Redondo Marinara Pizza with Clams
I decided to make up some clams for a friend's going away party. Mike is leaving again to go back to work on the TV show Grimm up in Portland, Oregon. I don't think of clams when I think of Mike. I don't think of food much either! Let's say he's a little less adventurous than some of us. But, since we're all gathering for a party, I decided that my contribution would be steamed clams with some great crusty bread. Maybe Mikey will try it and like it after all?!
I was up early, thinking about what to do. I browsed the internet for some ideas and remembered the clams we did at the Fire Within Pizza Conference using beer to steam the clams. My wheels were turning as I made my plan to head down to Quality Seafood Market, one of my favorite seafood places, down at the pier in Redondo Beach. What I like is that clams remind me of the East Coast or perhaps even something you'd find in the Pacific Northwest -- both with far more robust seafood cultures than here in Los Angeles. We do love our fish tacos here, but the "get your hands in there and tear apart your fresh steamed seafoods" just aren't as popular here. We have plenty of ocean, and great seafood, but culturally, it's just not as abundant and revered. Luckily, there are some cultures in our melting pot community that do love their seafood, and so, at least, you can find some great places like Quality Seafood.
I decided to not waste this opportunity to make a pizza for lunch before the party. I was just up in San Francisco and had an incredibly awesome spicy clam pizza at Pizzeria Delfina. Why not kill two birds with one bag of clams? As we sat having our morning coffee I talked my wife and daughter into joining me for a late morning trip to the pier. Clams baby! Clams!!
I got there around 10:30AM to find a relatively quiet scene at the fish market. It was before the lunch rush and, though open, the fish market was still in set-up mode. Some people were already tearing their fresh steamed delights apart and washing it all down with a variety of beverages as the marine layer fought for control over the harbor.
It took me a while to get served. Quality Seafood does a good amount of business selling their food to go as well as taking it out of the fresh tanks and steaming it or preparing it right there for you. I was only behind one gentleman, but he was ordering up a gargantuan feast of steamed shellfish and fresh sea urchin. He walked down the line selecting clams and muscles to add to his plates and, since it was early, the other guys were all busy getting other things done. No worries, I wasn't in a hurry. I took pictures and started eyeballing the oysters. While waiting, I ordered up a half dozen oysters and a beer - it was now approaching 11 AM, why not? It seemed fitting and would make for a better story, right?
I got my clams, enough for the party, and a pizza, and walked over to enjoy my oysters before we headed back. My wife and daughter don't eat that kind of seafood, so they were all mine and so we just sat and talked and enjoyed the morning. The pier would soon grow crowded as the sun began to win the battle over the misty marine layer. This time of year it's hard to find a time when the crowds haven't overrun our town, so it's nice to have a moment like this in the summer. It feels like home rather than a bustling tourist spot.
The oysters were fresh, cool, and with some Cholula Hot Sauce, and even a drizzle of beer over them -- they tasted fantastic! This was a great start to the day.
Off to make the pizza....
As I mentioned, I was up in San Francisco recently and made it to Pizzeria Delfina one night, where I had their Clam Pie. They used cherrystone clams out of the shell, tomato sauce, oregano, a little pecorino Romano and hot peppers. This was my inspiration for my claim pie. It was a bright, spicy tomato pie with a delicious crust and the perfect amount of clams. In a way, it's a perfect Marinara pizza -- a celebration of the sea.
Littleneck Clams with Chorizo and Jalapeño Pizza
- Dough - Drunken Mesquite Dough *Edit: I checked my notes while posting a new recipe demo and realized that this pizza was actually made with my Brew in Germania Dough. With any dough this pizza is a winner and I will be playing with this one for a while!
- Bianco DiNapoli Hand Crushed Organic Tomatoes
- Steamed Chorizo and Jalepeno Clams
- Fresh Italian Parsley
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Grated Parmesan
- Littleneck, or other suitable fresh clams
- Purple Onion chopped
- Jalapeño chopped
- Spicy Spanish Chorizo sliced
- Chopped Garlic (to taste)
- Chopped Italian Parsley
- Hand crushed tomatoes (Bianco Dinapoli if you are lucky enough to find any)
- Favorite beer (In this case, my keg was putting out a Firestone Double Barrel Ale)
- Fresh Squeezed Lemon
This is going to make the topping and the sauce for the pizza! It's pretty darn delish!
Saute the chopped garlic, onions and jalapeños until just soft -- about 3 minutes.
Add in the sliced chorizo and continue to sauté for another few minutes. You'll see the ingredients all start to become one tasty looking base for the clams.
Add the clams (in the shell).
Add some hand crushed tomatoes.
Pour in some beer. *Note: I poured in enough to cover about 1/2 way up the clams. Once we remove the clams, we'll let this sauce continue to cook down to concentrate the flavors for the sauce.
Add fresh squeezed lemon juice to taste.
Once the liquid is boiling, cover the pot for about 5-6 minutes or until the clams open up. Once this happens, add some more fresh chopped parsley and spoon the clams out into a separate bowl to cool. Don't overcook them, they are going into the oven as well!
Continue to boil the sauce with the lid off the pot. You can use less beer to make this faster if you prefer. The clams will steam with less. You can also add more tomatoes to make a thicker sauce, but I was going for a combination of a pizza sauce and a clam sauce.
Spread your dough.
Spoon out some of your Clam/Beer/Chorizo/Jalapeno Sauce/topping onto the pizza dough.
Add your clams (pulled from their shells) onto the pizza
Sprinkle with a little Parmesan Cheese
Drizzle with a little EVO
Slide her into the oven!
Add some more fresh chopped parsley.
Drizzle with a little EVO and squeezed lemon juice and serve!
The take away:
It's a nice day when you start it off with your wife and daughter (my son was sleeping at home) with a walk on the pier. It's nicer still when you have some fresh oysters and a light crisp beer while there. And, it is even better when you come home and whip a pizza this good out of your home oven!
Let's just think about this sauce. You may say there's some stuff going on here. I was lucky to start with the best tomatoes you can find (Bianco Dinapoli), but we added purple onion, garlic, a relatively spicy, salty, cured spanish chorizo, jalapeño, beer and clams to it! Let's just say it was good! Notice I didn't "season" the sauce. No need. There are flavors and seasoning coming from all angles here.
The tips/edges of the clams even charred, which was a nice textural note. With a final drizzle of lemon this pizza rocked!
This story doesn't take us into the night when I steamed up a huge batch of the clams and served them with some toasted bread for delivery and "mop up" purposes. I will however tell you that Mike did try the clams and guess what? He liked them! He liked them! Mikey likes them!
I think I'll call this the Redondo Marinara Pizza!
*I had a few clams left over and made a second pizza. My son Owen and I devoured them. My wife and daughter watched.
Enjoy...I took lots of pictures for this one!
Peter's Blog, My Four Minute Steaks!
Here it is, as promised, a pictorial guide to the best steaks I've ever had, for a fraction of the cost of Morton's, Peter Luger, Ruth's Chris, and all the others. Of course, you need the super high heat of a wood-fired oven, such as this sweet little Primavera 60 in my back driveway next to the garden. I made these for a dinner party for my wife Susan's birthday; we served a total of twelve people (including ourselves), and I could only fit in two steaks at a time, but it was no problem getting everyone their own steak within a few minutes of each other.
My friend, Patrick Taylor, took these photos of me in action so, of course, we made our steaks last. As a result, I really only had to get the first ten up to the dinner table to get everyone else started. By the time they had filled their plates with the steaks, salad, and Susan's crispy rosemary garlic potatoes (a house specialty, served at almost every party we have), Patrick and I were on our way to the table with our own medium rare rib eyes. They cooked perfectly in one minute on each side!
I use to call this method my "four minute steaks," because they usually take two minutes per side when the steaks are cut to a 1 1/4-inch thickness. But, for this event, I had them cut to just under an inch thick, so they cooked much faster. A couple of people asked for theirs to be well done (God only knows why, but this was no time to be judgmental), so I did theirs first. Two minutes on each side. Then the rest were mediums or medium rares, so we rolled back to 90 seconds on each side for the mediums. For the medium rares, yes, one minute per side!!
Before you view all the photos, here are a few tips that make all the difference:
--Use rib eyes, cut to the thickness you prefer. I think the marbling and flavor is ideal, even better than NY Strips or Porter Houses (but that's up to you if you prefer a different cut). Grass fed steaks, though a healthier option, tend to have less marbling and, so, come out tougher -- use a well marbled piece of meat from a reputable source. You don't need "prime" beef but don't go for the cheap grades either. "Choice," beef, from a quality meat market or butcher, will be great
--Get the oven roaring hot and then push back the coals and clear a space for your cast iron pan or pans (my little oven can only accommodate one pan but yours might handle two). Let the pan get white hot, at least five minutes or longer in the oven.
--Be sure to have heavy duty oven mitts and gloves. I wore a pottery kiln glove and then slipped that same hand into an oven mitt, and that just barely gave me enough protection to grip the hot pan.
