Saturday, January 8, 2022
Let’s not beat around the bush today.
The word is pizza.
I’ve been craving pizza, so when I set out to make it today, the word determined itself.
I don’t know why I wanted pizza so much, but the past few weeks, maybe more, I’ve been on the verge of succumbing to ordering a pizza for dinner. I say “succumbing” because ordering a pizza is actually effort, and then requires me to go downtown and pick it up because nobody delivers here unless you pay extra for something like Doordash which I am absolutely 100% not doing.
But I have wanted pizza almost enough to go out in the cold and/or rain and/or after I worked all day and was utterly exhausted and really didn’t care if all I had for dinner was a slice of bread and a radish.
It just never got to that point of urgency, also because the pizza I would end up getting is… fine.
There is no “real” pizza within shouting distance. There is Mellow Mushroom, which don’t get me wrong, is really good, but it’s not pizza when you want pizza.
It’s also not inexpensive. By the time you’re done adding toppings it ends up being a $50 dinner, and yeah there are leftovers for lunch the next day, but not much. And $50 can buy me something really good at the Cork & Cow.
No ordering pizza.
There is one traditional sort of pizza shop nearby that does deliver, and the pizza is good, but it’s underwhelming. And I have never ordered from them and had a pizza in less than an hour so it’s an underwhelming thing that you have to plan way in advance of when you actually want it.
Long story less long, no pizza.
So I decided to make it myself.
Granted it’s still not “real” pizza, insofar as it approximates a real pizzeria pizza pie, but it’s way better than the not-pizza that you get anywhere else.
I should clarify what I mean by pizza.
It’s that simple.
So I decided to make my own but that involves a lot more things than driving downtown.
First of all, if I’m going to make pizza it’s going to be done right. I’m not going to make pizza from a jar or a bag or, god forbid, a box.
So I need enough time to prepare to make pizza, which lo! I finally had today. First I have to make the sauce, then I have to make the dough, and since Ralph likes meat on his I have to make the meatballs, which also double as a side.
You’re supposed to have a salad, because it’s some semblance of a vegetable but really meatballs have to go on the side.
Plus the salad, which is also nice, but definitely meatballs.
The problem with all of THAT is that even when you have the time, you can’t be guaranteed of all the ingredients.
And now, apparently there is a pandemic? And shortages of things? So good luck.
It took me two months and three stores just to find mozzarella.
I should also note that I will never use Whole Foods mozarella again. I don’t know what is wrong with those people, but their mozzarella comes like cheddar and that’s just so wrong. I made that mistake once, and I only needed to make it once.
Anyway I went grocery shopping last week sometime, and I was so desperate for mozzarella that I actually bought the very last lone glob of store brand part skim low moisture mozzarella on the shelf.
Let me just say that store brand part skim low moisture mozzarella approximates a plastic Easter egg more than cheese, but such is desperation.
In any case, it was still better than the Whole Foods brand.
Honestly, can someone tell me what the heck happened to whole milk mozzarella?
Whole milk ANYTHING?
Whole milk cheese. Whole milk yogurt. Whole milk actual milk.
It’s ridiculous how everything has been adulterated to fit some imagined health rule.
And when did moisture become bad? Mozzarella is supposed to be moist. Otherwise it’s called CHEDDAR.
But I digress.
I was lucky to find any mozzarella.
Another thing: I am not buying it pre-shredded.
The only thing worse than store brand part skim low moisture mozzarella is store brand part skim low moisture mozarella with cornstarch added to keep the shreds from sticking together.
This whole conversation is making me not want to eat pizza anymore. So it’s a good thing I already did.
Anyway that’s how bad I wanted pizza.
So today I stepped back into the whirlwind and made pizza magic.
The good news is that I now have a bucket of sauce to repurpose for other dinner events. One thing it always pays to have is a bucket of sauce in the freezer. After nearly 25 years of marriage, cooking for nobody on a daily basis but myself and Ralph, I still don’t know how to make anything but a bucket of sauce. Thanks, mom!
