Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Ultimate Comfort Food

I love to cook and I enjoy blogging about my food experiments from time to time. After all, the snippets fit well into a lifestyles blog, right? I haven’t done a cooking post for a while so Friday evening when my wife requested home baked pizza it provided an opportunity to not only honor her request but to also snap some photos of the process for a blog post. After all, is there anything better than pizza on a Friday night? OK, I admit, this is a rhetorical question, of course I know that you may be able to identify scores of things that are better than pizza on a Friday night, but I think you get the point.

When I was preparing to write about the experience, I considered the various angles that I could take with the piece to make it entertaining as well as informative. The thought that kept percolating to the top of my head was, “pizza, the ultimate comfort food.” That’s it, I thought, I can publish a post on the merits of pizza as the ultimate comfort food, after all, isn’t it? So, as I frequently do, I decided to do a little research on my chosen topic before I started writing, that’s what all the professionals do, huh? So I went to my favorite search engine and typed in “history of pizza.” Of course, I perused the information and didn’t really learn much that I didn’t already know, and certainly nothing that really grabbed me as information that I must pass along in the form of a blog post. Then I thought I would check my catch phrase, “pizza the ultimate comfort food.” Yep, you guessed it, 150 gazillion million references came up, so much for originality.

Consequently I decided, why should I try and write something profound about a topic as well known as pizza, I mean after all, what hasn’t already been said about PIZZA? For crying out loud, it’s the ultimate comfort food, everybody knows that. Ha, there you have it, although lobster macaroni and cheese is a close second.

So, instead of writing some award winning expose on pizza, I think I will just give you what you really need, want and will appreciate; an idea for an easy, yet exceptional homemade pizza. I must say, I use several different methods for pizza made at home. I have, from time to time, done the “from scratch” routine. I also frequently do pizzas outdoors on the grill; those are particularly fun to do. I have a pizza stone that I use in the oven and it is perfect, but for this night, I wanted to make a large rectangular thick crusty pizza so I used a cookie sheet. Once again, and I stress, this is an EASY way to do a home baked pizza that doesn’t taste like EASY.

This pizza starts with store bought dough. Publix Supermarket sells fresh pizza dough in single pizza size balls in the bakery department. I find that two of those provide the perfect amount of dough for a large rectangular pan. I combine the two dough balls into one giant glob of dough and let it rise for a couple of hours. While the dough rises I gather my other ingredients, including a can of pizza sauce, a pound of provolone cheese (I like provolone occasionally as an alternative to mozzarella), a can of mushrooms, a stick of pepperoni (cut your own slices from the stick, allows you to use thicker slices), and if you are lucky enough to have them, some peppers canned in tomato sauce (see Oliverio’s Peppers). I also go ahead and shred my provolone at this point as well.

Once the dough has rested and grown in size I put about a tablespoon of olive oil on the cookie sheet and plop the dough into the puddle of oil, and begin flattening the dough by hand in an attempt to cover the cookie sheet. After a while of working the dough, I flip it over so that the oiled side is now up, and I begin using a small roller to roll the dough into the rectangle shape required to fill up the cookie sheet. As soon as you have the dough conforming to the pan, it’s time for the sauce. Use the sauce sparingly, you can use too much and if you do, the crust will not bake as evenly and your pizza will be sloppy and runny. For a large rectangle, I usually use about half of the 15 ounce can of pizza sauce and I spread it over the crust leaving roughly a 1 inch margin on all four sides of the rectangular pizza crust.

Next, it’s time for the toppings. I usually try to be uniform with the placement of the pepperoni and random with the peppers and mushrooms. And last but not least, I top the pizza with the shredded provolone before popping the pan into a pre-heated oven at 500 degrees.

The baking time is going to vary depending upon your cookie sheet, so here is where you just have to watch the pizza. The goal is a well done crust but you definitely don’t want the bottom to begin to burn or the cheese to begin to brown. After you remove the pizza from the oven, it is very important to let the pizza rest on the counter for about 10 minutes, to allow the provolone to begin to harden back up a bit before you slice the pizza into squares.

I think you will agree, this is a good pizza and it’s pretty easy to do. If you try it, leave me a comment with what you thought. Thanks for stopping by From The Land of Palm Trees.

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