There are only a few foods that I miss from my homeland, and none of them very complex. I would lunge for a piece of grainy goats’ cheese, or a good corn tortilla, a piece of exciting chocolate, real whipped cream or prosciutto, but not if I had to knock anyone over, and the vista of kaleidoscopic tastes at my disposal wins out over nostalgia almost every time.
That said, pizza is a damned fine and alluring food memory, and the bf and I missed the stuff enough to look for it. Alarmingly, this city has been known to use ketchup in place of real sauce, and it only took a few surprisingly disappointing deliveries with cake-y crusts to make it clear that we had some kind of crusade to acknowledge and that we had to attack this problem at home.
Home, by the way, does not have an oven. But no matter! We’re pirates. We’re pizza pirates! We’ll figure it out, or die trying covered with olive oil and basil flecks (kinky, but possible). Thankfully it didn’t come to that (to the relief of whoever would have found our bodies I’m sure) and a gas range produces the best results I’ve ever gotten. I was as surprised as you probably are reading this! But I’m not joking, and I’m grateful to Kenji at Serious Eats for figuring it out.
First, make the best damned pizza crust recipe in the world, or even better double it and keep half in the freezer. Then, make a New York style pizza sauce that’s just slightly sweet, blessed with a pat of butter, and if there’s an onion and some basil floating around in there, all’s the better (both recipes below). Then, scatter a heavy skillet on medium heat with cornmeal, stretch the dough to fit, and tuck it in there, adding a lid so that it will steam and puff for a minute or two. After the dough is mostly cooked, flip it over and finish the other side.
Then, turn the heat off and brush olive oil on the puffed side of the outer crust, and carefully, hang the oiled crust over the edge of the skillet and turn the flame back on. Singe/blacken the rim to satisfaction, then put the pizza back in the pan, right side up, and turn the burner off. Add toppings… now.
When that’s all done, turn the heat back to medium low and put the lid on, slowly letting the cheese melt and ooze… it will take a few minutes. Be patient and don’t turn the heat up, and you’ll eventually be rewarded with a liquid lake of cheese and a perfectly crisp bottom. If it’s not brown enough, just leave it in there a bit longer and turn the heat up a bit more – easy.
If you can, letting it rest for 2 minutes will prevent topping-slide and make for clean slices and fewer burnt mouths, but I can’t say we were good like that all the time. Nom.
Crisp & Chewy Pizza Dough
recipe from Ina Garten
- 1 1/4 cups warm (100 to 110 degrees F) water
- 2 packages active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 3 tablespoons good olive oil
- 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
Combine the water, yeast, honey, and olive oil in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add 3 cups flour, then the salt, and mix. While mixing, add 1 more cup of flour, or enough to make a very soft dough. Knead the dough on low to medium speed for about 10 minutes until smooth, sprinkling it with flour, if necessary, to keep it from sticking to the bowl. (You can also do this by hand, it will take longer, about 20 minutes)
When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a floured board and knead by hand a dozen times. It should be smooth and elastic, like bubblegum. Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl and turn it several times to cover it lightly with oil. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes, or up to overnight in the refridgerator (a slow rise in the fridge will allow for better flavour and development)
Divide the dough into 6 equal parts and roll each one into a smooth ball. Place the balls on a baking sheet and cover them with a damp towel. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours, or wrap in oiled plastic and freeze for up to 3 months.
If you’ve chilled the dough, take it out of the refrigerator approximately 30 minutes ahead to let it come to room temperature. Shape it into the diameter of your pan, and use immediately for thin crust. For puffier crust, let it rise for 10 minutes before adding toppings.
New York Style Pizza Sauce
recipe from J Kenji Lopez-Alt at Serious Eats
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes OR 2 lbs fresh ripe tomatoes, seeded.
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 medium cloves garlic, grated on microplane grater (about 2 teaspoons)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- pinch red pepper flakes
- Kosher salt
- 2 six-inch sprigs fresh basil with leaves attached
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and split in half
- 1 teaspoon sugar
Process tomatoes and their juice through food mill, pulse in food processor until pureed, mash with a masher, or puree with hand blender. Texture should not be completely smooth, but should have no chunks larger than 1/16 of an inch. Set tomatoes aside.
Combine butter and oil in medium saucepan and heat over medium-low heat until butter is melted. Add garlic, oregano, pepper flakes, and large pinch salt and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant but not browned, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, basil sprigs, onion halves, and sugar. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to lowest setting (bubbles should barely be breaking the surface), and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by 1/2, about 1 hour. Season to taste with salt. Allow to cool and store in covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.