Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese. ~ CK Chesterton

Howdy Yall! It's time to lick your lips and drool as we discuss yummy vittles and Texas testaments to taste!

I hope you enjoy your time with us. Please be sure to drop by and leave a message or a hello. We want to know how to better serve you!

~Blue Zebra


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Pizza Club Part 2 - Getting Saucy


It was Friday in the Zebra Pen and that can only mean one thing, Pizza Club. What is Pizza Club? Pizza Club began with my niece, my sissy and brother-in-law back in Dallas. It was all about great friends and family, great pizza and welcoming the weekend! To other blue zebras out there, Pizza Club is all about discussing and making great homemade pizza.

In continuation of our Pizza Club series, I promised we would get saucy this week - talking about anything having to do with sauce. When you really think about it, pizza has three main components that define its quality level: the crust, the sauce, andthe cheese. Get these three things right and the toppings will almost take care of themselves - almost. It sometimes seems as if there are as many variations of each of these components as there are pizzaiolos or pizza makers in the world, so let’s explore the options.

Marinara sauce, sliced tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, olive oil and garlic, alfredo sauce, barbeque sauce, taco sauce, ketchup, hoisin sauce, tiger sauce, or no sauce. This just skims the surface of sauces! I kinda feel like Bubba Gump here but how do you know which sauce to use? Personal preference and trial and error wins every time. What are the conditions under which you are cooking? Meaning, are you making an authentic Neopolitan pizza? Do you need or want to adhere to “the rules” of Neopolitan pizza making? Do you have a high temperature brick or deck oven?

Purists follow strict guidelines depending on the regional specialty they are cooking. Still others will tell you it’s San Marzano tomatoes, canned or fresh and a pinch or two of spices, a grating of parmesan and badabing badaboom, fuhgeddaboudit…there’s your sauce!But once you decide which flavor profile you want: red, white, stylized, funkalicious, then there are other things to take into consideration.

Just as there are three main components to a great pizza, there are also three main variables to determining how to sauce. The most important is determining the heat of the oven along with the length of cooking time. The number and order of toppings also influences sauce integrity. If the sauce is going next to the crust, then the last variable affecting the sauce is the thickness of the cheese and coverage.

Many pizzerias use an uncooked sauce because commercial pizzas cook under high heat in brick ovens or pizza ovens. Temperatures can reach 750°F or more! Temperature this high has the potential to overcook or burn the tomato sauce, especially when cheese is placed in chunks or slices intermittently around the surface area as opposed to grated cheese covering the sauce 100 percent. Using raw sauce effectively combats the over cooking problem.

Most home ovens usually heat up to a maximum 550°F, unless you use the cleaning cycle and I won’t even begin to address that option in this installment! So I don’t really feel like the home pizza cook faces the same types of heat degradation presented by commercial ovens. It’s more important to pick a sauce that carries delicious flavor that won’t break down into water. Water + raw dough = soggy mess when cooked. If that happens, the dough underneath the sauce will never crisp. So choose your sauce, raw or cooked, fresh or canned, traditional or get-down-funky by flavor preference, just watch the water content of it!

As far as red sauces go, I have used cooked sauce, raw sauce and sliced fresh tomatoes. I actually prefer the taste of the raw sauce over cooked and thickened marinara sauces. It tastes “more authentic” whatever that means. For raw sauces I’ve been using canned tomatoes. Again, I feel the flavors are more intense using canned over fresh because of water content. I either use whole canned, seeded and drained or diced and drained. I tend to like the diced and drained better, because it seems like there is higher tomato volume per can. If you do decide to use raw sauce, be sure to allow ample time for the tomatoes to drain using a mesh strainer. At some point in the near future, I will try using roasted tomatoes as a base.

I also like white pizzas either made with an alfredo sauce or a simple olive oil and garlic sauce. In fact, this is my preference for pizzas with non-traditional toppings like artichokes, shrimp, clams or chicken. These simple sauces seem to allow the toppings to take more of a starring role in the pizza.

I have on occasion made specialty pizzas using crazy sauce bases like barbeque sauce and hoisin sauce. They produced good tasting pies but I don’t tend to feel they remind me of pizza from a pizza = comfort food standpoint.

Here is my technique for making fresh sauce. What’s your favorite sauce?

