Midweek Modernist Pizza Report: The volume of recipes opens by defying your expectations of what a recipe book can be (Part 3)
The Ongoing Modernist Pizza Review, Volume 3, Chapter 12, "Iconic Recipes," Part 3
Written by Nathan Myhrvold and Francisco Migoya
Published by The Cooking Lab; First edition, October 19, 2021
Hardcover: 1708 pages, 32.7 pounds, 13.78 x 10.24 x 15.94 inches
List Price: $425.00
Amazon discount price as of 03/08/23: $294.99
Move aside, Neapolitan pizza—folks are ready to start hurling the Chicago deep-dish! But the Modernistas remain unemotional and clear-eyed, of course. And they could not possibly be smarter about it. I think. (There will be mac and cheese involved…)
In the recipes section for deep-dish, Mhyrvold & Migoya get right to it: “Whether deep-dish is really a pizza or not is the subject of many heated debates (based largely on where you call home). Some feel strongly that it’s pizza while others feel just as strongly that deep-dish pizza is closer to a casserole.”
From there, Modernist Pizza dives right into the making of this challenging pizza style. I’ve never wanted to applaud deep-dish pizza baking instructions until just now. It’s only four paragraphs long. The photo of the pizza takes up more room on the page. But thank you, Nathan Mhyrvold and Francisco Migoya for speaking intelligently about the mechanics of a pizza that makes less rational folks see red, where emotions run rampant and common sense can be in short supply.
I’ve always been deep-dish pizza curious. I’ve never had a great one. I’ve had some good ones. I’ve eaten enough deep-dish pizza over the years to understand the attraction and the potential. Of course, I admit emotional bias. As good as it gets, deep-dish will never replace my beloved medium-crust New York-style pizza and its close cousins.
But yes, the Modernistas make it sound good. And their instructions make it sound like I can make it better. They even have me wondering about putting my own spin on it. Instead of deep-dish, how about deep-ish dish? One of the big challenges with this pizza style for me is the doorstop factor. How can I mitigate that for the US Northeast Pizza Corridor People? Is that even possible? But I digress. This is not about me.
Mhyrvold & Migoya offer common sense tips for more efficient production of a deep-dish pizza. The smartest one might be pre-baking the crust to prevent the dreaded gel layer, and to ultimately expedite baking and prevent a soggy crust.
But be warned: “There is a bizarre bias against this against this practice in Chicago.” In other words, “It’s the way we’ve always done it so it must be right.” (My quote, not theirs.) But this is typical in so much of traditional and accepted cooking methods. For instance...
“Take your meat out of the fridge half an hour before cooking it!” How many times have you heard that? But did you know that 30 minutes out of the fridge accomplishes almost nothing in terms of bringing the meat to room temp? The Modernistas are among the pros who’ve helped debunk such myth masquerading as wisdom. But again, I digress.
This section offers a very clear and concise series of steps and warnings. Modernist Pizza is preparing you for the tackling the task that is deep-dish pizza. And the photography is so sexy and evokes something so visceral it makes you want to try. So, hello Chicago!
There are several recipe recommendations here for deep-dish pizzas. They range from a pie of mozzarella, basil, fried eggplant, tomato confit, fior di latte mozzarella, and provolone, to a pie of Swiss cheese, potato confit, garlic confit, sautéed escarole, cheddar cheese and Wisconsin brick cheese. (Did someone mention “casserole”?) They’ve portrayed the pizzas in an array of half a dozen cross-section photos, and detailed the toppings in a chart called “Deep-Dish Parametric Recipe.” (And yes, in case you were worried it might be left out, the list of possible toppings includes blood sausage.)
The weirdest-looking pizza of the bunch, and the one calculated to freak out sufferers of trypophobia (that's the aversion to clusters of small holes), is the Pixelated Pizza. It’s a complex recipe requiring a lengthy assembly time. It includes making a pistachio pesto, using truffles, and topping the pizza with a tube-shaped pasta (they call for paccheri).
The result looks like a surreal landscape of sucking holes from a bad psychedelic dream. Nevertheless, Mhyrvold & Migoya claim “It is well worth it for a fantastic result: a combination of pizza, quiche and pasta dish.” And yes, they provide you with a recipe for the pistachio pesto.
Next, they inform us that “Mac and cheese is a popular topping on pizza.” (That's news to me. How about you?) With that, they proceed to unleash a recipe for “Mac And Cheese Deep-Dish Pizza.” It features their Modernist cheese sauce for an “ultra-smooth Mac and cheese and is then covered with more cheese and crispy bread crumbs.”
All that said, they are not without total understanding of what they’ve done here. “With all these carbs, however, you might need a nap.” The photo makes it look fantastic, and I need a nap just thinking about it.
They then move us from there to the recipe for their Quizza, a hybrid French quiche and pizza. Yes, I admit that this is another one of those things I’ve thought about in my pizza ponderings. I’m grateful to Mhyrvold & Migoya from sparing me from stumbling through it myself and doing it for me. It makes total sense and looks excellent. And yes, real men eat Quizza.
The next deep-dish dazzler is a double-crust pizza. While in Italy, they encountered double-crust pizzas. These were thin-crust pizzas, and they enjoyed them. They encountered deep-dish double-crust pizzas in Chicago, and they did not enjoy them. Confronted with such disappointment, most people would walk away. Not the Modernistas! Instead, they go into the pizza lab and fix all of this so we can make and enjoy such a pizza for our very own.
Phew. Deep-dish, move aside. Next up is the thick-crust pizza parade. We’ll be venturing down the highway on light and airy, thick-crust pan pizzas. There will be recipes for Detroit-Style Red-Top Pizza (I’ve made Peter Reinhart’s version of this Motor City staple and can vouch for the crowd-pleasing qualities of this pie.) All that and more, right here next time on the ongoing review of Modernist Pizza.
If the idea of owning a copy of Modernist Pizza attracts you like a moth to the candle flame, you can find it here. If you want a skinnier, simpler, sillier book that teaches only one kind of pizza, you can find Free The Pizza! here.
Blaine Parker is the award-winning author of the bestselling, unusual and amusing how-to pizza book, Free The Pizza. Also known as The Pizza Geek and "Hey, Pizza Man!", Blaine is fanatical about the idea that true, pro-quality pizza can be made at home. His home. Your home. Anyone's home. After 20 years of honing his craft and making pizza in standard consumer ovens across the nation, he's sharing what he's learned with home cooks like you. Are you ready to pizza?
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