The Pizz-Off! has been causing a commotion in our circle for quite some time now. What is a Pizz-Off! you ask? It is a pizza-making competition, a pizza Olympics if you will, where people compete (in teams or solo) for the grand prize of BEST PIZZA. We eagerly anticipate each competition with a combination of glee, fear and excessive trash talking.
Usually, we have two categories in a Pizz-Off!, the “Traditional” and the “Creative”. Traditional pies must have tomatoes (0r some kind of tomato sauce), mozzarella cheese, and one optional topping (basil doesn’t count as a topping). Creative pies can be anything, sky’s the limit, go nuts.
For our first Pizz-Off! We used the dual ovens at our parents’ house. We drank about 500 bottles of wine (for 5 people). After everyone had left, John and I watched 3:10 to Yuma, never saying a word to each other until the final 10 minutes, when I looked over at him and said, “Dude…” and his response was, “Sick, right?”
I am still not sure if we were talking about the pizza or the movie. Both were out of sight.
Our second Pizz-Off! was held at my apartment. We had 5 teams of competitors, fake moustaches,rating cards, and a leader board that looked like this:
We set off the smoke detectors repeatedly and after a while we just gave up trying to disable them, because no one seemed to care. The oven door was watched like the last few seconds of the Super Bowl, and the whole place was tricked out like a New York/New Jersey pizzeria (many thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Low for all the accessories).
This most recent Pizz-Off! was a success as well. Our friend Justin hosted at his place, and as the above slide show demonstrates, a good time was had by all. And some dang-good pizza as well. I honestly have no idea who won. I think maybe Justin, but we had amazing representation from all three competitors (Justin, myself and John). What we bring you below are the recipes for the three most-loved pies of the evening: Justin’s Kale and Sausage, Elana’s Roasted Chestnut and Pyrenees Brebis, and John’s Margherita.
First up, is Justin:
I first picked up this pizza from the master pizzaiolo and Jersey native Paulie Gee. The ideal kale pizza should have leaves that have crisped due to the high heat, with a soft pliant crust. The pie is easily adaptable. Some other possible flavor pairings would be crushed tomatoes, pancetta, or sopressata.
The Ginge (adapted from Paulie Gee’s)
What You Need (to make approximately 12 inch pie):
1 pizza round
1 link of fennel sausage, crumbled, cooked
1/4 lb. of fresh mozzarella, cut into disks or chunk
1/2 bunch of kale (lacinato preferred, but any will do), stems removed, roughly chopped, dried thoroughly
1 clove garlic, sliced very thin
1/4 tsp sea salt (more to taste)
pinch of crushed red pepper
grated pecorino romano or parmiggiano, to taste
What To Do:
1. While waiting for dough to rise, place chopped and dried kale in a sealable plastic bag. Add sea salt, garlic, and pinch of crushed red pepper. Shake to distribute evenly. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil. Shake. Briefly “massage” olive oil into kale, making sure all leaves are coated. Let sit at room temperature from 30 minutes to 2 hours.
2. Approximately one hour before cooking, turn oven on as hot as it will go.
3. After rising, place dough on well-floured surface. Press down into pancake form. Allow to relax for 3-4 minutes.
4. Begin to work dough into shape by pushing out edges in a circular motion. As you work dough, try to maintain a fatter lip or “cornicone” along the edge. Stretch out until it reached approximately 12″.
5. Place dough on pizza peel or the back of a cookie sheet that has been dusted liberally with flour or cornmeal.
6. Sprinkle with olive oil and spread a thin film over dough. Add mozzarella evenly. Add crumbled sausage evenly. Shake pizza on peel or cookie sheet to ensure it has not gotten stuck.
7. Shake any excess olive oil from marinated kale and nest on top of pizza. (Kale will “deflate” a bit during cooking).
8. Slide pizza onto peel and cook approximately 8-10 minutes depending on oven.
9. Remove and add grated pecorino romano or parmiggiano. Serve!
What You Need:
1 pizza dough
1 can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes
Burrata mozzarella (procured from Trader Joe’s in this case)
Grated Parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
What To Do:
Stretch out your pizza dough onto a pizza peel (that has been sprinkled with cornmeal for easy maneuvering onto the pizza stone).
Using a spoon, dollop (yeah, that’s a verb) the San Marzano tomatoes directly from the can onto the dough. Slice the Burrata mozzarella over the tomatoes (be careful because Burrata is ooey-gooey on the inside, like a cheese version of a chocolate truffle). Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with salt.
Pop that baby in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until the middle is bubbling and the edges are brown and toasty.
Remove the pizza from the oven and garnish with grated Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.
Elana’s Roasted Chestnut and Pyrenees Brebis Pizza
What You Need:
1 whole wheat pizza dough (substitute 1/2 the amount of flour with whole wheat flour).
Coarsely chopped roasted chestnuts
Pyrenees Brebis cheese, sliced
Extra virgin olive oil
What To Do:
Stretch out your pizza dough on a cornmeal-sprinkled peel.
Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil and rub it around the circumference of the dough.
Slice the Pyrenees Brebis cheese and arrange it on top of the dough. Sprinkle the roasted chestnuts on top of the cheese and drizzle some honey over the whole enterprise. Sprinkle with a bit of sea salt.
Ease it into the oven, and await a bubbly-toasty masterpiece.
Remove it from the oven and garnish with fresh, chopped Rosemary.
The above three pizzas guarantee amazingness. You should have your own Pizz-Off! and invite John and I. John even puts his dishes in the dishwasher! We can’t guarantee your smoke detectors won’t go off…but it WILL be worth it.