Chunky Pizza Sauce - Raw
Yield 3-10" Pizzas

Ingredients:
1-28 oz. Can Diced Italian Tomatoes
3 Cloves Garlic, minced finely
1 Tbsp Dried Italian Herbs (2:1:1 Mixture of dried basil, oregano, thyme)
1 tsp Kosher Sauce
1 Pinch Cracked Red Pepper
3 Tbsp Parmesan Cheese, grated
2 Tbsp Olive Oil

Method:
2 Hours before topping pizza, place diced tomatoes in strainer and apply 1 tsp of Kosher salt to allow them to give up much of their water. Try to remove as much liquid from the tomatoes because that will allow the crust to crisp.

After tomatoes have drained fully, combine all ingredients and set aside.

When pizza dough has proofed in the pan, quickly brush dough, lightly, with olive oil then top with raw, chunky sauce and remaining toppings and cheese. I place slightly less sauce in the middle of the pizza than I do around the outer area of the crust. Also, leave 1" around edges, unsauced in order to give a lip to the pizza.

For those who desire a smooth, raw pizza sauce, simply place tomatoes in bowl of food processor and pulse to puree or else, use a burr (stick) blender until smooth. Then add remaining ingredients.

Blue Zebra NOTE:
I made two different doughs this week, experimentation on the perfect crust continues. The thin crust grilled dough version from Cooks Illustrated using the traditional yeasted method was used to make the thin crust. I also used another recipe from a forum member at EpiCurious Forums to make the Chicago-Style deep dish pizza. B voted the Chicago Deep Dish as a 9 out of 10 and within the top 3 pan pizzas to date. I voted the thin crust at about 8 out of 10. I like the sourdough version of it better. I also think there is a preferable dough out there and I will experiment with it next week. Stay tuned, the next pizza club will talk about cheese!

13 comments:

browndog said...

Hey, Blue Zee, you're a hoot, you know that. We have Saturday night pizza club here in the Northeast, pizza-and-movie club, actually, when we hunker down for our weekly stint in front of the telly. Used to be a family (as in us and the kid) but Mr. Almost Sixteen has discovered a previously latent social life, so as often as not it's just us "grown-ups". That's fine except it screws up getting movies from Netflix, if I don't know ahead of time to opt for family fare (as in what to choose that leaves no one, particularly the mom, red-faced.
All this as a lead-in to remarking that I usually, *sigh*, buy pizza sauce, or actually just use pasta sauce. Some brands are pretty good but usually not the cheap ones, and I keep meaning to plan ahead and MAKE MY OWN. Your recipe sounds very straightforward and tasty. If I get my sorry rear in gear and try it, I'll let you know.
My favorite favorite pizza is from Moosewood Cooks At Home, called Garlic and Greens pizza. No sauce, just heaps of sauteed kale, garlic (like 8 cloves or something) and sun-dried tomatoes topped with cheese of choice. So good, though the kale is a bit labor-intensive but so good for you as well.

browndog said...

Hey, Blue Zee, you're a hoot, you know that. We have Saturday night pizza club here in the Northeast, pizza-and-movie club, actually, when we hunker down for our weekly stint in front of the telly. Used to be a family event(as in us and the kid) but Mr. Almost Sixteen has discovered a previously latent social life, so as often as not it's just us "grown-ups". That's fine except it screws up getting movies from Netflix, if I don't know ahead of time to opt for family fare (as in what to choose that leaves no one, particularly the mom, red-faced.)
All this as a lead-in to remarking that I usually, *sigh*, buy pizza sauce, or actually just use pasta sauce. Some brands are pretty good but usually not the cheap ones, and I keep meaning to plan ahead and MAKE MY OWN. Your recipe sounds very straightforward and tasty. If I get my sorry rear in gear and try it, I'll let you know.
My favorite favorite pizza is from Moosewood Cooks At Home, called Garlic and Greens pizza. No sauce, just heaps of sauteed kale, garlic (like 8 cloves or something) and sun-dried tomatoes topped with cheese of choice. So good, though the kale is a bit labor-intensive but so good for you as well.

browndog said...

Excuse Madam Butterfingers for rambling on too long not once but twice. Some of us are much too impressed with ourselves...sorry..(blush...)

Blue Zebra said...

Hiya ladybug! {{browndog}} don't worry bout the multiples! I would delete one but don't know how...
Love the pizza and a movie idea and hahaha about the 16year old with other social engagements!

Try out this recipe, it's very easy but one tip, go ahead and use your burr blender and make it less chunky then re-drain it after blending. It was a little too chunky this week and there was still a bit too much water!

Our Friday night Pizza Club btw, is just B and me and Enterprise (Star Trek) then Monk... *blush* Gawd I love Friday nights! :D Good times.