--Have a metal table standing by to receive the hot pan when you set it down (or set it into another cast iron pan, not hot, to protect your table). I surround my work area with portable metal and wooden tables so that I have plenty of surfaces to work with, but only a metal table for the hot pan.
--Use a timer to keep track. A few seconds of distraction can turn a rare steak into an ember.
--To prep the steaks, brush both side with olive oil (not butter, which will burn) and then generously season both sides with kosher or sea salt, and lots of freshly ground black pepper. You really don't need anything else (fresh garlic will burn). You won't need A-1 or Worcestershire Sauce, but we always put it on the table for those who absolutely must have it (but no ketchup!!). I can't overstate this: be generous with the salt and pepper -- it will make a fabulous crust when it gets seared into the meat.
--Once out of the oven, let the steaks sit for at least five minutes before serving, and for even up to fifteen for thicker cuts, in order for the juices to redistribute back into the meat . If you like the Ruth's Chris trick of melting a pad of seasoned butter on the top of the piping hot steak, feel free, but we found no need for it.
--We served 8 ounce steaks, which is why they came out thinner than my usual 1 1/4 inches. If you like thick, juicy steaks, have them cut into one pound units (about 1 1/4 inches thick) and cook for the full two minutes on each side (maybe add 15 to 30 seconds per side if you prefer well done or medium well). But, for large groups like ours, the thinner, faster cooking cuts worked out well.
If you have your own method or tricks, please feel free to share them with us right here in the Comments section. If you want to send photos, write to me at
and include your shots.
Now, on to the photos….
Peter's Blog July 5th, 2013
Welcome back and I hope you all had a wonderful Fourth of July!
I've been getting requests to describe again how I do the 4 minute steaks in my Forno Bravo Primavera 60 wood-fired oven (of course, these can be made in any size W-F oven but I happen to have the 60). We are just a couple of days from putting on a steak dinner for my wife's birthday so I'm going to ask one of the guests to take some photos of me in the process, which I will post next week along with explanations of the steps. As you may recall, I have called these steaks the best I've ever had and attribute it mainly to the intensely blazing 1,000 degree F. oven heat (and, of course, reasonably high quality rib eyes). This promises to be a lot of fun! Stay tuned....
Also, we have new recipes and guest columns coming over the next few weeks, as well as the ongoing video saga of our pizza challenge with The Bruery. We've been posting these webisodes gradually, to stretch out the suspense, so check back from time to time for the next installment, which should be soon.
One other request: I've noticed that there a number of "fast casual" pizzerias opening up around the country, such as Blaze, 800 Degrees, Pizza Pizzeria, Uncle Maddio's, and many others. Most of them are modeled on the Chipotle concept, working yourself down a line to build your own pizza and, then, they bake them in a wood-fired or other oven and deliver it to your table. If you have been to any of these new concepts I would love to hear your thoughts on the quality and your overall experience. The "fast casual" model is sweeping the restaurant world and the big question for many of us is what impact they will have on the artisan pizza world that they aspire to emulate. Will this be the beginning of a new surge in high quality pizzas or is it a lowering of the bar? Your thoughts are welcome, right here in the "comments" section. Thanks! (Note: If anyone wants to write a more extensive "Guest Column" on this subject please write to me directly at
Finally, for those who may be new here, you can still sign up for my free video course on making artisan pizza in a home oven. The course also includes free downloadable recipes that you can print out. If you haven't already subscribed, go to www.craftsy.com/pizza . It even includes a gluten-free recipe. We're up to nearly 43,000 subscribers already, and I think nearly every question that can be asked has been asked, in the Q&A section (though you may think of a new one), so it really is a wealth of useable knowledge and a great connection to a growing community of fellow pizza freaks.
I'll be back in a few days with the steak report!
Drunken Mesquite Dough
What do you do with some Firestone Double Barrel Ale, Fire Roasted Western Honey-Mesquite Flour and a need for pizza? Well the answer is simple: you make some of my desert-inspired Mesquite Dough. However, you not only sip on your beer while making it, but you make the dough with some of your beer!
I set out to just make the dough, and took some pictures of the set-up because it just seemed like a "cool" thing to do. Or, maybe it's because I often take pictures and blog about what I do around the kitchen? You decide. Anyway, as this dough came together it turned out to be a wet one. So, I started taking some more pictures as I went along. Here at Pizza Quest we see a lot of comments and I also get a lot of personal questions about making dough, and one recurring question is how to handle a sticky wet dough? And this one was definitely sticky and not just tacky. I must have simply added too much beer.
I remember when I first started making my own pizza dough how it scared the heck out of me when I encountered a really wet/sticky dough. If you haven't handled much dough, the sticky dough syndrome can intimidate you enough to stay away from the whole dough-making thing for years. Years!! If you're hungry and determined, then maybe you will fight through it. You'll see in the photos that I added flour and kept stretching and folding this dough to get it to the right consistency. I tried to do so as little adjusting as possible, but it was a pretty wet, beer soaked blob of flour. Each time I performed the "Stretch and Fold" it got a little firmer.
This dough is based on Peter's Neo-Neopolitan Dough, which is a great home pizza dough! It's truly the easiest, and I always get great results with it in my home oven. So, when I tweaked it for my original Mesquite Dough, Peter had suggested using about 10% Mesquite flour in my quest to create a desert-inspired pizza. That dough came out amazingly well and was a perfect platform for that particular pizza, which I blogged about awhile back. The mesquite flour gives the dough an earthy, nutty flavor, but it's also very light and smooth tasting. The mesquite flour actually makes the whole dough a little more velvety, if that makes sense. So here's the latest version, with me pushing the envelope as far as I could to see where it would take me.
For more information and fun here are the links to my original Mesquite Dough Pizzas.
The Hwy 15 Pizza: *Link
A Wandering Desert Road Pizza: *Link
Drunken Mesquite Dough
- 22.6 Oz (just short of 4 3/4 cups) of Unbleached Bread Flour
- 2.4 Oz (about a mesquite twig tip over - half a cup) of Fire Roasted Western Honey Flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons (0.14 oz.) instant yeast
(or 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast dissolved in the water)
- 2 teaspoons (0.5 oz.) kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons (1 oz.) olive oil (optional)
- 1 tablespoon (1/2 oz.) honey (optional)
- 2 1/4 Cups (18 Oz) Beer - A Firestone Double Barrel Ale in this case
(A little less if using the honey and, or oil)
Combine the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl first and mix with a spoon.
Add the olive oil and honey if using followed by the beer.
Mix for about 1 minute to get the ingredients to come together. Let the dough rest for about 5 minutes and mix again for another minute until it's a relatively smooth ball that has come together.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled surface/counter. With a little oil on your hands fold the dough into a ball and let it rest for another 5 minutes.
Here's where my dough pictorial goes off the tracks! You can see that this initial dough is super sticky! It's impossible to roll/fold this dough with my hands. I had to use an oiled dough scraper to get it off the counter and try to make it into a ball. You'll also see in the photos that the ball was flat and just kept spreading out under it's own weight. It didn't sit up like a standard dough ball because it was so moist.
To handle a dough this wet, I had to add a generous sprinkle of flour to the work surface and, thus, to the dough. Once added, I performed another series of stretching and folding and let it rest again. It took more than the couple stretch and folds to get this dough to a place where it could be handled. You can see it sticking to the counter. After the dry flour gets incorporated and sucked up by the wetness, the moisture still comes forth and takes over. So, you just have to keep at it. Add a little more flour. Stretch and fold and let it rest.
This dough took about 4 rotations to get it to where I could stop and the dough still remained super supple, but now I could handle it (of course, if I had cut back on the water -- or the beer -- by about 1/4 cup I might not have had to make all these adjustments).
But the point of this post is to demonstrate how to work through an issue that can easily come up if you incorrectly measure ingredients, or are dealing with a wet dough.
So, if decide to make this dough, you may want to cut back the liquid just a little and you won't have quite the wet experience I had, but will still come out with an amazing tasting dough. The flavor is nutty and light and, I want to add, the Double Barrel Ale brought out a maltiness that was terrific.
You can see below in the gallery how I had to keep adding a little flour and working the dough until it finally found the right balance. It still remained a "wet" dough and baked up nicely in my home oven. I hope this helps some of you get through one of these experiences. A little music in the background and a beer in your left hand helps!
"Another Breakfast Pizza" recipe: *Link
The Signature Challenge Pizza
When Kelly Whitaker and Al Henkin, of Boulder's wonderful brick oven restaurant, Basta, collaborated with me and our Pizza Quest team to create two pizzas, one red and one white, to challenge Patrick Rue and his Bruery team, we came up with a couple of very strong contenders. You can hear, as they explain the rationale and sourcing they put into each of their ingredients, how much thought went into these pizzas. You'll see guanciale (specially cured but not smoked bacon), squash blossoms, local pistachios, white anchovies, lemon preserve, fresh pollen dust, great cheeses, Bianco-DiNaoli tomato sauce (and notice how bright that sauce is -- awesome stuff!), and our special, signature dough made with Central Milling -00- flour, bumped up a notch with a nice shot of crystal malt. (Note, we are currently in discussions with the folks at Central Milling to package up a blended dry mix for this dough that you can buy -- stay tuned, we'll announce it here when it's ready to ship).
