Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pizza Pileup

They say you learn more from failure than success. I'm not so sure about that. What I am sure of is that failure is often more interesting than success. And it is in that spirit that I will recount my massive pizza pileup last Sunday.

I've made pizza before and successfully. It's the only pizza my daughter will eat (she generally disdains anything bready), and she specifically asked that I whip up a few pies.

All went well at first. I made my dough that afternoon, six rounds that I put in the fridge until about an hour before baking time. With dinner time approaching (I was trying to time it to a Man vs. Food episode), I fired up the oven to 500 degrees, laying the pizza stone on the bottom rack which I set to the lowest rung just above the coil.

I shredded the mozzarella, grated the peccorino romano, sliced mushrooms and pepperoni and put freshly made marinara at hand. My daughter, meanwhile, cut olives and minced anchovies. Her idea was to use the sauce, olives, anchovies and capers to make a putanesca pizza. A great idea, I thought, and was curious to see how it turned out.

Everything was organized, laid out in bowls ready to go on pizzas with the efficiency of an assembly line. The oven was hot. The pizza peels were standing by.

I was kind of proud of myself as I started to roll out pizza dough. Silly me.

All went well with the first pizza, mushrooms, olives and cheese, which would be mine. It came out perfectly.

My daughter then carefully built her putanesca pizza (see the picture above just about to go into the oven). Little did I know, but I'd made a fatal mistake: I failed to put enough cornmeal on the peel. When I tried to slip it onto the stone, it stuck. I ended up with blob that looked like the bizarre formations inside the wrecked Chernobyl reactor. My daughter was devastated. She made a second pizza, and, yes, you guessed it, I did it again.

We were able to salvage some the putanesca pizza, enough to fill her up, but it was a real cluster you-know-what. By the fourth pizza, I'd learned my lesson, dumping corn meal on the peel like a sand truck spewing ice melt on a slippery road. It made a mess, but it worked. The pizza slid like a man on a banana peel.

So the lesson is, puts LOTS of corn meal on the your pizza peel. Overdoing it may make a mess, but it's better than pizzas that look like bad modern art.

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