Friday, July 9, 2010

A Pizza Symphony

    I'm getting ready to test myself. I invited some friends over for pizza for Friday night. He is a long time friend, went to China with us and a favored client as well. Not only have I painted two murals for him I also built him a pond and waterfall plus a stone barbecue island for his backyard.  His heart throb is my challenge and critic. She's a Brooklyn born and raised New Yorker with a keen taste for original New York pizza. She will be my harshest critic to date. This is what I've been needing to guide me in my journey through  the realms of genuine New York pizza. I have made this pizza only twice before. The first one I studied and I shopped and re-read and I shopped a second time just to get the exact ingredients as described in the book the Ultimate Pizza Manual by Francesco Brunaldo. Slight adaptations have to be made however as specific New York or East Coast brand names don't exist in California such as Red Pack tomato puree or a certain brand name of chicken bullion. I substituted an Italian brand tomato puree and used my regular chicken bullion hoping it won't divert the authenticity too much. The first one of these genuine New York pizzas that I made was an absolute success, in my mind anyway. The second, I admit, I was distracted by the conversations in the kitchen and left out two minor steps that affected the flavor over all. This time I vow to get it right once again. I am working directly from the book that has no less than 27 steps before going into the oven! For the west coasters reading this I can only describe this pizza as something we don't get to experience in California. It would be as unique as seeing the Aurora Borealis from downtown Los Angeles. We just don't get this here. New York has a taste all their own and unique to New York. However, I am going to change that Friday night with a little luck. Today I made the dough from scratch as always and worked it for 20 minutes with the dough hook before chilling it to let it proof in the refrigerator. I also cooked up a fresh batch of sauce and chilled it as well. I bought some new mozzarella and provolone which I believe really adds a layer of richness to the cheese texture and taste. The best way to describe it would be the difference between whole milk and skim milk or at least low fat milk.
   What I am hoping for is to hear her, my New York critic, say is,"Vince, you nailed it." On the other hand when I was told that my clam and garlic pizza was already better than Tony's I felt like I lost something there. I felt like my challenge was met, I made the hurdle and now I don't have to try and improve upon it. I can remember back to when I played hardball as a kid. My goal over the years was to try and be the best player on the team.  I believe I finally did it one year but I was disappointed quickly because then I found out that all of my teammates were crappy.  I  had to support the team. As it turned out it became the last year I played baseball. So, if your goal is to find something that you have misplaced, do you continue looking for it after you have found it? I'm hoping for both a thumbs up and a word of advice or a constructive bit of criticism. But again to use another sports analogy, in football, on any given Sunday in the NFL, any given team can beat any other given team despite what the odds are. It happens every season. What I do hear in my head though are the words of Chris Bianco, one of the Legends of Pizza say, that on any given day, pizza can kick your butt. It's nice to know that one of the biggest names in pizza still has to be on his game every day in order to keep it coming out the way it should. One can't let the distractions keep you from perfecting the ultimate pizza.
    As a hobby years ago, I took vocal training or voice lessons both in group and privately. One of the things my instructor did when I would be performing for her was to create a multitude of distractions while I was singing. At first I thought it was just plain rude until I realized that the object was to concentrate no matter what was going on around me. She was slamming cabinet doors, answering her phone, rummaging through stacks of papers all while I was trying to sing a ballad or something. It was a test. I passed but I wasn't thrilled with her as an audience. She told me to expect those kinds of distractions and more when performing. It wasn't going to be like we were in church! So it is when entertaining too, I suppose. I'm performing by trying out a new number on my audience despite the interruptions, distractions, conversations, questions and expectations it still has to be a perfect symphony of crust, sauce, cheeses, and toppings all in harmony with perfect timing.

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