More importantly, as we've tried to do in many of our webisodes, our goal is to bring you with us into the creative process and, hopefully, stimulate your own creative juices. This segment takes us up to the moment when we let Patrick and his brewers taste the pizzas and choose which one they will use as the inspiration for a totally new and original beer, to be paired with the pizza at the Great American Beer Festival a few months later. In other words, things are heating up as we get closer to the moment of truth. Stay tuned....
(Note from Peter: John O'Hanlon, a serious home baker and long time correspondent, sent me this story of his recent quest to make a killer vollkornbrot (translation: 100% whole grain, German style rye bread). His passion and determination inspired me to ask his permission to share his story and his recipe with you, so here it is. Let us know if you try making this bread -- we'd love to hear your results.)
Each morning during a recent stay in Salzburg, we enjoyed our hotel’s dazzling displays of fresh breads at the buffet. A special favorite was a whole grain loaf; hearty, moist, dense, seed filled and topped that was baked in long, narrow pans.
On return, we searched in vain for a recipe. Our waitress had called it “Kornspitz,” which we discovered, was a proprietary grain mix sold by an Austrian baker’s supplier that is used in several breads; its brief description mentioned rye and wheat flour, as well as bruised rye, wheat, and soy grain, wheat malt, linseed, and salt. Armed with this information and our observations, we began to reverse engineer a suitable approximation.
The original was clearly a rye-based sourdough, dark in color, and filled with pumpkin, sunflower, and flax seeds, as well as shredded carrots, chopped soybeans, chopped rye and wheat grains, and then topped with pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, and brown flax seeds. This amateur baker (me) asked Peter Reinhart for advice, since I had never made rye sourdough and was unfamiliar with German and Austrian constructions. Peter directed me to his pineapple juice rye sourdough, as well as some excellent books filled with European whole grain formulas. Off to our local library!
A three-part construction was the starting point: wild yeast rye sourdough, soaker, and wheat dough. We used a firm, or stiff, rye mother starter sourdough; Roggenstursauerteig in German, a commonly used Austrian rye starter.
Soaker ingredients were initially scaled in equal portions, but first the grains must be pulverized. Austrian breads use the term schrot, meaning cut with knives, like steel cut oats, rather than ground like coffee. That is not easily accomplished. Brew suppliers use burr grinders. The oily nature of soybeans makes them an unwelcome guest in a grinder. Since small quantities are required, a blender was used. Briefly pulse, then remove dust with a fine wire strainer, and finally collect chops that pass a coarse (~5/32”) pasta strainer. Two more cycles, for those that did not pass the coarse strainer, yielded uniformly chopped soybeans with little dust loss.
The final dough contained wheat and white bread flour, grated carrots, wheat malt extract, and yeast.
After several months devoted to myriad failed attempts, we formulated a version that looks and tastes like the original. Peter helped me solve a major problem—loaves were falling during baking. Baking books suggested tightly covered overnight hot water soaking. Peter explained how hot water can over-activate some enzymes that digest the rye starch structure. His suggestion of cold water solved the problem. Finding a suitable pan proved difficult. The style I remember from my youth is no more. Ultimately, we found the "Lasagna Trio" (Chicago Metallic) made for a different dish! Each pan is 2–3/4”W × 11”L; perfect! If you cannot find such a pan, scale the dough in 125-g portions and make weckerl (small rolls).
While in the brew supply store, we purchased a pound of Black Emmer wheat and had it ground. Why? Curiosity. German and Russian immigrants brought Black Emmer winter wheat to the Dakotas in the late 1800’s from Southern Russia, where it grew well in poor soil. It is now used mainly in brewing. We substituted this for the regular wheat in the soaker as an experiment. The result was coal black soaker water that colored the dough dark brown without the use of molasses, cocoa, or coffee, which add either sugar or caffeine!
The resulting bread is now a favorite that we share with friends. It has over 7% dietary fiber, 11% protein, and a reasonable balance of essential amino acids. The original is not available for comparison, but we think we have nailed it. We are happy campers!
35 g Rye grain, #2–1/2 grind
35 g Black Emmer Wheat grain, #2–1/2 grind
35 g Dry Soybeans, coarsely chopped
35 g Sunflower Seeds, roasted, unsalted
35 g Pumpkin Seeds, roasted, unsalted
12 g Flax Seeds, brown, raw
11 g Kosher Salt
234 g Water, room temperature
Soak at room temperature overnight in tightly sealed container.
165 g Dark Rye Flour
135 g Water at room temperature
50 g Mature Sourdough culture
Ferment at room temperature overnight until it crests, but not beyond.
340 g White bread flour
60 g Whole Wheat bread flour
23 g Malted wheat powder
12 g Instant dry yeast
60 g Carrots, finely shredded
110 g Water, room temperature
432 g Soaker
300 g Sourdough (all, less 50g returned to culture)
(White-to-whole-wheat ratio can be changed to suit taste as long as total = 400 g. The amount of water may need adjustment to suit your flour hydration and percent whole wheat.)
TOPPING: Pumpkin, Sunflower, Flax and Sesame seeds
Mix the final dough dry ingredients in an electric mixer, and then add shredded carrots, water, soaker, and sourdough. Mix and knead in mixer, or knead on oiled surface until elastic. Divide dough into two 625-g portions; ferment at room temperature in oiled and covered bowl no more than 50–60 min. Don’t over proof.
For Loaves: Stretch and roll each portion into a 10” × 10” sheet and then roll into a ‘log’ the length of the pan. Roll the logs onto a parchment to aid in transferring dough to spray-oiled baking pans. Brush tops with egg white and sprinkle with topping seeds. Using parchment, press the seeds lightly into the dough.
For Rolls: Scale dough into ten (125-g) portions. Shape into elongated rolls, brush tops with egg white and dip topsides in a plate of seeds. Transfer to two parchment covered quarter sheets.
Cover with plastic film and proof loaves and rolls for 50–60 min at room temp. Do not over proof.
Bake at 350°F; rolls ~15 min., loaves ~30 min. or till done (internal temp. should be above 190 degrees F.)
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New Pizza App Campaign
There is a new app in development that will help any traveler track down the best artisan pizzerias wherever they go, at least in the USA (for now -- maybe they'll cover the whole world if it succeeds). The developers have just launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise the funds they need to complete the project. They have figured out a method to limit the recommendations to only highly rated pizzerias, artisan quality, so I hope they succeed. Here's the link to the campaign and I hope our viewership can help them succeed: www.indiegogo.com/projects/iphone-app-that-locates-the-best-pizza-places-in-america. We'll let you know, as we hear more, as to when the app will launch and how to get it.
Another Breakfast Pizza
Blog Post - Breakfast
I've been gone from these pages a while! I have been busy with my real life, not this fantasy pizza guy life. I've been working out of town a bit and when available, racing around to my kid's sporting events! I thought life was busy when they were little! It's funny how your perspective changes to catch up to reality. One day you look back and almost always laugh at what you were thinking while going through something. Remember worrying if your kid would ever stop sucking their thumb? Eventually that stuff all works itself out and you often only realize that after the time is gone and you are looking backwards wishing it was here again.
Anyway, I wanted to throw a quick post up about my first homemade pizza in a while! I was just in San Francisco and was lucky enough to find my way over to Tony Gemignani's and Delfina Pizzeria a couple of times. The stand out pizza for me was Tony's Detroit Style Red Top which we added sausage and caramelized onions to. Hold the presses, this is a must try pizza! The crust is a thick one, but it's puffy, light and delicious at the same time. I had it more than once while in town - taking some clients there, and circling back 2 other times! It was cooked to perfection with little crispy burnt tips of crust and cheese. At Delfina my favorite was the Clam Pie! It may not sound as exciting, but it was. It was a simple pizza with a superb crispy thin crust. The sauce had a little bite while being almost sweet and very fresh tasting. There were just enough clams and a sprinkle of grated parmesan. It was my friend Greg's first non cheese topped pizza that he's ever liked. It was delicious.
So, I'm back in town now. I had a dough ball in the freezer and took it out the night I got home.
In the morning, I turned on the oven and set the dough on the counter. Kids off to school -- it was now time to throw a breakfast pizza together. No eggs! Oh well, what to do. What did we have? I realized I hadn't thought this through the night before. I thought about putting the dough back and getting some ingredients and making the pizza later that day.
