Pizza Night

Pizza upon pizza
Pizza upon pizza

Pizza Night-

So we finally did it! We made the big move from the windy city of Chicago to the sunshine state of Florida. I must say; it’s been a while since we last spoke and I have been cooking up a storm in the interim. Moreover, I have finally managed to get my dream kitchen (both inside and out). So it is to say, I have of course been inspired to cook up a storm. In attempt to christen the house the best way I know how; I felt it appropriate to have a pizza night! Now, having come from Chicago, I have more than just an affair with pizza—it’s more like a committed relationship. For tonight’s menu, I have decided to make three different types of pizzas. The first two are what I like to call my face-lift pizzas. These are pizzas that have a breath of fresh air from something traditional that inspired me. The pizza that I want to blog about tonight is a traditional spicy sausage and mozzarella pizza with an herbed red sauce and drizzled with basil pesto and a Fresno chili oil.

Classic pizza
Classic pizza

Pizza with a face-lift
Pizza with a face-lift

For the dough:

1½ tsp of dry yeast

½ tsp of sugar

2 ¼ tbsp. olive oil

1 ¾ cups sifted flour

½ teaspoon of salt

 

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In a large mixing bowl, add the yeast and the sugar and set aside. Next, run your tap water until you’ve reached something around the temperature of warm bath water or when it just starts to steam. Give the mixture a stir and set aside for 20 minutes or so to let the yeast and sugar do their magic. They will start to bubble up and smell like a fresh opened beer—that’s what you want. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and salt and then make a nice little well for your olive oil. Next, add the yeast mixture and give it a good mix before pouring it out onto your work surface and knead until it the dough is smooth and springy. From there, put the dough back into an oiled bowl and put in a warm place with a dry kitchen towel over top.

 

Now for the toppings, you can do whatever you like; I just choose to do things with my own personal touch. Rather than making this a ridiculously long blog post, I’ll give the recipe for the classic pizza and what became one of my favorites tonight. For the sausage, you can buy your own favorite sausage or make it. I made mine and it started by grinding some pork shoulder and pork belly—about a pound. From there, immediately place the mixture in the refrigerator so that you keep the fat cold. Next, take 1 tbsp. olive oil, ½ tsp fennel seeds and ½ tsp red pepper flake and slowly warm together in a skillet over a low flame. Once the mixture starts to sizzle, transfer to a bowl and let cool. Once cooled, mix the spice blend with the ground pork and a pinch of salt and pepper. Place back into the refrigerator and start gathering ingredients for your red sauce.

 

Red Sauce:

1 28oz San Marzano Tomatoes

1 Spanish onion, diced

1 garlic clove, grated

2 sprigs fresh oregano

4 sprigs fresh thyme

Pinch of sugar

Salt and pepper

In a sauté pan, heat up 3 tbsp. olive oil on a medium heat. Next, toss in the diced onion and season with salt and pepper to allow the onion to really start purging its juices and allow to cook until caramelized—about 8-10 minutes. Next, grate in the garlic clove and give it a stir. The minute you smell that intense raw garlic smell hit the air, add your tomatoes, as you don’t want the garlic to burn. Start breaking up the whole tomatoes with the back of your spoon so that they are bite-size and start to break down. From there, add a healthy pinch of sugar, tie together your herb bundle with some twine and toss in—reduce to a simmer. Let the sauce cook down for about 20 minutes and then kill the heat. In the meantime, while that cools, you can make the Fresno chili oil. Add one whole Fresno chili to the bowl of a food processor and blitz to chop up the Fresno. Next, flip the machine on and stream in 1 cup of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper and apple cider vinegar. From there, strain the mixture through a strainer and set aside.

 

Now, for the assembly. Roll out your pizza dough and portion into individual pizzas or one big one. Top with a good amount of the red sauce, about 2 inches away from the edge of the crust and then add the slices of fresh mozzarella. Next, roll the sausage into some imperfect meat balls and give them a quick sauté so that they brown properly (about 2 minutes). Last, throw the par-cooked sausage on top of your pizza and then throw into a high temperature oven and cook until the crust is bubbled, the cheese is melted and the dough is browned and crispy. In a conventional oven, you’ll likely want a 425-450 degree oven and then cook your pizza for about 25-30 minutes. With my new outdoor kitchen, I have a pizza oven that cooks it in about 90 seconds.

 

After it’s done cooking and while it’s still hot, scatter a spoonful or two of fresh basil pesto over your pizza, drizzle with your chili oil and then finish with a pinch of salt and pepper.

 

Bon Appetit!

Stay tuned for my next blog post, next Sunday morning.

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