Sunday, December 20, 2009

il pizza patate

Last night we had a holiday party. A success: we started with a case of Red Stripe and some $10 rosé, and this morning we woke up to a fully stocked wine rack and a fridge overflowing with beer. Because 2009 was such a shit year, I didn't bother to come up with anything different to serve and went with last year's menu, the mainstay of which was potato pizza. When we lived in New York we were right around the corner from the original Sullivan Street Bakery, which among other things makes these really simple pizzas: rectangular, with a single topping. (They're also the folks behind the no-knead bread recipe that Mark Bittman turned into a bakery world watershed a few years back.)

I'm no baker, so as simple as the recipe sounds they're quite difficult for me. I always make too much or too little dough, and I can never lay it out very evenly in the pans. The result looks intentionally paisano and "charming," but I assure you the effort is amateur. Allora, la ricetta! (Which is from a book I picked up in Oregon called Artisan Baking Across America, full of intense discussions of yeast varietals, which is why I'm no good at baking.)

Hey Giovanni! You makea due pizzete, you needa:
3.5 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2.5 cups lukewarm water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Olive oil

1. Put the yeast into a 1/2 cup of tap-hot water, stir it up and let it get going. Put the flour in yr KitchenAid and start mixing it, on low, with the paddle attachment. Add the yeast water slowly, then add the remaining 2 cups of water, also slowly. Mix just until the batter "comes together," the book says, about three minutes. Up the speed to medium and mix until the dough starts cleaning the bowl, about 20 minutes. Add the sugar and salt and mix for another 3 minutes.

2. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. (I rubberband the edges, too, just in case.) Let it ferment until it's very light, 4 or 5 hours. I ferment mine in the laundry room, which is warmer and darker than the rest of our house.

3. Coat two half-sheet pans with olive oil -- not too much, you're not trying to fry the damn things. Pour one half the dough into each pan. Cover your hands in oil and gently spread the dough to the edges, giving it time to recuperate between stretches; try not to rip it. Set it aside and let it proof for another hour.

In addition to the potato version, I like to make one with just plain tomato puree with a little bit of salt, oil and rosemary, which is why I make two pizzas. For the potatoes, you'll need:
5 Yukon Gold potatoes or a bunch of fingerlings, peeled
1 yellow onion, sliced into half-moons
Fresh chopped rosemary
Slice the potatoes with a mandolin into paper-thin bits, toss them with a little salt and let them drain their moisture in a colander for 20 minutes or so, then toss them with the onions, rosemary, and more salt.

Preheat the oven to 425°, placing one rack in the top third and one in the bottom third. After the dough is proofed (meaning it has risen again, like our Lord Jesus), spread the potato mix over one pan and the tomato mix over another. Before I put them in the oven I'll also drop a few unpeeled cloves of garlic over the mix as well. Potato goes on bottom rack, tomato on top; switch them midway through. In my shitty oven the tomato takes about 35-40 minutes; the potato closer to an hour. The tomato is done when the pie's edges start rising up from the pan; the potato is done when the potatoes are brown or almost black; serve at room temperature.