My mother has taught me many things, but food-wise, perhaps the most important comes from the following story: When my parents were first living together, my mom wanted to make a fancy dinner for my dad, including homemade stewed tomatoes (why stewed tomatoes qualify as fancy food is at present still uncertain). So she looks in her trusty copy of Joy of Cooking, checks the index for Tomatoes, Stewed, and turns to the appropriate page, which notes: Good news! These come in a can.
The lesson is- sometimes you don’t have to make everything from scratch. Included among the things I don’t make from scratch are barbecue sauce, pie crust (though if Sue ever posts her pie crust recipe I might, it’s the best pie crust I’ve ever had), chicken stock (except for the once, and you saw how that turned out) and pizza dough. The reason I don’t make my own pizza dough is that I am lazy and impatient, and more importantly, Trader Joe’s sells it ready to use in convenient little bags, in three flavors.
So. I make a lot of pizza at home. Most often I make BBQ chicken pizza: chunks of leftover chicken, whatever suitable cheese I have, BBQ sauce instead of tomato, caramelized onions, or prosciutto pizza: whipped up special pizza sauce of tomato paste, diced tomatoes, onion, garlic, red wine, balsamic vinegar, oregano, thyme, olive oil, parmesan and asiago cheese, sheets of prosciutto laid over the cheese, and served with a handful of arugula on top dressed with lemon juice and olive oil.
Yesterday though, I had a hankering for a pizza Dom and I had a few weeks ago at a nearby pizza place, Stark Naked Pizza (Dad don’t worry, it’s not a “lifestyle” place, it’s on a street called Stark). Here is how I recreated it:
Caitlyn’s new favorite pizza ever
Bag o’ Trader Joe’s wheat pizza dough
Some kind of pre-bottled pizza sauce, I used Trader Joe’s standard Tomato Basil Marinara
Bag of pre-shredded mozzarella cheese
Spicy salami or pepperoni
a head of roasted garlic
a bunch of artichoke hearts, I used a bag of frozen and thawed, rather than marinated, but you could do either one. The main recommendation I would make is drain these, a lot. When I thawed mine, I took the time to squeeze the water out of each one once they were room temperature- I didn’t want water ruining my pizza.
spicy pickled pepper rings, pizza-joint style
Okay. So first, roast the garlic. I do this by taking a whole head of garlic, and cutting it in half, sideways. You want each little clove to be chopped in half, it’ll roast faster that way. Put the two halves on a piece of tinfoil, douse it in olive oil, fold up the foil into a little packet and roast it for 40-50 minutes in a 400 degree oven. When it’s done, open the packet and let it cool awhile. When it’s cool enough to touch, squeeze or pull out each of those little cloves of perfect. Reserve them on a plate, and I cut them up a little to make them sort of uniform in size.
Next- the dough. Get out a cookie sheet (or a pizza stone if you have one) and spray some oil on it. Obviously don’t do that if you’re using a stone, you can just sprinkle some cornmeal on it. I used a cookie sheet though, so I sprayed it. Plop the mound of dough on the sheet and sprinkle some flour on it, it’ll be sticky. Then, work the dough into all corners of the sheet. The Trader Joe’s dough is awesome, the most elastic of any pre-made doughs I’ve tried. Sprinkle more flour as you need. When the dough covers the whole cookie sheet, poke a bunch of holes in it with a fork. The next step is CRUCIAL, and ignore any person or package that tells you otherwise: PRE-BAKE THE CRUST.
Seriously. If you want anything like a crispy bottom on that pizza crust, you have to pre-bake it. I do mine on 375 degrees until the edges are golden to brown, maybe 15-20 minutes. I find that pizza crust is difficult to over bake, granted I like a reeeeaaaally crispy crust. Anyway- pre-bake it, no matter what.
At that point, I put the toppings straight on. For this pizza, I did the sauce first, then the pepperoni, then a layer of cheese. Then I sprinkled the roasted garlic around as democratically as possible, then laid out the artichokes, then another layer of cheese. Finally, I put on a LOT of spicy pickled pepper rings. If you are any sort of reasonable person, then you too like spicy things as well as pickled things, so scatter these freely.
Turn up the oven to 400 degrees, and put the pizza back in for another 10 or 15 minutes, however long it takes for the cheese to develop golden brown spots. When it’s done, take it out and let it cool for a minute. This iteration of pizza making also taught me to take the whole pizza off the cookie sheet and put it on a wooden cutting board before attempting to cut it, rather than semi-ruining your cookie sheet by scoring it with a really sharp knife.
One other note- pizza is always best when splashed liberally with hot sauce. Just sayin’.