Friday, October 31, 2008

Pizza, the Opiate of the Masses; or, Jacques Cousteau’s Pizza Adventures

I daresay that pizza is one of the most American foods in existence. Yes, its origins lay in Italy, but I have never been anywhere in this nation of ours that didn’t have at least one pizza parlor or pizza delivery. I’ve eaten pizza in Clinton, Missouri, Iowa City, Iowa, and Ogallala, Nebraska—and, folks, I doubt one can get more American than any of those places.

Given pizza’s ubiquity, I was never much inclined to make it myself. Not with such a wide variety available. New York thin crust. Chicago deep dish. Wood-fired. Grilled. With Thai chicken or barbecue sauce. And the whole world of yeast dough never truly caught my eye, at least, not in a savory capacity.

So along comes the Daring Bakers’ October challenge, ready to topple me from my complacency.

Thats amore

Admittedly, I had noble and high ambitions for the pizza. Sweet pizza was even considered. A multitude of toppings. The tabula rasa of bread dough. And then the month stretched on, time was short, and, ultimately, I opted for a not particularly innovative but exceptionally tasty quasi-Greek concoction of homemade sauce (courtesy of Z.), sautéed red bell peppers and sweet onion (also courtesy of Z.), topped with feta (he crumbled the cheese, too—so basically, I just made the dough and stood around looking distracted).

Part of the challenge was that we had to toss the dough in the air. I watched, for about three seconds, some pizza-tossing competition on the Food Network before changing channels to see what poor fashion slob received a tough love makeover from Stacey and Clinton. So, with this scanty knowledge, and a little YouTube research, I attempted my own pizza tossing.

When the moon hits your eye

The manta ray you see floating above my hands is, in fact, supposed to be a lovely circle of pizza dough gently wafting through the air. Perhaps because the kitchen was exceptionally warm, or perhaps the fault lies not in the temperature but ourselves, but the dough was much too soft for tossing. It turned into the aforementioned manta ray. So I shoved the ball of dough aside and simply pressed out the remaining crusts with my hands. Much better. Z. took the blob of unsuccessfully tossed dough, formed it into balls, drizzled some olive oil on them, and topped with a dab of tomato sauce and cheese. Into the oven with all of it. The pizzas had the added benefit of baking on a genuine pizza stone, while the dough balls (hee!) baked on a jelly roll pan.

The result: very tasty. We shoved those pizzas into our gullets and drank some retsina (thank you, P.) and considered the evening a success. I still have dough frozen in the freezer, for future use. If I am ever so inclined.

But I’m still keeping the pizza delivery menu close to the phone.

I remain,
Your servant, &c.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Holy Ghost in the form of a dove is present in the dough descending from the light into the praying hands of the supplicant. See it? The veil is thin at this time of year! Holy Pizza. Holy Cats.