Ok, that's interesting - sounds like breakfast! We had mozzarella, but an aged white cheddar caught my interest. I was thinking that maybe I'd blend it with the Mozzarella, but decided to just go with the cheddar. Ok, this will be an herb oil base and I was off to the races.
My wife had to leave for some appointments and as I was moving to start my pizza making process I realized that my camera was in her car! Could I just make a pizza and not take pictures?! What if this was the one?! I know it's not really possible, because there's always another one, but it could be the temporary ONE I've been searching for - you never know. I did have my trusty iPhone! Someone told me that the iPhone is the camera that takes the most pictures of any other type of camera now. The pics didn't come out half bad.
Once you get in the habit of making dough and freezing it, it's not that difficult to throw a single pizza together. You do need to think ahead enough to get the dough out with enough time to thaw, but those steps don't take much effort at all - just a little planning.
Here's my impromptu Breakfast Pizza that I whipped up.
A Quick Breakfast Pizza
- Pizza Dough
*I had a Fire Roasted Mesquite Dough that I had made up a few weeks ago. I will post a demo of that next week.
- Peter's Herb Oil
- Grated Aged White Cheddar
- Canadian Bacon
- Sliced Red Onion
- Salt Packed Capers to finish
Getting things done:
Pre-heat the oven to 550 and before you start cooking the pizza, change it to convection bake.
Spread out the dough and layer with the herb oil, cheese and top with the Canadian Bacon and sliced onion.
While the pizza is cooking, rinse off some of the capers and chop them up. When the pizza comes out of the oven, sprinkle the capers over the pizza.
Slice and serve!
This pizza was surprisingly good. I say "surprisingly" because I just used what was in my fridge that seemed like they would taste good and satisfy my breakfast quest that morning and I was happily surprised! Had my wife made sure there was an egg in the house, this would have been a great addition to this pizza! *Insert smile here :)!!! Add that to your list if you make this one.
The ham and the cheese both had some deeper flavors. The richness of the cheddar pulled out the smokiness in this otherwise simple ham. The salty briny capers were also a terrific accent that brought a lighter brighter note to the taste profile!
My wife came home and snagged the last slice. She looked at me and said, "That's really good!" It was even better when hot!
Enjoy the Iphone photos!
The Bruery Tour
The story unfolds (and if you are just joining us, you can see all the segments leading up to this one by going to the Webisodes section -- see the button above -- and catch up):
So, here we are, the Basta team, our Pizza Quest team, and Patrick Rue, the owner and beermeister visionary of The Bruery, in Placentia, CA (Orange County). We threw down the gauntlet in our previous webisode and are leading up to Kelly, Al, and I making some pizzas for the Bruery team -- but that's coming up in a later segment. Before we get to that, though, we asked Patrick to take us through the brewing process, those transformational steps that draw out flavor from various grains, malts, hops, spices, and even fruits and vegetables to make a wort (like making tea or soup) that eventually ferments and carbonates. Many of you may already be home brewers or have seen the inside of a micro-brewery, but for the sake of those who haven't this should be a treat. As noted in the discussion you are about to see, beer making is very similar to bread baking (scholars have argued that beer existed before leavened bread, back in the days of the Pharaohs, and I tend to agree) and, because of all the exciting breweries popping up everywhere, it's probably safe to say that we are now living in the golden age of beer. This site could easily morph into Beer Quest instead of Pizza Quest (hmmnnn, Brad, is it too late to change the logo?).
Oh well, we're going to bring these two worlds together as we journey on, ultimately headed to the Great American Beer Festival in Denver where all this pizza and beer talk manifests into some amazing brewski and 'za. Onward....
Peter's Blog: Charlotte Mini-Quest Part Two
A few weeks ago I posted about the first part of a local mini pizza quest I went on here in Charlotte. In that post I focused on Wolfgang Puck's new Pizza Bar, but that was only the first stop of the day. From there, journalist and fellow pizza lover Michael Solender, along with photographer Tonya Russ Price and went to three other places, which I want to tell you about now and in upcoming posts. Unfortunately, I can't seem to get the photos up but I wanted to post this now since it's long overdue.
Luisa's Brick Oven Pizza
I've written about Luisa's Brick Oven Pizza in the past (there is a brief essay in Pizza: A Slice of Heaven, by Ed Levine, that tells of my discovery of Luisa's when I first moved to Charlotte as part of the requisite check-list of things anyone must do when they move to a new city: find a doctor, dentist, bank, Chinese restaurant, and a great pizzeria). And, even after nine years I still feel that it is my favorite New York Style pizzeria in Charlotte. I use the term New York Style loosely, though, because it such a big, all encompassing term that it really can mean anything or even nothing. I need for some of you hard-core NY pizza freaks to chime in here with your idea of what it means, whether narrowed to "by the slice" versions, or classic Neapolitan inspired coal-fired versions like John's, Lombardi's, or Totonno's, or just plain old Ray's and all the Ray's clones and doppelgängers.
For me, though, it's just a way to differentiate from Boston-style (thicker crust, sometimes referred to as Greek-style), Sicilian (focaccia-like, baked in pans), Americana-pizza that focuses on breadier crusts and heavy on the toppings, Detroit and St. Louis-styles with their cracker thin crusts and cross-cut servings, and of course, Napoletana-style pizzerias (attempts to recreate the VPN, or rival associations' pizzas) of Naples, of which only a few American pizzerias do a decent job. In other words, when I say New York pizza what I mean is pizza, round, thin to medium thin crust, nice tomato or other sauce and gooey cheese, aka "Neapolitan" pizza, which means, in my opinion, Naples-inspired pizzas as interpreted by the American pizzerias originally in New York City and thereabouts. Whew, does that make sense to anyone but me? It can be baked in any kind of oven; therefore, most pizza as we know and love it in America is, for the most part and with infinite nuanced permutations, New York-style pizza. But that's just a digressive rant.
My main point is that I love Luisa's because the crust is thin (but not cracker thin), and it's baked in a twenty year old combination wood-fired/gas forno, and I always eat all my crust "bones," and at least four slices more than I should. The owner, Jeffery Russell, had been the manager for a number of years when it was still owned by Luisa herself, and later, when she decided to focus on her wonderful neighborhood osteria Dolce, Jeffery bought it from her -- I think this was about seven or eight years ago -- and he has done a great job keeping the wheels spinning, the quality high, and continues building a very loyal clientele.
Generally, I'm not a big fan of pizza buffets, but the weekday lunch at Luisa's is one of the greatest bargains in town: all the pizza, salad, and soft drinks you want for $8.00. The day we went there on our mini-quest (I wanted Michael to experience it for himself, and for the article he was writing -- God knows, I'd been there many times already) the line was the longest I've ever seen it there and the pizzas were flying out of the oven to keep up, and the giant salad bowl kept getting replenished with more lettuce and fixings. My favorite "specialty" pizza on their menu, The Luisa (made with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and ricotta cheese, pesto, and garlic) is prominent in the buffet rotation, so I was in heaven. When I go for dinner with a small group of people, I often recommend that they also order the Fiorentino, which has spinach, garlic, mozzarella, Parmesan, and Fontina. But the specialty toppings are not the point here and not the reason Luisa's is about the only local pizzeria I go to frequently (other than my own, Pure Pizza, which we'll get to in a future posting). There are a few other reasons: Lori Flanigan has been our server for ten years (and there are other servers too, of course, but Lori is always there for lunch service) and you can't underestimate the value of a consistent and friendly face when it comes to establishing customer loyalty (refer to John Arena's Guest Column series on "going pro" for other such difference makers). Until recently, the pizzas were always made by the same guy, Ray, who said very little but always knew just how much char I liked -- he recently got a better paying non-restaurant job that he couldn't turn down, but his sidekicks, Oro and Marco, provide a seamless transition. As we've often cited, a memorable pizza is in the hands of the pizzaiolo and it bodes well for a place, at least in my estimation, when the employees stay and the turnover, whether front or back of the house, is minimal. While the most important thing at a pizzeria is the quality of the pizzas, they are not the only factor in making a place memorable. In the end, it's more about the connectedness we feel that reels us back in, and connectedness works on many levels. So, for all these reasons, Luisa's keeps reeling me back.
Which brings me to another successful operation, just a few blocks from Luisa's, that has figured out a formula for success using a trifecta of compelling lures. Mellow Mushroom, a small franchise concept that began in Atlanta about thirty years ago has developed a brand loyalty among its regulars that is as passionate as Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix even though the two concepts are as different as night and day. We'll explore that in my next Peter's Blog.
You may think I've gone off the rails here with my pepperoni-ing of everything, but realize this isn't all I eat! I sit around and come up with an idea and make a bunch of pizzas to try something out. As you can see from the last few weeks, it takes some time to get these postings together. It doesn't take nearly the time to make and devour the actual pizzas!
