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Pizza for Archie May 26, 2010

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Vegetables.
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I really can’t see Nero Wolfe eating pizza. While he does espouse the benefits and highlights of American food (see Too Many Cooks), I think pizza is too junk-y for him. However, Archie, Nero Wolfe’s assistant, is someone I can definitely eating pizza when he has the chance. Maybe if Fritz is sick or otherwise occupied, or if Archie is out all day on a case.

I know pizza is a fairly common thing to make at home, but I’d never tried it before. This recipe at Slice, for a brussels sprout and pancetta pizza, convinced me it was time to give it a go. To start with, I made some dough for my pizza, using the recipe here. It came together very easily, and I left it to rise while I prepared the ingredients for the topping.

The main ingredient for the pizza was brussels sprouts. As I mentioned a while ago, I’m a recent convert to the use of brussels sprouts after discovering they are delicious if they’re roasted in the oven. For the pizza, I had to core and separate the brussels sprouts, so I could spread them out on the pizza. If you’ve ever wondered what a cored brussels sprout looks like, here is your chance:

After coring them, the leaves can be pulled apart quite easily. I used about 6 brussels sprouts and cored and pulled the leaves off them all.

The recipe I was following called for pancetta, but as I didn’t have any of that, I substituted some of my homemade bacon which had been flavoured with caraway seeds and mustard. I diced the bacon up into small cubes, and also thinly sliced up some garlic cloves. And that was pretty much all I had to do to prepare the topping ingredients!

Now it came to creating the pizza base from the dough. By this time, the dough had risen, I’d punched it down, and I was all set to form it into pizza base shape – when I realised I didn’t know how! After some pulling and tearing and rolling and swearing, I worked out a method to shape the dough.

As you can see it’s not quite perfectly round – and to be honest after I took the photo I reshaped the dough again to get it rounder! Incidentally, you’ll see I’ve placed the dough directly onto the pizza stone before adding the topping. While some (most?) recipes indicate you can make the whole pizza on the countertop before transferring it onto the stone, I was a bit afraid about slipping it onto the stone after it was covered in topping, so decided to make it straight on the stone. And as a further note, pizza stone sets are quite widely available from cooking and general homewares stores – my set was $20 and included the stone, a wire rack for the stone and a pizza cutter.

Once I’d shaped the dough, I added the topping. I started with the cheese, and then added the sprouts, garlic and the bacon. The recipe called for salt, but I didn’t bother adding more salt with the inclusion of the bacon. I also added some chopped tinned artichoke hearts, just because we had them.

This went into the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese had melted and the brussels sprouts had cooked.

In retrospect, I probably could have left it a little longer – the crust was only just brown as you can see. But everything else was cooked and melted, and it smelled too good to wait any longer!

Here’s a closeup of one of the slices. I know the photo isn’t great but it’s literally the only one I got before the plate was snatched away from under me! And I quickly joined H in the consuming of the pizza and was very glad I did. Some of the brussels sprouts had gone crispy and charred, while others were soft and cooked. The garlic had also become quite cooked and crispy in spots. The bacon imparted a nice salty flavour, and the cheese held it all together. I was also happy with the way the dough came out – it was fluffy but also firm and held the ingredients well.

This foray into pizza making is definitely something I should have attempted earlier – and I’ve already made a couple more pizzas including a chicken and leek pizza which came out very nicely. Again I don’t think this is something Nero Wolfe would necessarily appreciate but Archie – stopping in for lunch after tailing a subject, or left to his own devices if Fritz is out a the market – would certainly approve.

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