I once made one of those big lists where I wrote down everything I want to achieve in this lifetime. Chief among my goals were things like buy a house, write a book, and touch soil on every continent. Also on the list: Master pizza crust. Dreams come in all sizes. Sometimes they’re even gluten-free.
The truth is, when you live in New York City, there’s no real need to master pizza crust because you can buy the best possible version of it on your street corner.
So last Friday night we did. Sorta.
I really wanted to recreate a pizza from our favorite place–the Spicy Soppressata from Milkflower–because it was way too cold to schlep across town and order it in the restaurant. Plus, I was already in my pajama pants, and once those are on there’s no turning back. You know what I’m talking about.
I was all prepared to make my own dough, but the idea of getting out the stand mixer and waiting for yeast to rise sounded like more work than I was willing to put in. When Vin offered to pick up some dough from the pizza shop around the corner, I thought it was a grand idea. If you’ve never done this before DO IT NOW. Call your local pizza parlor and ask if you can buy some of their uncooked dough. It’s the best three bucks you’ll ever spend. And while I’m living in this area, it’s safe to say that “master pizza crust” is no longer on the big bucket list, freeing up some hours to work on the book and travel the world. Time is money, people.
Amazingly, even with someone else’s homemade dough, I struggled while transforming it into a worthy crust. I have this great pizza stone and I still don’t know the best way to use it. Do you preheat it? Coat it with oil? Sprinkle it with cornmeal? I posed all these questions to my husband, not because he’s a native New Yorker and is thus expected to understand the seminal rules of pizza-making, but because I’m weird and stubborn about looking things up on the internet and wanted to talk it out instead. One other thing you should know about me– I’m terrible with following instructions and prefer to “wing it”, almost always to my own detriment.
J: “Hey Vin, are we supposed to preheat this stone, or what?”
V: “Why are you asking me this? Look it up online.”
I skimmed something quickly and learned that the stone should be pre-heated for 30 minutes at the highest possible temperature. But once that phase was complete, I still felt confused about how to get the dough and the sauce and all the toppings on without burning ourselves silly on the hot pan. At the pizza shop they have one of those wooden planks to transfer the pan from the oven to the counter. I don’t have that kind of set-up.
J: “Hey Vin, how are we supposed to get this dough on the pan? Do we take the pan out of the oven? What happens if the pan cools– will the whole thing not work right? Do we put oil on it?”
V: “I have no idea.”
J: “Too late.”
V: “What do you mean too late?”
J” It’s too late. I already put oil on it. I sorta dropped a piece of cheese on it too.”
V: “On purpose?”
J: “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Impulsively, I’d opened the oven door and drizzled olive oil on the pizza stone. But then I was left with the dilemma of how to spread the oil evenly on a pan that was already screaming hot. I couldn’t use a spatula or a paper towel– plastic and paper would surely melt. And so, for reasons I still can’t explain or justify, I picked up a thick piece of mozzarella and used it to spread the oil around the pan. It obviously started to melt immediately after I touched it to the pan, so in a moment of panic and (in my opinion) quick reflexes– I flung the molten cheese onto the kitchen counter.
My husband looked at me like our whole life together was a huge mistake.
Okay, so coating the pan with oil and cheese was not the way to go. Got it. So I took the pan out of the oven and wiped down the grease with a paper towel. Then I rolled the dough onto the stone, loaded up the toppings and popped the pizza in the oven. We were back in business.
Ten minutes later, I had more questions.
J: “How do I know when this thing is done? Isn’t the crust supposed to be brown and kind of crusty?”
V: “From now on, I’m going to consider all of your cooking questions rhetorical.”
J: “That’s just rude.”
V: “Hey, when it comes to food, I can tell you how much mayo to put on a mayo sandwich, and I can tell you if the filling in a Twinkie is still fresh, but that’s about it. You asking me cooking questions is like me asking you how to move midi regions over as entire blocks and not in individual notes.”
J: “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Anyway, this delicious pizza is brought to you by Vinny’s sarcasm and my poor judgment. Mangia.
Vin: “Do you want to save this piece of cheese on the counter? Put it in some kind of museum?”