Sunday, June 15, 2008

Pizza, Wiseguy Style

I don't start working for the summer until tomorrow, so I've had quite a bit of free time these last few days. That translates into lots of cooking for me, and it has been a rather productive week in that department: homemade hamburger rolls to go with my brother's homemade burgers, a pot of chili of my mom's own recipe, and homemade marshmallows (from the most recent issue of Bon Appetit) made into wonderful backyard s'mores. I also ventured into a new cookbook to change up my family's weekly pizza routine. More on that tradition later.

Last week, while making an Amazon purchase, my brother suggested I order The Wiseguy Cookbook in order to get free shipping on the order (does your family, too, band together in order to reach the $25 minimum to qualify for super saver shipping?). He's been talking about Goodfellas since before I left for college, so I was a little skeptical at first. He assured me, however, that based on all the delicious-looking food in the movie, the cookbook would be a hit. I reasoned it would fit in with my odd assortment of society and kitsch cookbooks (a post on this growing collection will follow in the near future). Turns out we were both right.

One of the pizzas before going into the oven, plus some of the components: yummy, sweet-garlicky sauce and packages of shredded cheese.

This week on pizza night I made homemade dough based on Fat Larry's Pizza Dough recipe. I say "based on" because I neglected to read the instructions carefully, but luckily my impatience resulted in a tasty crust anyway. The sauce was based on the Basic Tomato Sauce recipe, taking author Henry Hill's advice as to what type of tomatoes to use. Toppings were to suit my, my brother's, and my parents' tastes. Here's what I did:

Pizza Dough
based on Fat Larry's Pizza Dough from The Wiseguy Cookbook

2 1/2 tsp yeast
1 1/3 cups lukewarm water
3 cups unbleached flour
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley

Put water and olive oil in the bottom of a breadmaker. Add flour, salt, and herbs on top. Make a shallow well in the center of the dry ingredients and carefully spoon in the yeast, making sure it does not get wet (you don't want to activate it too soon if you're setting the timer for later). Set the breadmaker to make a white dough. Once the dough is finished, punch down a bit and roll out on a floured surface. Makes two approximately 12-inch round doughs. Work quickly, because the dough wants to shrink once it's shaped. Once you've assembled the pizzas, you'll want to cook them in an oven preheated to 500 degrees Fahrenheit (hotter if you can; Hill says the hotter the better when it comes to baking pizza). Watch for your preferred state of crispiness, 10-20 minutes.

The cheese pizza upon coming out of the oven. Look at the cheese on the edges starting to brown...

Pizza Sauce
based on Basic Tomato Sauce from The Wiseguy Cookbook

7 cloves of garlic, minced or sliced to your liking
1/4 cup olive oil
2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 cup sugar

In a saucepan, briefly cook the garlic over medium heat. Before the garlic browns, add the canned tomatoes, basil, parsley, salt, pepper, and sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat. Cook at a simmer, uncovered, for an hour (sauce will thicken during this time). Let the sauce cool a little before you spread it on the pizza dough.

Pizza Toppings

For two 12-inch pizzas, I used a total of 3/4 lb. shredded mozzarella and 1/2 lb. shredded Italian cheeses mix. Part of one pizza also had sliced red peppers, sliced onions, and sliced mushrooms cooked in a pan just before being added to the pizza. But you should use whatever ingredients you want. Otherwise, where's the pleasure in the pizza?

The second pizza, 1/4 cheese and 3/4 red pepper, onion, and mushroom. The cheese on the veggie side is less brown because the mushrooms let out a bit of liquid as they continued cooking in the oven. Probably should have pre-cooked them longer to avoid making the toppings soggy.

Before I go, here are the details on the weekly pizza tradition in my family. My dad has been refereeing high school football since before he and my mom got married. Once my brother and I were old enough to be picky eaters, my mom figured it would be easier to just take us out for pizza on Friday football nights since my dad wasn't eating at home. Thus a tradition was born. We started out at Pizza Hut every week, then progressed to the terrific Italian family restaurants that Chicagoland is blessed with. My dad loves pizza, too, so we just kept up the weekly routine once his ball season was over. We've been eating pizza, either out or in, pretty much once a week year-round ever since, usually on Fridays. I don't even want to think about what that means for my lifetime pizza consumption. Although it has been rather tasty.

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