I have always been a fan of Brussel Sprouts. Fortunately, these strange tasting little bulbs have become quite popular lately. I was at Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York not long ago and had some amazing Brussel Sprouts and also swung through Boulder recently and had an amazing pizza that Kelly Whitaker adorned with clusters of brussels as a topping. My favorite way to eat them is roasted with some olive oil, salt and pepper and then, sometimes, slicing them in half and finishing them in a pan with some shallots and pancetta. There are tons of great recipes out there for these babies.
While I was thinking of my pepperon-ification of everything, Kelly's pizza popped into my mind. What if I roasted them 80% of the way and then sliced them into thick discs and seasoned them to taste a bit like pepperoni? That could be interesting. There is a little bite in a brussel. That slight bitterness may be interesting with the spicy pepperoni flavors.
I looked up Momofuku Roasted Brussels Sprouts and found this recipe online - which I will now have to try! Of course David Chang uses fish sauce which adds such an amazing flavor to almost everything. My friend Kim, who runs my favorite home kitchen (I've featured her here, along with her mom, making "Mom's Soy Pickled Jalapeños" along with her sister, who came down to help us make some amazing Vietnamese inspired pizzas) says she adds fish sauce to almost everything. "It just intensifies the flavors and tastes so good!" When I made my first pepperoni vegetable with broccoli stalks, I used a liquid pepperoni sauce that used fish sauce and it came out great. But, lately I have just been using dry ingredients because some of my family don't like that flavor as much.
Here is the link the the recipe for the Momofuku Roasted Brussels on a food blog called Food52: *LINK
I would recommend blending this or maybe sprinkling some fish sauce into my brussels-pepperoni sprouts as an option!
Roasted Brussels-eroni Sprouts Pizza
- Favorite Dough
*I made up my "desert dough" with 10% Fire Roasted Mesquite Flour! *Link
- Peter's Basic Tomato Sauce
*I had a #10 Can of Bianco Dinapoli Tomatoes and I wasn't afraid to use it!
- Fresh Mozzarella
- Brads Brussels-eroni *Recipe below
- Pepperoni Seasoning *Recipe below
Here we go:
Roast your brussels. Clean off any dirty tips and wash the brussel bulbs. Place them in a bowl and drizzle some olive oil over them and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place them into the oven to roast until just done, or maybe just a little underdone - so you can cut them into slices and have them hold together. Most recipes call for about 30-40 minutes in an oven at 400 degrees. But, I had my oven cranked to 550, so I checked them at 20 minutes and pulled them a little bit after that when the tips were turning brown and they were soft enough. You could do this earlier as well and let them cool. Mine were still hot when I was cutting them, which makes that dance a little more entertaining for your fingers.
After slicing them up, sprinkle them with your pepperoni seasoning.
- Salt - 1 Tbsp
- Pepper - 1 Tbsp
- Paprika - 1 Tbsp
- Ground Mustard Seed - 1 Tbsp
- Ground Fennel Seed - 1 Tbsp
- Crushed Red Pepper - 1.5 Tbsp
- Garlic Powder - 1/2 Tbsp
This is where I started. After I mixed it up, I added a little more paprika and played with it a little. My next run with the Brussel Sprouts will see some fish sauce added into the mix.
Season the sprouts on both sides!
- Spread the dough
- Spread the sauce
- Sip your beer
- Place some of your fresh mozzarella around the pizza
- Lay out your sprouts
Into the oven.
So, here we go into the oven. In these photos you will see a new item in my oven. I recently acquired a new pizza cooking surface - called The Baking Steel. I've been using this for the past few pizza making sessions in my oven set up. I've placed this in the center of my oven and used my thick Forno Bravo Pizza Stone on top of this because I like the idea that the heat retained in the top stone would radiate back down onto my pizza. (My other theory is that having a couple stones in the oven, helps maintain the temperature when making multiple pizzas. You can also rotate which stone you use as the pizzas take heat out of one stone you can cook the next one on the other stone etc.)
Anyway, there's something interesting going on here with this Baking Steel product. I'm getting 6 minute pizzas consistently. My stone-only set-up may come close to that for the first pizza, but usually is in the 8-9 minute range. There seems to be a very good heat distribution going on with the steel.
The other nice thing is that it comes with a carrying case and since it's steel, it's easily transported without fear of it cracking. I'm still a huge fan of my thick stone, but this new product is a great addition to the potential tools we have for cooking pizza in our home ovens!
6 Minutes Later:
I pulled the pizza and steel out on the rack to take a picture of the pizza before it came out of the oven. Looks great! Nice crust. If you haven't tried this "desert pizza crust" I came up with, I highly recommend it. The mesquite flour makes the whole dough smooth and almost velvety. Very interesting.
Look at this oozy pile of brussels-eroni and melted fresh mozz swimming in a sea of Bianco Dinapoli goodness. I'd call this pizza a success. Give it a whirl and let us know how it comes out for you.
Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
Isaac Newton has long been one of my science heroes—my earliest life journey was as a science and math geek. Now he is my newest baking hero.
Most everyone knows that Newton developed his theory of gravity after seeing an apple fall from a tree. Every high school physics student learns of his three laws of motion. He built the first practical reflecting telescope, confirmed the accuracy of Kepler’s laws of planetary motion, and developed differential and integral calculus.
In consideration of his early work, Newton was appointed a fellow of Cambridge and then to the Lucasian Professorship of Mathematicks. His first lectures as Lucasian Chair were on optics. In them, he demonstrated his “celebrated phenomenon of colors,” proving that prisms don’t color light but separate colors already within light, and providing us a classic example of the craft of the scientific method.
Newton’s work on optics continued the work of others, particularly that of Descartes and Hooke. Though he rejected their theories, he built on their craft as scientists, as he explained in a letter to Hooke: "What Des-Cartes did was a good step. You have added much several ways, & especially in taking ye colours of thin plates into philosophical consideration. If I have seen further it is by standing on ye sholders of Giants." [spelling original]
This is why Newton is my newest baking hero. Baking, as much as science, depends on the craft of the baker. And though I am no Newton of the baking world, I now see further than before because I too stand on the " shoulders of Giants."
The first breads I baked were from a Dell Purse Book called, Breads, that I found on the checkout line of a grocery store. I baked from that pamphlet for years, creating loaves which were better than store-bought, and brought friends running for a taste. Never, though, did they rise to be exceptional.
I met my first giant when I bought Peter Reinhart’s, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread. Through that book, I learned much about coaxing the full flavor stored deep within wheat’s kernel into the bread. Preferments, slow fermentation, and overnight retardation are techniques that are now part of my craft. I met my second giant when I attended a workshop at the King Arthur Flour Baking Education Center. There I learned from Jeffrey Hamelman how to make baguettes six ways. Now my craft includes the knowledge that there is always more than one way to create exceptional bread and the passion for experimentation. I met my third giant, Richard Miscovich, at two workshops, one on shaping and scoring and another on operating a wood-fired micro-bakery. Now my craft includes mixing and kneading larger batches by hand, more careful shaping and scoring techniques, wood-firing a brick oven, and loading, steaming and baking in that oven.
Beyond all of this, though, these three giants taught me that to be an artisan is to passionately seek to become better with each batch pulled from the oven. So this is my quest. And from them I know, too, that if I am true to this quest, my bread will be better for it. How much better, as Isaac Newton has taught me, depends on how many giants’ shoulders I climb onto.
Now, where is the next pair of shoulders?
Bruery-Basta Dinner Pairing and Pizza Throw-Down
After all the prelude webisodes you've been watching, things are starting to heat up as we now head into the main story. This segment contains the moment when we threw down the gauntlet and asked Patrick Rue, world famous brewmeister and owner of The Bruery, not knowing if he'd go for it, if he would be willing to create a beer inspired by a pizza that we would make. But there's a terrific discussion that happened first, as you will see, in which Kelly Whitaker and Al Henkin, of Basta, share their thoughts on pairings for the big Beer Dinner they were hosting, featuring six different Bruery beers. You'll hear terms like "unfiltered bottle conditioned beer," "Orchard White with Lavender," and such. I have to say, it was exciting just being in the middle of it all.
We'll have more webisodes to follow that continue the unfolding story, and you'll see little teases in this one of our subsequent trip to the Bruery in Southern California, so sit back and enjoy the throw-down!
Keste - Mini Quest Part 3
Dave Wilson and I set out about 7-8 hours earlier on a mini pizza quest, where we started at Di Fara Pizza and were now just leaving Roberta's -- both in Brooklyn, NY. You can read about these stops in Part I and Part II of this series. Links: Part I, Part II
As we staggered out of Roberta's for the second time that night, after running into the god of pizza fanatics - New York's own Scott Weiner -- we walked in silence. And we walked in the dark. But the area, which had at first seemed formidable and perhaps even dangerous, now seemed like a friendlier place -- a cool, artsy neighborhood. We both wore smiles, but our eyes must have been a bit more realistic, perhaps betraying our satisfaction as we began to really consider if we could continue on with this madness of a mini-quest that had become a big "P and Q" Pizza Quest.
We dropped down into the subway to head back to Manhattan.
