04.04.2014 by Andrea
I suppose an easy sign pointing to whether or not you’re competitive is come Friday night, [the evening before a “friendly” pizza making contest], you cut happy hour short and you’re still headed to the store at 12:30am to get missing/experimental ingredients. If that isn’t enough, then when you’re awake pre-7:00am and by midmorning have already made two more samples, hit the butcher shop, a few boutique grocery stores and still are tweaking.
Meet my friend family. We are crazy …. and if you didn’t know, now you know. I was gone last year for the ladies vs. gents pizza-off and it was due time to reprise the contest. Different matchups but unsurprisingly no holds barred this time around. The field was set, previous contenders divvied up into teams of two, and then the contest virgins had a remote specialist. The lineup was follows: Mrs. W & her brother [dubbed The Boy], the Big Guy aka the Chairman & JW, and finally my trio with secret weapons: former Italy resident [it counts when you study abroad]/pizza connoisseur [seriously he could eat ‘za everyday] and our ringer, R, who was jetting in from the East Coast and landed with just enough time to sample every submitted contest slice. She was advising us via email on some good tricks of the trade.
We all know that I don’t cook but I can certainly scour the intrawebs and chop veggies with the best of them. After much back and forth M and I agreed on 2-ish pies. One was going to be a surprise duo [they both fit on the sanctioned ‘za crust] and the other was for shock and awe in how we cooked it. I don’t think M knew how crazy a family cookoff event could get until I started suggesting items such as quail eggs, crab, pancetta, steak, and other outrageous marriages of ingredients and flavors. Luckily, he got right into the spirit of competition, spinning Jedi mind tricks throughout the entire weeklong group email conversation thread. Enough so that even I was confused and we were on the same team.
After hours spent sampling salamis, spicy sausages, guanciale, pecorino’s, a myriad of honeys and conceiving a tasty aperitif we stumbled into the W’s casa armed with a cast iron skillet, stainless steel ramekins, a pizza stone along with mysterious ingredients enshrouded in The Swinery bags. If you think that made the other two teams shake in their boots, think again.
Next thing we know, we are being wined and dined by Sal & Pauly [JW & the Big Guy]. Perfectly coupled wine pairings, stories flowing about their pizza and how it was conceived. No joking around, straight business time. Sal & Pauly introduced us to a simple yet sophisticated margherita pizza. It probably would have behooved them to make their own sauce. Overall as a standalone I would eat that pizza all day everyday. For competition? Just wasn’t enough to give them a controlling lead.
M and I were in queue prepping ours which had created the verbal murmurings that we had hoped for. Suggestions such as deep dish pizza, and calzone were being thrown around as we layered our pie in the cast iron. Our concoction was a Myers lemon, pine nut rosemary lamb & pork sausage, blasted broccoli, roasted rosemary fingerling potato, pecorino and mozzarella cheese pizza dusted with truffle oil. We thought the lemon would be cleansing to the palates and transition nicely to the next go around. We served up our homemade aperitif and let games begin.
Everyone was coming out swinging and quickly learned the first rule of jostling for first place. Never underestimate the creative powerhouses of team YaWeDoughpe [ya we dope]. Mrs. W and the Boy grabbed the lead with their deconstructed king crab cake pizza and never turned around. A roasted red pepper aioli laid the footwork for this out-of-the-universe creation. I’m telling you, this slice of heaven needs to be sold in a pizza shop, it was that insanely good. Exquisitely balanced and so hard to not gobble down what remained on the cutting board. Team YaWeDoughpe owned the first round and Sal and Pauly had a deficit to climb out of.
S & P barged back into the kitchen with avengeance. These two cheftestants pushed up their sleeves and went to work, they were out for blood. Digging deep, repeatedly lighting their back of house approved torch gun and in general tried to bully the other participants with their shake, rattle and roll in the kitchen they certainly made their statement [and a lot of noise]. Compliments to the guys their amuse-bouche they put together was insane. Who doesn’t want a spoonful of salmon caviar, filet mignon, and king crab? They added all those ingredients plus truffle oil and a quail egg to their pizza. Familiar sounding ingredients, eh? M and I had mulled those over as well, and had even tried using extreme options such as spicy chocolate and Doritos. At the end of the day we concluded that sometimes too many flavors muddles everything into a hot mess. Sal & Pauly’s base layer was exactly the same as their previous pizza and those flavors were so strong that everything else got lost in the mix. Valiant effort but I think this is when they realized a repeat ‘ship was nearly out of their reach.
M and I did our final presentation with a spicy salami, red sauce [homemade I might add], arugula drizzled with honey on one side and then a fiery peanut butter, pepper bacon, guanciale, arugula draped zinger. Pretty good. In all honesty we had worked this one out so many times I was growing a bit weary of the the specific flavor profiles we were attempting to achieve.
It was coming down to the wire and the YeahWeDoughpe completed the showdown with a turf to complement their previous surf crusted delicacy. Cabernet soaked onions with delicious steak and a beautiful cheese? Can you say, BAM? It was a landslide win in my mind.
After we performed a final audit and Sal & Pauly reconfigured their numbers so as not to throw the competition YeahWeDoughpe were crowned the best of evening. The benefit to those of us who didn’t claim the whole kit and caboodle is that that the champs have to make their winning pies again. I was asleep on the couch within minutes, no exaggerating, my body felt like it had gone through the a weeks worth of crossfit wod’s in less than 24 hours time. It should be noted that I recovered well enough to eat pizza 3 more times over the course of the next day and a half!
By brunch the next morning Sal & Pauly declared they won’t rest until they reclaim what they view as their rightful place at the top. Personally M, R, and I were thrilled with our second place finish. It’s akin to me wanting to be First Lady or the VP, sometimes you can be more stealth in supporting roles. Just sayin’
I propose that our next competition have a price cap, or we present the other teams with mystery ingredients that they have to be integrate within their creation. Barely another round of food digested and we are all already rubbing our hands together for the next! What would you choose as pizza toppings if you had a chance? Would love some suggestions in the comment box OR would be more than happy to try your experiments in person.
Nearing the end of the week [for some], happy Friday. Until the next slice, cheers!