Sunday, May 15, 2011

Pizza night with friends

Over the last few years living in New York we have been to many pizza joints in search of the crispiest crust with the best toppings. A few that we really like are Grimaldi's in Brooklyn, Keste, Artichoke, Patsy's, and Jim Lahey's Co. But the satisfaction of making a pizza at home with toppings of your choice and enjoying it while you relax in familiar surroundings with family or friends and a movie or a board game is a different kind of pleasure.

There are four main ingredients that contribute to successful pizza making - the dough, the sauce, the toppings and the equipment i.e the oven, pizza stone and a pizza peel. For me, less is more as far as the toppings are concerned since overloaded pizzas result in a very soggy crust. Homemade pizzas generally suffer from a not so hot oven as a pizzeria, but 500 F and a good pizza stone can help to overcome some of the disadvantage.

Our first attempt was with store bought dough from the local pizzeria and a pizza crisper to bake the pizza on. Despite not having the best equipment, the pizzas were very good and we were thrilled with our pizza dinners. And then one day, we were introduced to pizza made on a pizza stone when friends of ours invited us home for dinner. The crust was so beautifully thin and perfectly charred and a just a little soft instead of being crackerlike, which tends to happen to pizzas with a very thin crust.

That evening, I came home and had to have a pizza stone. After much research I bought the Emile Henry pizza stone, which can be used on the stove top as well as in the oven. And the best thing about it is that aside from being beautiful, it has handles on the sides, making it extremely convenient to hold, when it is hot. And boy does it get hot at 500 F. There was still one more thing which I needed, which is typically required to slide the pizza in and out of the oven i.e. a pizza peel. I was hesitant to buy it, since I couldn't find one which seemed like a breeze to use. And in a small apartment, which already has a lot of kitchen tools, this was going to be one more thing occupying premium real estate in the kitchen.

While surfing around I found a great tip for making pizzas using parchment paper instead of a pizza peel. All you need to do is assemble your pizza on the parchment paper, a little larger than the size of the pizza and then lift the pizza along with the parchment and slide on to the hot pizza stone. The pizza crust cooks beautifully on the parchment and when the pizza is ready, just pull the parchment off the pizza stone and move the pizza to a cutting board. Once the pizza cools for a couple of minutes, the parchment paper comes off easily. And there you have your custom made thin crust pizza. Moral of the story - NO PIZZA PEEL required.

Since acquiring the pizza stone, I have been making pizzas very often. One weekend, I had Broccoli Rabe waiting to be used and I was bored of sauteing them on their own or cooking them with pasta. Typically Broccoli Rabe has a bitter taste, but when blanched the bitterness goes away which I discovered while making Broccoli Rabe pesto. So, I decided to blanch them and then saute it with some sweet Vidalia onions and a delicious pizza topping was born. I also learned to make pizza dough at home with Michael Ruhlman's recipe. It requires a little bit of planning since the dough needs to rise for a couple hours, but compared to a pizzeria dough which is very good but extremely greasy, homemade dough is really light.

Since I didn't have time, I started with a pizzeria dough and hand stretched it, which gives it the rustic look since it is never a perfect circle. Trader Joes and Whole Foods - both have pretty good ready to use dough as well.

Broccoli Rabe Pizza

This recipe makes a 12 inch pizza

Pizza dough store bought or home made
Half bunch broccoli rabe
1 cup diced Vidalia onions
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup tomato sauce (home made or jarred)
1 cup grated whole milk low moisture mozzarella cheese

1.  Preheat the pizza stone for 20 minutes at  500 F. If you are using the pizza crisper instead of the stone, preheat the oven to 425 F.

2. Trim the ends of the Broccoli rabe and blanch them in salted boiling water till they are slightly tender - about 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and shock in ice water. Drain once again and chop into one inch pieces.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat with olive oil and add the garlic and the Vidalia onions and cook till the onions are translucent. Add the chili flakes and saute for 30 seconds to release their flavor. Add the chopped broccoli rabe, salt and pepper and saute for 2 to 3 minutes, till the flavors are well mixed. Set aside to cool.

4. Spread the pizza dough by hand or roll it on a lightly floured surface till it is 12 inches in diameter and about 1/4 inch thick.. If the dough is bouncing back, let it rest for 5 minutes and continue to roll. Place the dough on a piece of parchment paper and start assembling the pizza. The first layer will be the tomato sauce, followed by the shredded mozzarella, and the broccoli rabe mixture on top.

5. Transfer the parchment paper with the assembled pizza to the pizza stone and reduce the oven temperature to 450 F. If you are using a pizza crisper this step is not required and you can directly assemble the pizza on the crisper and place the crisper on the middle rack of a 425 F oven. Bake for 7 to 12 minutes depending on how crisp you want the pizza.

6. Remove the pizza with the parchment to a cutting board and let it cook for a few minutes allowing the cheese to set before you cut into it.

Now sit back and enjoy your own home made pizza.

1 comment:

  1. Delicious pizza to eat with family and friends... If you are a vegetarian like I am, you will find this pizza awesome.Even if you're a non-vegetarian it is worth a try to taste this pizza...