Finally, five posts later, we come to the main event, the Ultimate Pizza. This post is pretty epic, but just to recap. We set the stage with articles on the Dough, the Pesto, the Sauce, and the Topping Preparation.
Now everything is set to go. Most of the toppings and the workspace.
The pizza stones (actually, there’re ceramic) are in the grill, and it’s been heated to 800-900 degrees.
The dough balls (read about their preparation HERE) have been taken out of the fridge two hours before and are rapidly rising on the counter. In fact, they will soon escape their plastic prisions on their own.
The peels, spatulas and pizza cutters are on the counter.
And more importantly the wine station is set up. The bottles in the back are “best ofs” from previous nights.
Being New Years, it’s time for the big guns.
For the white lovers: “The 2009 Kabinetts were absolute knockouts, and the one from Dönnhoff’s famed Oberhäuser Leistenberg vineyard is a likely candidate for Kabinett of the vintage! A complex core fragrance of golden apple, vanilla, orange peel, and Indian spices are subtly interwoven with notes of clove and incense. In the mouth, the wine shows impeccable purity, concentrated tangerine and tropical fruits, livel y acidity and pretty mineral notes that become pronounced on the back palate. Complex and beautiful, it is the essence of why the wines of Dönnhoff are referred to as ‘the most perfect Riesling can ever be.”
And for the red lovers. A perfect wine. Parker gives it 100+. “This is a Le Pavilion of mythical proportions. Produced from extremely old vines, some dating from the mid-nineteenth century, with yields averaging under 15 hectoliters per hectare, this is the richest, most concentrated and profound wine made in Hermitage. The 1991 Ermitage Le Pavilion follows the pattern of the 1989 and 1990-it is another perfect wine. The saturated black/purple color is followed by a compelling bouquet of spices, roasted meats, and black and red fruits. Enormously concentrated yet with brilliant focus and delineation to its awesomely endowed personality, this extraordinary wine should age effortlessly for three plus decades. Very powerful and full, yet displaying silky tannin, this is a seamless beauty! Anticipated maturity: 2001-2035.”
The ’91 Le Pavilion was the first truly great wine I ever tasted, back in 1996, and I bring out a bottle of it every once and a while to remember the glory days.
For my first pizza I thought I’d give something new a try. The Tikka Masala Pizza. While shopping I had found this stuff, and it looked good.
This is basically a tomato butter spice sauce, perfect as a substitute for regular tomato sauce.
Then I had to imagine what would go well with it. Mild cheese I thought, so I went with ricotta. Some corn, fresh chanterelle mushrooms, and a bit of basil.
It tasted WAY better than it looked, which is generally the case with these homemade pizzas. Notice the cornmeal by the way. This is a very important part of the process, allowing pizzas to be slid around easily. Even after doing this about a dozen times (perhaps 100 pizzas) I still mess it up a lot. You need to make sure you can move the pizza without making a mess if you want a pretty result. I wasn’t totally successful this time and some of the sauce slopped to the edges. Next time I’d also put the basil on after cooking, or late on the grill.
It still tasted FANTASTIC! Like naan dipped in Tikka Masala sauce.
Sun dried tomatos, and goat cheese.
After baking, drizzled with balsamic glaze. This was real good too. Goat cheese and sun dried tomatos go really well together, and the herby/basil thing complimented nicely.
A mini. Sweet onion marmelade, gorgonzola, figs.
Also drizzled with balsamic glaze. This was really really good, sweet. Unfortunately half of it was accidentally knocked on the floor and enjoyed by Osiris (the dog).
My wife likes a fairly straight up pizza. The fresh tomato sauce I made earlier in the day, roma tomatos, figs, mushrooms, mozzarella, parm, pecorino. She did add some marcona almonds. Everyone enjoyed it immensely, as it’s a very bright and perfect version of the classic margarita pizza, but with a bit texture and sweetness.
This is another one of my cooky creations. Herb oil, the crushed tomato sauce, red onion, capers, and most of a jar of really really good Italian chunk tuna packed in olive oil.
I tossed on a couple morels too and baked it.
Then to dress it. My favorite fresh cheese in the world. Burrata. I’m going to write a whole post about this stuff in a couple days.
