Easy as (pizza) pie

2 Oct

There was once (and may still be for all I know) a frozen food commercial that proclaimed “when you have pizza on a bagel, you can have pizza any time.”  Now, I never understood why the frequency of pizza eating was dependent on it arriving via bagel.  And if you ask Tania, there is nothing about pizza in its traditional form that in any way prevents you from eating it whenever you want.

One of the reasons you can have pizza any time is that it’s incredibly easy. Of course, the easiest is always ordering delivery, something I admit to doing on a not infrequent basis.  But if you’re willing to put in a little bit of effort homemade pizza isn’t all that hard either.  It’s even easier, however, if you decide to start with a pre-made crust.  And here is where those bagel pizza people might be onto something: pizza crust doesn’t have to be traditional.

Pizza crust from Brezel Pretzel in the North Market

Here in Columbus, we’re lucky to have to have in Brezel Pretzel, purveyors of truly world class pretzels.  Not content with conquering the world of salty, twisted, baked bread treats, the fine folks at Brezel brought their expertise to bear on other baked goods.  Among them, pizza crusts. (Although their North Market shop has a variety of pretzels on hand, they don’t keep a ready supply of pizza crusts in stock.  You’ll need to let them know a day or two in advance, which is as easy as placing an order on their website.)

Although I like making pizza crust from scratch as much as any other obsessive who likes food enough to start a whole blog about it, sometimes you just don’t have as much time as you’d like.  Sometimes, you’ve spent the bulk of your Saturday afternoon watching Ohio State squeak out a one-point victory over Michigan State and you just want to eat.  That’s where the beauty of the pre-made pizza crust (of the pretzel variety) comes in. When you don’t have to make the crust, pizza preparation takes way less time.

While it’s true that crust is essential to a good pizza, it’s only one component of a delicious pie.  A pizza after all is only as good as the things you layer on top of it.  If you don’t have a high quality sauce for example, your pizza will fail—even if it has as its foundation the Platonic form of pizza crust.  But, at the same time, if you’re not in the mood to make a crust, it’s highly unlikely that you’re in the mood to make sauce.  That, more than likely, will necessitate resorting to a jarred sauce.  Luckily, not all jarred sauces are created equal.

Several years ago, after sampling what seemed like countless jarred spaghetti sauces, I finally discovered Mid’s.  Since that time, it has been the only spaghetti sauce, other than homemade, that I’ll serve at my house.  And it’s certainly the only one I’ll ever actually spend money on.  Even better, it’s an Ohio product, with the company’s headquarters located up near Canton.  Spaghetti sauce isn’t their only product however, they also make a pretty mean pizza sauce as well.

Having saved time on the crust and sauce, I decided then blow all of my saved time on the toppings.  To start with, I opted for caramelized onions.  If there were ever a competition for the title of being the opposite of fast and easy, caramelized onions would certainly be in the running.  They wouldn’t win mind you, but they might get an honorable mention.

There are many recipes out there that claim to offer the secret to quick caramelized onions.  This is not one of those.  In fact, I hate to break it to you, but when it comes to caramelizing onions, there are no shortcuts.  Instead, you have to follow the same time tested, and time consuming process, that has been followed by chefs the world over.

Sweating the onions

Caramelized onions

To begin with, slice two large yellow onions.  Cut off the ends first, then in half, then slice into thin/medium sized strips. You want to use two onions because once you cook the water out of them, they’ll shrink down considerably.

Meanwhile, heat some form of fat in a pan.  I usually opt for olive oil mixed with a little butter. (The butter helps with the browning, but don’t use all butter, it’ll cook too quickly.)

Sweat the onions over medium-high heat until they become translucent and begin to shrink and give off water. Make sure you stir them constantly, especially at this stage. With high heat, they’re easy to burn.

Once you’re finished sweating the onions you can turn down the heat.  You’ll still need to stir them regularly and keep close watch on them so they don’t burn.

As the onions begin to shrink and caramelize, they may start to stick to the pan.  You can use water to deglaze the pan and release the browned bits.  Or, if you’re careful, use a very little bit of balsamic vinegar; don’t over do it, you don’t want the balsamic to overpower the other flavors.

Right near the end of cooking I like to sprinkle the onions with just a little brown sugar.  Some people might call this cheating.  I call it delicious.

The finished product

While some people might be happy with just caramelized onions on their pizza, I’m of the opinion that a pizza should also be accented with some form of meat.  One of the most underrated meat pizza toppings in my opinion is the meatball.  When making pizza meatballs, I’ve found that ground lamb makes for an excellent base.  I unfortunately don’t have a good meatball recipe to share with you.  Instead, I usually just eyeball it.

Here’s what I normally do:

Lamb meatballs

½ ground lamb for every pizza you intend to make

Fennel

Oregano

Parsley

Cayenne pepper (yep, cayenne pepper. I like spicy things on my pizza)

Eyeball the spices and mix with the ground lamb.  Cook in a pan until fully/mostly cooked.  Remove to absorbent towel to soak up any grease.

Half of the fun of making pizza is assembling the pizza with all its toppings and in all its glory.  (The other half is eating it.)  There’s no real right way to prepare one’s pizza at this point, just go to town.  Some people, like me, prefer an orderly distribution of toppings, taking care to ensure well balanced flavors throughout.  Others would rather let chaos reign.  Which I suppose is fine, if you like that kind of thing.

Yum, pizza. 🙂

No matter how delicious it is when it comes right out of the oven, to get the full measure of a pizza you need to also see how it stacks up a day later.  Cold pizza is a worthy dish in its own right.  Thankfully, Brezel’s pizza crust is as good leftover as it is fresh.   It certainly acquires a sort of sogginess that is common to almost all leftover pizzas.  But in this case, that actually works as a positive.  The little bit of moisture acquired after sitting for a day serves to enhance the overall pretzel flavor in the crust.

At the end of the day though, it doesn’t matter whether you get a pretzel crust or a traditional one, homemade sauce or jarred.  What matters most, is that you remember: anytime is a good time for pizza.

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One Response to “Easy as (pizza) pie”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Columbus Events Oct 4 – 10 « - October 3, 2012

    […] for the local dining scene.  Photos of the Brezel Pretzel pizza we made this weekend can be found on his blog. *Note, my “chaotic” pizza was not included in the photos, probably because he feared […]

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