Of course, taking advantage of that also presumes you can get pasta these days but that’s a whole different conversation.
At 11AM I put the sauce on the stove.
At noon I set the dough aside to rise.
At 2 I mixed up some meatballs.
Then I frantically worked out on the Peloton and treadmill knowing full darn well what was coming.
I even had some foresight this morning and as I made the bacon and eggs for breakfast, I cooked extra bacon and sausage to save for pizza topping. One mess, two meals. I was very proud of myself for that.
I was actually proud of myself all around because I managed to do all this in a relatively controlled way, cleaning up after myself as I went, keeping the kitchen in a state of impending disaster rather than a full fledged state of emergency.
I thought I really had this pizza thing under control.
And then I decided it was time for dinner.
The thing is, I’m pretty good with mise en place. I’m not even too terrible about cleaning up after myself as I go. The problem is when it’s go-time and I need to get food on an actual plate.
The rest of my evening went something like this:
Take out pizza dough. Wrestle with dough to get it to resemble a pizza. Stretch it out and out and out, end up with big holes, smash it all up into a ball and start again. Give up and get a rolling pin.
Now I have flour on the counter, on the cabinets, inside the drawer, on the floor.
Mash pizza dough into cookie sheet. Wish I had pizza stone that is in parent’s attic in Brigantine. Preheat oven. Spread sauce on dough.
Realize I have not grated the cheese and wonder if cornstarch is really that bad. Frantically grate plastic mozzarella. Grate cheddar, because at least it has some oil in it and won’t end up like a Barbie doll/Fisher Price version of a pizza.
Realize I forgot to actually cook meatballs for topping. Turn on air fryer. Realize I have to cook spinach because this is what I want on my side of the pizza, and you can’t just put a bunch of leaves on top of cheese. Take out cast iron. Throw spinach in. Realize I did not wash spinach. Dump hot spinach into colander and attempt to rinse before putting it back in the pan.
Make meatballs into meatball shapes and have nowhere to put them because the counter is covered in pots and pans and flour. Put meatballs right on counter because really.
Attempt to put meatballs in air fryer but hands are covered in meatball. Can’t find towel, spinach is burning, get frantic, go ARGH!!!
Screw it, no time to wash hands, just open air fryer, throw meatballs in, dump spinach on plate, repent later.
Get all the toppings on the pizza, shove all the things in the sink…
Oven is not preheated.
Wait some more.
Oven is finally preheated, throw pan in. Set off smoke alarm. Run over waving pot holders because I can’t find towel.
Run back to check temperature of meatballs. Not cooked.
Figure we will probably need plates, so set the table.
Run back to check temperature of meatballs. Cooked!
Realize I did not prepare salad.
Nobody needs salad. I’ll have an extra glass of wine and forget salad ever existed.
Leave kitchen behind me. Sit down and
Glorious, glorious pizza.
Every bite worth every minute of every first world problem I had to endure to get here.
I mean, it’s THAT good.
Ralph’s half had bacon, sausage and meatballs. My half had spinach and kalamata olives.
And for about a half hour of bliss, nothing else mattered.
The best part is that I have enough ingredients left over to do this all again tomorrow.
Here’s a fact: I planned to open a bottle of red wine to have with my pizza but I was so eager to stick that slice into my face that I actually forgot to open the wine.
Also true: I planned and executed my entire day today around pizza. Sometimes you really have to. It’s something about “good for the soul”.
Unless it has ham and pineapple on top, I mean that should not even count as pizza. It’s like “vegan beef” or “sugar free cookies”.
I know at least a few people who would disagree. And probably a few who think spinach belongs nowhere near a pizza. But I guess that’s the cool thing about pizza. It can kind of be the delivery mechanism for whatever you want.
As long as it’s from New York.
And if you can’t get that, making it with a New York soul will just have to do.
Photo: the pizza I made, half meat, half vegetable, all delicious.