Friday, July 22, 2005

Pizza, Again?

pizza Is it easier to make your own pizza instead of ordering take-out? A few years ago I would have scoffed at the idea--make your own dough, sauce, chop toppings? Crazy! Then I moved to a neighborhood a mere ten minutes away from my favorite pizza joint and inexplicably, they won't deliver to my house. Nope, absolutely no delivery to the northside of Richmond from Carytown. We have our own pizza delivery service, of course, but the pizza is so bland, so unexciting that I can't even bring myself to eat it even when I'm exhausted. For years my husband and I debated whether Piccola's pizza or Mary Angela's pizza was the best and the most authentic (in that NYC slice kind of way) in town. My husband was partial to Piccola's and I was a staunch Mary Angela's fan. Complicating the debate is the fact that the two families who own these places are related; the pizzas are very, very similiar. It becomes therefore, a debate hinging on degrees of greatness, and as you probably know, that kind of discussion can continue indefinitely. Nevertheless, the whole issue was rendered moot when we moved. No delivery service from either Piccola's or Mary Angela's (I will repress my ranting and railing vis a vis this issue for the moment); if we wanted pizza, we had to drive ourselves and get it. One day though, as we were loading our car to leave for home, my father-in-law stashed a pizza stone and a peel in the back along with our luggage (this is how my in-laws get rid of things they don't need). At first, I began making pizza just to see how it was done and then, as the drive to Mary Angela's became more onerous, I slowly started to take it for granted that when we wanted pizza, I would make it. Once I began stocking up on the basic ingredients--yeast, flour, mozzarella, cans of crushed tomatoes--I didn't really think too much about it. We still drove to get take-out, non-delivery pizza now and then, but I also made my own more and more. Eventually I developed a comprehensive, will-please-everybody sort of pizza that comprises three distinct sections: a pepperoni section, a plain cheese section, and for adults, an artichoke-goat cheese section. Remembering to make the dough ahead of time is the only real challenge. Leave it to trusty Christopher Kimball, however, to streamline even this process and reduce the rising, topping, and cooking time to a mere 75 minutes. Here's a link on the web to his Quick Pizza Dough. I also use his uncooked tomato sauce but you'll have to go to Cook's Illustrated-Recipe Resource for that one (again, I must exhort you to subscribe to this site--it's well worth it). Once the dough has risen and then rested, I roll out the entire ball, instead of dividing it in two as recommended. I have a hard time stretching the dough wide enough (although I have found Lora Brody's Dough Relaxer helpful) when it's that small, and I also prefer my crust a little thicker. Crispy is nice but crispy is also easy to burn. And as everyone knows, if it's black, children won't eat it, even if they're starving. Goat cheese, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, and chopped scallions are my current favorite toppings, although with tomato season now in full swing, fresh tomatoes and fresh basil (the basil under the cheese to keep it moist) may replace them. I'd also like to try my hand at grilling a pizza--somehow that starts to sound like too much work though. Come to think of it however, I think--actually--it may not be so bad after all. The mandatory 500 degree oven for pizza cooking is a real killer these days and the grill would relocate the heat outside of the house. Hmmm . . . is it worth sacrificing dinner and losing a whole pizza (I have horrific visions of all of the toppings sliding ineveitably into the coals when I try to get it on the grill or try to take it off) just in the name of culinary experimentation? Maybe I should call Mary Angela's and have them hold me a table before I start.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Outside is best this time of year--risk it!

July 27, 2005 9:19 AM  
Blogger megret7 said...

May I just say....your photography on your blog inspires me about as much as your culinary entries do. Wow. I appreciate your love of interesting angles and perspectives.

July 27, 2005 2:12 PM  
Blogger Brandon said...

Wow! Thank you!

August 01, 2005 1:39 PM  

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