Saturday, October 17, 2009

Friday Pizza Perfect

Friday is always busy...

Between finishing my work for the day, making dough and sauce, and finalizing the list of attendees, it can get tense. But, this is a good thing. It is a good thing because Friday Night Pizza is also serious fun.

By the time 1700 rolled around, the oven was heating and everything was just about set. Lefty had her list of friends, Oldest told me about a couple of his friends, and Lord Obsidian agreed to drop by with a new board game to try out.

Making pizza is an interesting dance...the timing on my oven at 500 degrees is such that it takes about 12-15 minutes to do one 16" pie right. 7 minutes on the bottom rack, and 5-8 minutes on the middle, depending on the amount and type of toppings. So, first pie goes in on the bottom rack and then moves to the middle rack when number two goes in on the bottom. And so on throughout the cooking process. Since it takes about 7 minutes to toss the dough, sauce it, and top it, the kitchen becomes a busy place while the pies are going in and coming out. This also means that once I get going, I have a new, hot, steaming pile of "Goodness!" coming out of the oven roughly every 7 minutes. 6 pies takes less than an hour from start to finish.

First pie out of the oven is always chicken, broccoli, and bell peppers on AlfredOMG! Sauce (recipe to follow in a separate post). The early arrivers want this one first because it is the house favorite. It almost never lasts 5 minutes on the table and I always have to make two just to keep people happy. Since this one is so popular, I also make another one at the end of the night for the late arrivals and the people who want a third or fourth slice later in the evening.

I knew Lord Obsidian was arriving early due to a later commitment farther south so I put his fave (and one that I really like too) in next. This one is pepperoni, pineapple, and jalapeno on my special Red(state) Sauce. The hot of the jalapeno and the sweetness of the pineapple make a nice counterpoint for each other and the salt of the pepperoni combines nicely with the tang of the sauce. Another winning combination. Lord Obsidian walked in about a minute before the pie came out of the oven. Great timing, and an indicator of how the night was going to go.

OldestChild likes pepperoni (JUST pepperoni), and one of his friends is also particular about that, so that was the next pie in the oven. Oldest was waiting patiently for it to come out and his friend arrived just as I was slicing the pie on the board. Another timing win! The evening was starting to really hit stride.

Next to go into the oven was 6heese! No, that is not a cheese pizza uses mozarella, aged parmesan, and a 4 cheese blend for a total of 6 cheeses on the red sauce. As I put this pie into the oven, some of Lefty's friends came in who ONLY eat cheese pizza. It was almost like there was some kind of pre-ordained flow to the way things were going.

The party was in full swing by this time, with games and movies going, lots of talk, and laughter in every room. I had just two more pies to make and pie number 5 is another house favorite: smoked ham and pineapple. Toss the dough (watch the ceiling!) and throw it on the pan. Sauce it up, thick layer of mozzarella, generous portion of ham and lots of pineapple, a sprinkle of aged parmesan and into the oven it goes.

The last to go in was another Chicken AlfredOMG pie. This last one came out of the oven right about the time that the last of Oldest's friends came through the door and a few minutes before my beautiful wife got home. The last pie to come out of the oven did so less than an hour after the first one went in, and everybody got to have their favorite type - hot and fresh from the oven - upon arrival. I would call that a cooking WIN!

Now that the pies were out and everybody was NOMming, I got to play a new game (to me) called "Endeavor". This game is a winner and I am going to have to add it to the board game rotation at Casa Newbius. If you like Catan, you will like this one.

All in all, a good night. Lots of food, conversation, and fun. Less than a pizza's worth of leftovers...a few slices of ham and pineapple (BREAKFAST!), a couple slices of cheese, a slice or two of pepperoni (but no Alfedo). And, I got to try a new game. I am really looking forward to the next pizza night. Maybe next week??




Oakenheart said...

Sounds great. I really want to build a pizza oven, but I just don't have the funds for it right now. I did find some nice plans for free on the Forno Bravo site. Have you ever tried using a pizza stone in the oven? might cut your cooking time down a bit.

Newbius said...

I have a pizza stone (2 actually) and although they are good stones, it is tough to regulate the surface temperature when you are doing lots of pies in succession on them. I will put the stone on the floor of the oven to act as a heat sink to store oven heat when the door gets opened every 7 minutes, which is not what they were designed for but they do well in that usage.

As for cooking time, I am making 16" pies with 24 ounces of dough. This makes a moderately thick crust. If I leave the pie on the stone long enough to get a good lift and crumb in the dough, the crust browns more than I would like. If I am making a thin crust (16 ounces for 16"), then the time is about right as long as the toppings are light. Then, the pie cooks for about 9-11 minutes total and everything finishes about the same time.

The most difficult aspect of the pizza making is timing the surface topping cook time against the crust cooking/browning. After many, many months of experimenting, this system works for me, in this oven. When I replace the oven next year, I am going to have to learn it all over again.


Lord Obsidian said...

Thanks for having me over and playing Endeavor. I'm glad you enjoyed it and the next time I'm down Virginia way, I shall be sure to bring it again.

You gotta post the recipe for red (state) sauce. I think I enjoy that fantastic tangy, bitey sauce more than anything.

Haven't gotten to the pages yet, but as soon as I do, I'll email you my thoughts.

Newbius said...

The sauce recipe was posted here:

I generally use a little less salt than what is in that recipe, and a little more pepper and garlic. Adjust to suit your taste, but that is the basic sauce and it yields enough for 3-4 pies.

Also, I have found that making it more than 2 hours in advance helps the herbs to release more of their flavors. Using good aged balsamic (less acidic and with more complex flavors) makes a difference too.


J.R.Shirley said...

That sounds AWESOME! I'm a big fan of tomato sauce and peppers. Sounds like the timing was perfect, too. :-)