I put a virtual salad on top using my pre-prepared arugala tossed in meyer lemon juice and black pepper (discussed here in the toppings). Then I drizzled single vineyard olive oil and balsamic must on top. I’ll write about those with my burrata article. The net result is AWESOME. The tomato, onion, caper mix below provides a delicious tang that pairs with the tuna, and then the bright citrusy flavor of the salad, and the mild creamy cheese. Yum Yum.
For my next trick. I used as a sauce the pre-bought “black truffle sauce,” then added mozzarella, parmesan, gorgonzola, bucheron, marcona almonds, figs, corn, white asparagus, and morels. Then I drizzled blobs of pesto, tikka marsala sauce, cherry compote, and fig jam on top, and a thin swirling of acacia honey! This is a sweet and salty pizza, a variant of one of my masterpieces that I call Formaggio Maximus (that one has more cheese, and less funny sauces).
I botched the transfer again because it was so heavy and wet. So it’s ugly, but it still tasted great.
Then I dressed it with the burrata. This is a very tasty pizza, with all sorts of sweet and salty flavor surprises in every bite.
Another big bertha of a wine. Parker gives it 98! “The Philadelphia tasting was the finest showing yet for this wine, which has been forbiddingly tannic, backward, and broodingly difficult to assess for much of its life. In the blind tasting, I thought it was Lafleur, and came close to giving it a perfect rating. Although still youthful, it has turned the corner and is emerging from its closed state.
A murky, dense, opaque garnet color is followed by spectacular aromatics of roasted herbs, smoked meats, cedar, prunes, black cherries, and black currants. Rich, powerful, and full-bodied, with a thick, unctuous texture, considerable fat and glycerin, and dazzling concentration, Certan de May has not produced a wine of such intensity, thickness, and aging potential since their 1949, 1948, 1947, and 1945. It is accessible, but do not mistake that for maturity. This 1982 demands another 5-6 years of cellaring; it should age easily for 30+ years. It is a modern day classic, and unquestionably the finest Certan de May I have ever tasted.”
One of my friends whipped up this peanut sauce by combining skippy, sugar, soy sauce, and a bit of water for consistency.
Then he put down the herb oil and white asparagus.
Corn and a few almonds.
Then the peanut sauce and a little bit of mozzarella.
The result. Again it looks a little ugly, but tasted amazing. As a kid I used to melt peanut butter on pita bread in the toaster oven. This was like the 100x better version of that. Sweat and spicy. The thing with custom pizzas is that anything that goes well with toasted bread (and that’s a lot) will work on a pizza.
This all took a long time, but we still had to wait for the ball to drop. So expresso. I have a little Italian commercial machine because I’m ridiculously obsessive about doing everything at the maximum level of quality — work or play.
New Years approaches. And so time for the crystal and Cristal. Parker gives this 96. “The estate’s 1996 Cristal, from a legendary vintage, does not disappoint. Like the 1979, there are elements of austerity that will require some time to sort themselves out, yet the 1996 is an insanely beautiful Cristal loaded with floral, perfumed fruit and vibrant minerality. The wine turns delicate in the glass, yet this is a sublime, fresh Cristal that is in need of further cellaring. In 1996 Cristal is 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay. According to Lecaillon 1996 is a vintage that did not respond well to oak aging, so only 3% of the wine was aged in wood, while 10% of the wine saw malolactic fermentation. This bottle was disgorged in 2007 and dosage was 8 grams. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2026.”
I use Riedel Sommelier crystal because it’s well… excessive. Austrian leaded old school hand blown crystal. Nothing else will do. Just touch touch it, and washing is a total nightmare. It takes about 5 minutes a glass, and can only be done by hand.
Desert. From Bottega Louie. We had a passionfruit poof thingy (upper left) that was amazing. A coconut sponge cake (lower left) which was pretty good. A chocolate thing (upper right) which was fair.
A coffee creme brulee (left center) which was awesome. A hazelnut choc cake (lower left) which was pretty good. A real dense bitter chocolate “cake” (upper right) and an amazing creme puff (lower right).
After all that, Osiris has the right idea. Happy New Year!!
We have so many toppings that two more days of pizza are possible, so I’ll be back soon with more reporting.