A Slice of Heaven, Part 1
May 16, 2008
Pizza is the single most divisive culinary concept in American society.
Not the proper construction of Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, not whether or not to put ketchup on your all-beef hot dog (the answer is ‘not’, if you were wondering.), not whether or not to serve pretzels with cheese or with mustard or whatever. No, America. The sectarian conflict that haunts our nation is a fight between three mighty factions. Friendships have crumbled along these fault lines, my friends. Marriages have rent themselves to shreds: Cheese goes on top! No, sauce goes on top. Floppy crust. Crispy crust! What about pineapple? No pineapple. No pineapple.
Well, you know where my sympathies lie, and that’s with the unformatted text. I’m a Chicagoan and my heart lies with deep-dish pan pizza. But I think I have moved past hometown allegiance to something a bit closer to objectivity. It is not news that Chicago-style pizza and New York-style pizza have a rivalry as big as, oh, I don’t know – Martin Luther and Catholicism, or Sunni and Shi’a Islam. The third Mighty Faction, by that token, is California-Style Pizza, which is sort of like Sufi mysticism, and it’s all like “chill, dudes; hit some charras or something.” (see, cause it’s tokin’. By that token. … Shut up, all of you.)
What my family does, because we’re economical, is when we order pizza, we tend to order cheese pizzas. Unless Dad gets sausage. A Lou Malnati’s deep-dish sausage pizza is a frightening thing to behold. God is it delicious but what an artery-stopper. We’re talking about a good quarter-inch thick disk of sausage, about 5/6ths the diameter of the pizza itself.
But what we do, because we’re cheap, is spruce up the pizza at home. Think about this: depending on where you live or the size of the pizzas you order, it might be anywhere from 50 cents to 1.50 for a topping. Now, that topping could be garlic, it could be pineapple, and it could be Canadian bacon. The cost is all the same for you, the consumer, regardless of the ingredients.
That’s a cheese pizza from Lou Malnati’s, back home. … There might be mushrooms on there. I might have violated my own rule. But don’t think about that too hard – David’s Kitchen Axiom No. 1*: do as I say, not as I have only partially done. Save yourself a buck or three and sauté some onion and mushroom with some garlic, or wilt some spinach.
Garlic and onion. And, apparently, mushroom. Look at that. I figure that’s mushroom in there; I don’t know – I took that picture back in December. But here’s the point:
David’s Living In A Recession Tip #1: If you must order takeout, do what you can to improve it at home without incurring greater cost on yourself.
(Or if you have the time, make it yourself.) Thus. Since December, I’ve been branching out and trying to make my own pizza with the help of my friends. We hit on a dough recipe that worked, from my roommate’s Better Homes and Gardens cookbook (don’t ask. He won it.).
flour, olive oil, water, yeast. We used aluminum foil plates to cook the things in our dormitory’s kitchen. Next year, when my two roommates and I have an apartment, we will have Pizza Day with some form of regularity. I’m not going to hold any of the three of us to any promises on that front, but once every two weeks would be neat. Behold the dorm kitchen we wrangled with this year:
They baked, in this oven that looks sort of like a shantytown if you squint:
And when they came out, they were, well, fairly crunchy. Quite nice – it’s how I like thin crust pizza, myself (but I am not, for the record, immune to the charms of a floppy New York slice. Trust me.)
When I got home, though, about a week and a half ago, my roommate, who had shipped many of his possessions home, had not yet received the box with his Better Homes cookbook, so I had to fend for myself.
Luckily, my house has about a metric boatload of cookbooks, and I found a willing and able hand in The Great Chicago-Style Pizza Cookbook, by Pasquale Bruno, Jr. I set about making my dough, which was, as I recalled it, only slightly different from the BH&G recipe.
We’ll continue with that in the next entry: “A Slice of Heaven, Part 2”.
* yeah. There’s gonna be a bunch of these. Help me keep count.