I broke the silence. "Keste?" Were we going to make it in time? Dave struggled, but I knew his answer. His slight hesitation and doubt suddenly brought me back to life. I realized again what we had set out to do, what we must do, what we were going to do. Dave had never been to Keste. He knew what his answer was though he made a veiled attempt at pretending we could cut this quest short. Scott had reinforced us with his recommendations and stories of Roberto's pizzas at Keste. I had told Dave numerous times about his crust that was unparalleled.
"Keste!" Dave agreed. We didn't have to eat a lot. Right? Of course not. We were not hungry, we were on a mission.
Wherever we got off the subway we ended up having to walk quite a bit to get over to Bleecker Street where Keste sits. I think that probably saved us, or at least emptied our guts a wee bit. It was a beautiful night out in New York City and even though we had been eating epic pizza all day, we were headed to yet more epic pizza. What else were we to do, go sulk in our hotel rooms? I don't think so. The walk was good. It helped the mind, the eyes and, for sure, the stomach all get themselves back in line to finish this task, this journey.
It was pretty late by the time we got to Keste. To my surprise there were a few tables still available. We sat down and saw Roberto Coporuscio, who recognized me from visiting a few times before, as well as when I stopped by his new place, Don Antonio by Starita. We chatted a bit and I got back to telling Dave about Roberto's crust. I remember the first time I had it. I was staying at a hotel and brought back a couple of slices and when I walked in the room, I couldn't stop myself from opening the box of leftovers and pulling another slice to see if what I was remembering was true. It was. The crust is as good as, and probably better than any I've had. It's soft with a slight crispness and is almost as good an hour later, out of the box at room temperature.
Prosciutto and Arugula
This is always one of my favorite pizzas. The balance of a great prosciutto like this, with hints of salty soft ham-iness, along with the cool, peppery bright arugula is hard to beat. I've devoured this pie here before. Tonight we picked away. It was really good, but by this point we were tasting the pizza more than eating it! There was just no room in our pizza processing facilities left! It felt like we were committing a crime leaving so much pizza untouched, but this was for the cause and we were on a mission. The mission was slowly coming to an end and our bodies were waking us up to the reality of survival now!
Pizza Del Pappa
Oh, then the second pizza arrived. Scott Weiner had insisted we order the Pizza Del Papa. Another sip of a beer, and the show went on! Our eyes and mouths and slouching postures were all lining up now! The pizza was, of course, delicious and brought us back to life. The smoked buffalo mozzarella was a nice touch under the soft red and yellow peppers, zucchini, and it balanced well with the butternut squash cream! I love playing with the concept of sauces. Nothing beats tomato sauce, actually, but then again when something works it works.
We left more pizza on the plate than one would ever consider if they had come for dinner. Dave said it was as good, or better than Scott and I had described. It was well worth the journey, and we left satisfied, on many levels, because of the extra effort that elevated the whole night into mythic epicness!
On this mini-pizza quest I discovered that three small pizzerias in New York and Brooklyn could take me on a journey through time and space in a way I never thought possible. At Di Fara's it felt like everything was frozen in a time long gone by. The experience was like stepping back into the exact same space but in a different era, the sixties. At Roberta's time was affected, but in a different way. Roberta's was like stepping over into a time and space warp where we experienced being in Brooklyn, Portland and the TV show Portlandia all at the same time. At Keste there was a whole different experience. Keste is perhaps timeless. It is both old and new. You can taste history and the future at the same time.
Life is good when you can come up with a crazy plan for the day and just let go and let it happen. As our small "p" pizza quest came to an end, I realized what our big picture Pizza Quest was all about again. It's about the chase. It's about exploring and being open to finding what life will bring you, celebrating the passions of others and enjoying their gifts and sharing yours. It's about finding that ever elusive something called quality. Our search here on Pizza Quest for the perfect pizza is really just an excuse to discover something new about ourselves and our friends, but also about discovering all the possibilities that life has to offer.
Postscript: Keste translated means "This is it!" Well, this is surely it for this pizza quest journey...unless you want to know about how well I slept that night.
Like a baby with a pacifier!!!
Neo Neapolitan Sourdough Pizza Dough
This pizza dough is a sourdough variation of Peter Reinhart’s Neo Neapolitan Pizza dough. The dough uses a small amount of commercial yeast and sourdough starter at 100% hydration. The result of this high hydration dough is a bubbly crisp pizza crust, which is easy to stretch out once you allow it to proof long enough.
1 teaspoon active dry yeast (or 3/4 teaspoon instant yeast)
1 oz/28g hot water, about 115F degrees.
--Add the yeast to the hot water in a small container and stir. Allow the yeast to proof for about 15-20 minutes.
Next, in a large proofing container or mixing bowl add together:
8 oz/226g of ripe and vigorous 100% hydration starter (ie, wet sponge starter as opposed to a firm starter)
13 oz/368g warm water, around 110F degrees
1 oz/28g olive or vegetable oil
.5 oz/14g brown sugar
.5 oz sea salt
--Mix all if the above ingredients by hand or mixer until incorporated and then add:
The yeast mixture
20 oz/567g bread flour
--Mix in the flour for about 1 to 3 minutes, or until the mixture forms a sticky dough ball. Allow the dough to proof in a lightly oiled, covered container for four hours. Fold the dough every half hour during the four hours for a total of six folds. It will firm up slightly and be less sticky.
--Once the dough is proofed, divide it into four or five pieces and form dough balls. Mist or brush the dough balls with oil, place them in a covered container, and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight. Before using, allow the dough to warm up, uncovered, but well oiled, at room temperature for at least two hours. One-half-hour before baking, stretch or roll dough out and allow it to set for a while until baking time. (I stretch my dough and place it on parchment paper.)
--Then cover the dough with more oil (preferably olive oil), spread on your sauce and toppings and bake (baking time varies) in your very hottest oven. (Start with your oven rack and stone on the very bottom shelf preheat for at least an hour. Every oven is different so, if the pizzas bake too dark on the underside, move the stone up a shelf or two till you achieve an evenly baked pizza).
Note: The pizzas in the photos were made by Alexandra Jean and Teresa Greenway. For more information on baking with sourdough, my website is: www.northwestsourdough.com
This is my first follow up on my broccoli pepperoni experiment. I think I'm onto something here. Pepperoni is so popular because it is a great topping for pizza. It offers a spicy kick with concentrated salt accents. It has a deep flavor with spicy and salty exclamations! When I'm making pizzas at home I tend to use a good salami rather than a traditional pepperoni but, every once in a while the kids will order your basic pepperoni pizza and I'll nab a slice and remember why it's so popular.
I was making some pizzas recently and while shopping I saw a pile of little japanese eggplant sitting there. The spot lights on the ceiling reflected back at me from their shiny purple skin. I decided to pick one up and try using it as my next platform to play with my pepperoni-ing project.
Let's get right to the pizza since this is a follow up to the previous recipe post.
The Pepperoniplant Pizza
- Dough: I used Peter's Country dough that I made using a Firestone Double Barrel Ale instead of water.
- Peter's herb oil
- Grated Mozz and an English White Cheddar
- Brad's Pepperoniplant
- Sauteed chilis (Fresno and Serranos)
- Salt/Pepper to taste
Making the Pepperoniplant:
*I know the name is lame. But, I am writing this blog and I get to use it!
- 1 Japanese Eggplant
- Olive Oil
- Soy Sauce
- Rice Wine Vinegar
- Garlic Powder
- Ground Fennel Seed
- Ground Red Pepper Flakes
- Ground Mustard Seed
- A little Cayenne Pepper
- Ground Black Pepper
Slice eggplant into 1/8" - 1/4" strips. Saute in Olive Oil and add the rest of the ingredients to your eye. Drizzle a little soy for color and a depth of flavor. I feel like the soy adds a nutty, or meaty quality to the taste. Add a little of the rice wine vinegar for a little tang and brightness. Sprinkle the moistened eggplant with the dry ingredients until it's the right color and you feel you have the right balance of spices. I flipped them over back and forth as they sautéed in order to make sure to distribute the spices and liquid evenly on each slice.
Saute until just done. This could be done ahead of time and saved in the fridge.
Pre-heat your oven to 550 Degrees for an hour. When ready to bake the pizza switch it to Convection bake. I find the circulation of the air helps cook the pizza faster.
Spread the dough and build your pizza. Haven't we gotten this down yet?
Pepperoniplant and chilis.
Into the oven it goes.
6-10 minutes later it will be bubbling hot and ready to come out.
Welcome to my vegetable pepperoni quest!
*Note on the asterisk's: Enjoy them. Follow them down the page. They lead you to the next sentence. Ok, really, the web program just wasn't cooperating today. I could not space anything out. So, I "outsmarted" the programming and entered the asterisks.