Blue Zebra said...

Hey btw, would love to have your Moosewood pizza. The kale and garlic sounds fabulous!!!!! I also love pizza with just olive oil and garlic on it!! :D TIA! Could you post it here for everyone pretty please???!!!

Cookie baker Lynn said...

Great, and thorough, exploration of pizza sauce! I'm usually too lazy to make a sauce, but I love having something new to try. I did a week of pizza posts one time and had a blast with all the new flavors.

Blue Zebra said...

Hahaha! lynn I love that! I will have to go look it up. I'm afraid on the subject of toppings I'm pretty boring...actually I'm adventurous but B is boring. It's pepperoni, mushroom and breakfast bacon on his or nothin' else! ;)

That's why I end up making 2 different ones and having weekend lunch leftovers :D! Will go read yours for ideas! Your's is MUCH more creative in my book!

browndog said...

Sure, Blue Zebra.

GARLIC & GREENS PIZZA

Ingredients

* 1 prebaked pizza shell (12-15 inch size) (I make my own crust and do not trouble to pre-bake.)

TOPPING

* 1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil)(optional in the recipe but I think they really boost the flavor)
* 1/2 cup of boiling water (optional)
* 4 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
* 3 tablespoons olive oil
* 4 packed cups coarsely chopped rinsed and stemmed kale
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (2 tablespoons dried)
* 1-1/2 cups of grated mozzarella cheese
* 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese



Directions

Preheat the oven according to the directions for the pizza crust you are using.

If you are using sun-dried tomatoes, place them in a heat proof bowl, cover with boiling water, and set aside.

In a large skillet, sauté the minced garlic in the oil for about a minute. Add the kale to the skillet along with the salt, and sauté on medium-high heat for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until just tender. The cooking time will vary with the age and freshness of the kale. While the kale cooks, drain and chop the optional sun-dried tomatoes. Add the chopped basil and sun-dried tomatoes to the kale and remove the skillet from the heat.

Spread the kale topping on the pizza crust using a slotted spoon, and sprinkle the cheese on top. Bake following the instructions given for the crust you are using. Serves 2 to 3 as main dish, or 4 to 8 as an appetizer.

Believe me, if we had cable we'd be watching Star Trek too. Stoicism has its limits. Are you by any chance, a Whovian as well?

Blue Zebra said...

Thank you browndog! I heart you! I didn't make pizza last night cuz of doctor's appointments all day and too bushed by the time it was all done. *sigh*. But we will do it tonight and I hope B will be a sport and go to the store for me to get kale! If they don't have kale I'm thinking collards or mustards might sub out ok? This sounds heavenly!

And indeed! We are Whovians! :D We really love the BBC programming. We get Dr. Who and also this mini-series show about a guy who goes into coma and who goes back in time as an adult and lives that life. The name is escaping me. But we watch that and Hex as well and now there is a sequel coming on soon from Dr. Who that we will watch. *blush* <--B+me = nerds :D

How about you?! I think you can rent the whole season!? Maybe Netflix?

browndog said...

Oh, God, Blue Zebra, we just finished season 2 (with our green pepper, onion, and portabella pizza) last night and I've STILL got the sniffles--it just about broke my heart...How do you like the current season, and is (are?) the new sidekick any good? We would definitely watch 'Torchwood' if we could and hope hope hope it comes to Netflix before long. Captain Jack is a riot. Glad your Garlic & Greens pizza turned out. It really is my favorite.

Blue Zebra said...

Oh I know! I hated the ending! We are actually watching it now. It's the second one in season 3. I think you will like the new sidekick and the regenerated Doctor.

Torchwood! That's the name of the sequel. LOL.

Your pizza sounds yummy. Yes I loved the greens by themselves too! I heart greens of any kind though. I made it with the leftover par baked crust for lunch today and it was better cuz I put the sundried tomatoes on the bottom and they didn't get all crispy. :D

Kristen said...

Pizza club... I love this idea!
Those look like some tasty pizzas. Better than any delivery around here.

Blue Zebra said...

Hi Kristen! Pizza Club is very fun - I highly recommend it! My pizzas are in a constant state of flux at this point as I'm still not satisfied with the 3 fundamentals: crust, sauce, cheese(s) but I love experimenting. It is also true that the worst one I've cooked is still better than the best store bought or delivery pizza! Wouldn't it be fun to start a Friday Pizza Club among us bloggers? :D