Rheinhart's recipes - sort of. And while there was cursing coming from the kitchen (at one point, Significant Eater was heard to call out, "what the fuck is going on in there?"), because the dough was pissing me off, I did manage to bake two delicious pies - even by our annoying, NYer know-it-all standards. Both had 3 cheeses (modest amounts, folks), including fresh mozzarella, real Parmesan and some other high-quality melter, along with red onions, plum tomatoes from a can - (which is what you want to use in the middle of the winter...even sometimes in the middle of the summer), a sprinkling of oregano from Italy (it's different than the oregano from Mexico), extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. And, after all that, here's what we ended up with.

We easily ate two pies, leaving us barely enough room for the main course.

Oh yeah, that bread in the picture above came from this sourdough loaf, which was helped along, or as Mr. Rheinhart likes to say, "boosted," with a tiny bit of commercial's sitting on a giant can of Sicilian anchovies and it had great oven spring along with the fluffiest, most open crumb (see toast above) that I've baked to date - a bit of yeast goes a long way, just don't tell the sourdough purists.


  1. You defiled your sourdough with commercial yeast?!

    Stay right where you are, Weinstein. I'll be over in a few minutes, as soon as I can round up enough villagers with torches and pitchforks.

  2. Wow that bread looks oh so good, especially toasted with grits and bacon! And that pizza - it looks so delicious, I could eat it through the screen. Do you have a bakery by chance?

  3. Your pizza looks amazing. No surprise there. I'm in the market for a cheap pizza stone. Any recommendations? Chirp!

  4. Yes, unglazed quarry tiles are a fine substitute, though they may move around a little.

    I think they can be had at Home depot for less than $1 a piece, and 6 would probably fit on the bottom shelf of your oven quite nicely.