Peter's Blog, Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar
Last week I took a local reporter, Michael Solender, on a local mini-Pizza Quest for a story he is writing for a local magazine. We were accompanied by photographer Tonya Russ Price. We picked four local places to visit, all of which I consider among Charlotte's best: Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar; Luisa's Brick Oven Pizza; Mellow Mushroom; and Pure Pizza (where I serve as "consulting partner"). Michael's article, which I'm sure will be great and very different from my account, won't come out till late April and I'll post the link when it does, but I wanted to post a few comments of my own here, since I found the adventure very rewarding for a number of reasons that I'll explain below.
Why Wolfgang Puck chose Charlotte as the launching pad for his new WP Pizza Bar concept, which will roll out nationwide over the next few years, I'll never know, but I'm thrilled. For some reason he likes Charlotte. His Executive Chef over all the locations, Scott Wallen, was the chef for a number of years just around the corner at Upstream, one of our best seafood restaurants, so maybe that had something to do with it. I've always loved Wolfgang's food -- he truly is one of the great flavorists of our time, as well as a shrewd and driven businessman. When I lived in San Francisco my favorite restaurant was Postrio, which was the SF version of Spago, and I think it's safe to say that Puck's flavor palate has influenced nearly every American chef of the past thirty-five years. He has also presided over a line of disappointing frozen pizzas and has branded himself on the shopping networks across a lot of so-so products, which I think has contributed to a diluting of his eponymous brand value, but that's irrelevant at the moment because his restaurant food still sizzles. I'm thrilled that his first WP Pizza Bar exists only one mile from my house. I know that it has nothing to do with me; Wolfgang and I have met only a few times and I doubt he even knows who I am. However, since I don't believe in coincidences (but I do believe in irony), I would say that it is apt and appropriate that he chose my 'hood to be the flagship location for this venture. I like this restaurant very much and I really enjoy the whole menu, from apps to entrees, as well as the pizzas. Chef Wallen (Scott) took me through his process for the pizzas, including a well thought out dough that uses an aged preferment (about one week old before it gets used), plus an overnight biga, plus an overnight cold fermentation for the dough balls, resulting in a surprisingly soft dough, especially considering that the flour is high gluten of about 14% protein. The first time I had their pizza I thought they were using Italian tipo -00- flour because the texture was so soft. Scott told me it took many months of trial and error in their California test kitchen to achieve this dough. It also contains a little olive oil which, I'm sure, contributes to the softness but, regardless, they pulled it off; an original one-of-a-kind dough topped, naturally, with top of the line ingredients including oven slow roasted tomatoes, organic tomato sauce (the same Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes we use at Pure Pizza -- dang, I thought we were the only ones around here who knew about those!), various imported and domestic cheeses, and the full array of Wolfgang's signature bold flavors, including his famous smoked salmon pizza, the one that was first made famous at Spago, as well as braised short rib, roasted wild mushroom, and barbecue chicken concepts, among the 18 pizzas on the menu. As the pizzas emerge from the dual-heat WoodStone oven, the cornicione is brushed with a tasty garlic oil and then the pies are garnished with various fresh herbs or greens.
Being a crust guy, I spent most of my time talking with Scott about their fermentation method; the idea of holding onto a pate fermentee' (aka pre-fermented dough) for a whole week or more is a very unique technique. I hadn't heard of anyone else doing this. And then, combining it with another preferment, a biga, continues to add layers of flavor as they build toward the final dough.
So here's the thing: the pizzas at WP Pizza Bar are beautiful and look amazingly similar to the ones we make at Pure Pizza. The main difference is the texture of the crust.
Whose is better? It depends on whether you like it soft (Pizza Bar) or al dente (Pure). The good news is that for a city that, ten months ago, had no artisan pizzerias at all, we suddenly have two, both of which are very very good. The business models are also very different; WP Pizza Bar is a beautiful, upscale bistro with a full menu that includes great steaks, fish, various pastas, a full bar, inventive sides and specials (I'm a fan of sauteed spinach with roasted garlic and those oven dry-roasted tomatoes), whereas Pure Pizza exists in the Seventh Street Public Market, a kiosk restaurant in an alt-style food court.
I'll write more about Pure in my next post (after we host our first private beer dinner, which happens tonight), as well as tell you about my stops at Luisa's (my favorite local New York-style Neapolitan pizzeria), and Mellow Mushroom, a brilliant and hugely successful concept pizzeria chain that makes what I consider to be some of the best "Americana" pizza around (and having 36-48 draft beer taps at every location doesn't hurt either).
Bottom-line on WP Pizza Bar: it may take a few years to cover the country and work out all the remaining first year tweaks but I think this is going to eventually be Wolfgang Puck's most financially successful multi-unit concept, mainly because both the food and the pizzas are excellent, and the restaurant design, as always with Wolfgang, is beautiful. He is the Godfather of the gourmet, "California" pizza, and he is now building a series of shrines to celebrate his contribution to the pizza lexicon. Thanks to Wolf and Scott Wallen for kicking it all off right around the corner from my house. The irony is on me!
I'd love to hear from any of you who may have also been to the WP Pizza Bar. There is now one in Greensboro, NC and I believe another will soon open, perhaps in Raleigh, and also out west. By this time next year there should be three more and then, watch out, they will probably hit the popcorn stage soon after. But the key to why it works, the star attraction, are the pizzas. Who knows, maybe Charlotte will become a pizza town after all….
Broccoli Pepperoni? Broccoli and pepperoni don't go together in a sentence very often. The pepperoni pizza is, by all accounts, the most popular pizza here in the USA. Picture your average 10 year old boy walking into his local pizza shop. "Can I have a medium pepperoni pizza, uhmm…also with roasted broccoli?!!" That just isn't going to happen. Maybe I'm wrong though.
I love broccoli. Even my daughter loves broccoli and that kid is like a cat - she's finicky! If you've read my recipe musings you'll already know that Owen (my son) likes broccoli. He's like Mikey; "He eats everything!" I was making some broccoli a while back and, after cutting the branches off the stocks, I noticed the cross section of the stalk and it looked moist and interesting for some reason. So, I sliced a piece off and ate it. It was good. I thought, why do we cut off the top of the broccoli, the florets, and just throw all of this away? Maybe the collective "we" doesn't, but I had never really been served broccoli trunk before.
So, I started chopping more of the stalk and using it in salads, or even thicker chunks when steaming broccoli for dinner, and life was good. One day when I was slicing some stalk I noticed the shape of the little discs. For some reason I thought of pizza topping and then, aha, broccoli pepperoni! I know this may not be something I should be sharing in public, it could get me locked up. But, I trust you all to keep this part of the story to yourselves.
I am still working on the recipe, but thought I would share it now, even while still in development, because I think it's an interesting concept. A big part of what we are searching for here on Pizza Quest is not just that perfect pizza, or perfect final product, but what is interesting; what is the process; who are the driven people and what drives them to create amazing food -- how did they get here? I know this aha moment is just a small example of that quest, but it is a part of the process, at least for me, of making our lives interesting, enriched, and fun. In other words, broccoli pepperoni is me, in my driven state.
I was also thinking that I'd like to extend this concept into zucchini, or maybe even try a breaded eggplant "pepperoni." The real quest here, as it often is, is my search for flavor.
By the way, my daughter gave this pizza two thumbs up!
- 3-4 Large Broccoli Stalks
- Olive Oil *Approx. 1 - 2 Tablespoons
- Soy Sauce *Approx. 1/2 - 1 Tablespoon
- Rice Wine Vinegar *Approx. 1/2 Tablespoon
- Paprika *Approx. 1 1/2 tablespoons
- Garlic Powder *Approx 1/2 Tablespoon
- Ground Fennel Seed *Approx 1/2 Tablespoon
- Ground Red Pepper Flakes *Approx 1/2 Tablespoon
- Ground Mustard Seed *Approx 1/2 Tablespoon
- A little Cayenne Pepper
- Ground Black Pepper
*Note: I have been making this by "eye" and "feel." These amounts are approximate. Start with less and add more of each as needed, per your taste. Mix it all together and taste one piece. Adjust and taste again until you have it where you like it. You can find all sorts of homemade pepperoni recipes online that can guide you if you want/need exact spice measurements. As I play with this, I'll updated the recipe here. Please do the same if you have any suggested tweaks.
Cut the broccoli heads off the stalks. Trim the stalks as needed. Cut off the bottom edge.
Slice broccoli into 1/8" slices.
*You don't have to be precise because varying the slices gives a variety of textures after they are cooked. The slightly thicker slices are more moist, while the thinner ones get a little crispier and curl up more.
Place slices in a bowl and add the ingredients. I did so to taste. I've added approximate amounts above, but think this can be done by adding what you think feels right and then tasting and adjusting.
I used the olive oil, soy and rice wine vinegar to form the spices into a marinade and add flavor. In a previous version I used a brewed my own fish sauce, which is basically equal parts commercial fish sauce, vinegar, water and sugar, boiled. I loved the flavor that brought, but my wife thought it was a little fishy. Try that if you like the fish sauce flavor instead of the soy/vinegar combo which turned out quite nice as well.
Pre-heat your oven to 350 Degrees.
Lay your marinaded broccoli "pepperoni" slices out on a cookie sheet in a single layer. This is a little work because they will all be stuck together in the bowl!
Place into the oven for about 8-10 minutes. Check, and when they are softening and starting to curl, or some of the thinner slices are starting to brown on the edges, pull it out and turn the slices over with a pair of tongs. Place the pan back into the oven and check the pieces in about 5 minutes. You don't need to cook them all the way. If using on pizza they will cook another 6-10 minutes. The pre-baking is just to get them started.
You can cook these ahead of time and keep them in the refrigerator for later use. They can even be thrown on a sandwich as a topping to add a little spice and flavor.
Check back here, as I'll update this post with more details on my vegetables pepperoni quest!
Peter's Blog, Upcoming Event, March 2nd
In light of our recent webisode posting about the Basta/Bruery Pizza/Beer Challenge, I think this announcement is very timely. Sadly, it will be more useful to those of you who live near Charlotte, NC so, if you don't, but have friends or family in this area, please feel to tell them about it.
On Saturday, March 2nd we will be hosting a "Farm to Fork" Pizza/Beer Pairing Dinner at the new restaurant where I am a consulting partner, Pure Pizza, located at 224 7th St, in Charlotte (inside the 7th Street Public Market).
Our pizza team has created two totally original pizzas, both made with dough using spent grain from the brewery, to match with a variety of beers from one Charlotte's newest, hottest micro-breweries, Triple C Brewery. The dinner will also include a farm to table salad (and the farmers themselves will be there to talk about their organic produce) and dessert -- a specially created panna cotta (and did I mention, Triple C's amazing beers? Yes, I know I did but we're pretty excited about the pairings, very reminiscent of what we will be showing you in the upcoming webisodes).
It all starts at 7 PM and will also include live music and lots of fun. In other words, a one of a kind pizza party! All for $40.
For more details and to reserve a place (tickets are going fast) go to: http//purepizza.eventbrite.com . You can also find more info at our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/PurePizza (we'd love it if you'd "like" it). Anyway, this is our first such event (we've only been open for 9 months) so I wanted to get out the word via this growing Pizza Quest community (I also posted this on the Craftsy.com/pizza website -- we're up to 16,500 subscribers which, I'm sure, include many of you). I'll keep you posted in the future when I hear of similar fun pizza events. Hope you or your friends can make it! I'll take photos and report back after the event.
The Basta/Bruery Pairing Dinner Prep
We are moving now closer to the showdown between Kelly Whitaker, Al Henkin, and me on pizza versus Patrick Rue on beer. It all began at, and was inspired by, this dinner at Basta - Wood Fired Eatery and Pizzeria, where Kelly and Al came up with a wonderful tasting menu inspired by some of the beers from Orange County artisan brewery, The Bruery. In this segment you will see Al and Kelly briefing their serving staff on the courses and the beers, including Patrick's explanation of his IPL (Imperial Pale Lager as opposed to an India Pale Ale). There was a wonderful Farro Salad with Humboldt Fog Goat Cheese (one of my all time favorites), as well as Pan Roasted Divers Scallops, Quail, Rack of Lamb, and a thoughtfully selected cheese course (see Al's mini-course on cheese and beer pairings in an earlier webisode). Most interesting of all is that Al and Kelly chose to go with a French theme rather than staying in their usual wheelhouse, Italian. Of course, they both paid their dues for years working in fine French dining, so this was but a mere dip into their previous treasure chest of training and a chance to flex their wings.
This all leads to our next webisode, coming soon, when we all sit down and come up with the Signature Pizza/Beer Challenge. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Enjoy this one first, an appetizer, so to speak, of things to come.
Are You Ready to Turn Pro? Part 5
Note from Peter: If you'd like to read all five of John's columns on this subject you can go to the Guest Columns section instead of scrolling down the home page. There, you will find them all in one place. Either way, please do read them; it could make all the difference between success and failure. And even if you're not thinking of opening a place, this is great, universal wisdom, applicable in any venture.
Well, so far we have explored some of the demands of opening a pizzeria so now it is time to ask yourself something that could change your life. Here is the easy part. What type of pizzeria do you want to open? Everyone has a vision of their ideal place, so I bet the answer popped into your mind immediately. Now it gets tough. Here is the big question: Why? Why do you want to build that particular type of pizzeria?
You see, in the modern era, something very interesting has happened, something that has never occurred in the world of pizza before: choice. In the not too distant “old days” virtually every factor that shaped one’s pizzeria was predetermined by their environment. Equipment? The Neapolitans made wood oven pizza because they had 2,000 years of experience building those ovens. Service style? Pizza by the slice developed in New York because of fast paced foot traffic. Ingredients? Sausage was the pizza topping of choice in Chicago because they processed a lot of pork in the Windy City. In modern times many of those limitations have been lifted. You can now make a conscious choice about what you want to serve, how it will be prepared and how you will serve it. That’s good, right? Not exactly, because with freedom comes the responsibility of due diligence.
Here is an example: A few months ago I was contacted by a restaurant group that needed a consultant to develop a deep dish pizza concept. I turned them down and here is why: Their location was in an office park that would require multiple table turns with 80% of sales at lunch time. Deep dish pizza has a long bake time and people tend to eat lighter at lunch. On top of that, they were in a city that is usually hot and humid, which is not the perfect place to eat a cheese and meat laden pie. Why did they choose deep dish for their concept? Because the CEO had visited Chicago and loved that pizza and they reasoned, “We will have the only deep dish pizza in the area.”
Sound familiar? Each of us has had similar thoughts when we find a special place on our personal pizza quest. “Wow! This is amazing. I can bring this pizza to my home town and make a fortune.” The honest truth is, maybe you can and maybe you can’t. You see, there may be some good reasons why a certain type of pizza isn’t available in your area. Sure, a high traffic urban location with a food savvy population can support many different pizza styles. Tony Gemignani has proven that this is true with his fantastic multi-style pizzeria in San Francisco. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because you like something it will be successful. It is all about the right fit. If it is in your heart to make a certain type of pizza it is absolutely crucial that you are brutally honest when you evaluate your proposed trading area.
So it all comes down to choice. To be successful you must either choose a certain pizza style because you honestly feel it is right for the location, or, you must choose a location that is right for your style. Sure, passion is important. Having a unique high quality product is important. But those factors alone are not enough to guarantee success. Remember, as you transition from accomplished amateur to pizza professional you must continually evaluate not only what you want to make but also what your guests want to buy. That is the major difference between cooking for your friends and family and staying in business.
In the next segment we will take a look at the things you must consider when shaping your pizza concept.
The Baking Steel
Note from Peter: We've been writing about this new Baking Steel for a couple of months, so I asked its creator, Andris Lagsdin, to tell us more about it in his own words. I love his inspirational story, one that exemplifies what Pizza Quest is all about, and am thrilled to be able to share it with you now. Enjoy!
Although for my day job, I work for a family-owned manufacturing company, Stoughton Steel, outside the office I'm pretty passionate about food -- pizza in particular. I've been making pizza's since I started with Todd English at Figs in the early 90's. It's been a pretty casual obsession of mine over the years, making pies mostly for my family and hosting pizza parties for my friends. I used to make my pizza's on the back of a metal sheet tray, then switched to a stone for what I thought would help make a better crust. I brought the steel into the picture just this past year, after reading excerpts of Modernist Cuisine in a Wall Street Journal article. Steel and pizza -- are you kidding me? Of course I was intrigued by the idea. Having more than 15 years experience working in the steel industry and also a strong culinary background, I had been looking for a way to marry the two for quite a long while. And so my journey began.
The WSJ article stated that the best way to replicate brick oven pizza at home was with a steel plate, so I decided to give it a go. I found an extra piece of steel in my shop and cleaned it up to take home. I have to admit that the first steel was a bit of a monstrosity and my wife looked at me like I had two heads when I told her what I planned to do with it. She insisted she wouldn't subject herself or our two kids to anything I made off of that "hunk of steel." Well I went for it anyway, made a batch of dough and baked up the pies. We all marveled at the browning of the crust. There were no leftovers that night. I knew then that I was on to something.
After a couple of months of fine-tuning, we decided we were ready to see how other people felt about baking pizza on steel. Being that our customer base was the construction industry, we needed a
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Pizza Quest is a site dedicated to the exploration of artisanship in all forms, wherever we find it, but especially through the literal and metaphorical image of pizza. As we share our own quest for the perfect pizza we invite all of you to join us and share your journeys too. We have discovered that you never know what engaging roads and side paths will reveal themselves on this quest, but we do know that there are many kindred spirits out there, passionate artisans, doing all sorts of amazing things. These are the stories we want to discover, and we invite you to jump on the proverbial bus and join us on this, our never ending pizza quest.