Happy early birthday to me. :) Elise got me the KettlePizza a few months early (my birthday is in late August) so we have the whole summer to enjoy some coal and wood fired pizzas. Let the KettlePizza and Baking Steel hacks begin!
It seems like there are a lot of new food trucks taking advantage of the lesser restrictions of the Empire State Plaza, breathing some new life into the Capitol outdoor lunch dining scene, previously only held down by the trucks surrounding West Capitol Park. While Capital Q has been at the ESP at least a few years now, newcomers like Slidin’ Dirty (among others) are really shaking things up on the plaza compared to the Park. But when I saw DeFazio’s was bringing a wood-fired oven and cautioned lunch goers that “charring and blistering of the crust was to be expected” my interest was piqued.
Testing out a new grilled pizza setup today
– I love doing grilled pizza but the biggest problem is getting the cheese and toppings melted and cooked up properly. Most of the time the toppings have to be cooked beforehand, or if you’re doing pepperoni it just doesn’t get to the proper crispness.
I’ve got the the wire rack handle from an older Pampered Chef stone flipped upside down with the stone sitting on top. I plan on putting the stone directly over the flame to get it to its highest temperature before moving it to the top of the rack. Results to follow.
Grilled Pizza Anyone? [Food Porn]
Oiled down the grill and slapped on some dough from Bella Napoli last week. This is the top side before getting loaded up with toppings and getting the bottom nice and toasty. Could have gotten a little darker but I’m not complaining.
My Brutally Honest Review of the “New” Kay’s Pizza
I say brutally honest because it ain’t pretty. Yesterday was the grand opening of Kay’s Pizza under new ownership so I had to go check it out. I was already wary to the fact that it opened on a Sunday this year but we had to give a chance, right?
Let’s get the pizza out of the way because that’s the important stuff. Toppings are dead on. In fact, the jalapenos might even be a bit hotter than they used to be which is A-OK with me. Even Elise’s meatball and ‘shrooms pizza was exactly the same. The problem lies in the dough.
It’s lighter. Fluffier. Airier. And worst of all: it’s less greasy. For those of you that have never been to Kay’s Pizza, it has this layer of grease on the bottom of it that’s much like the deep-dish style of greasy pizza that Pizza Hut does, but with a decent crunch and well infinitely better. What I had last night was unfortunately slightly dry and bread-like. Great characteristics for bread. Not so much for pizza crust. One of the pizzas wasn’t even round, more like a polygon. Clearly an issue with the dough. Totally no good.
OK, enough about the pizza, how about the rest? As you can see from the pic there was a line reaching outside the front door. There was about an half hour wait for us to get a table for 8, and if we were a group of 2 or 4 we would have been seated even quicker. However, there was about an hour wait after we ordered before we saw any food. I would usually complain about this but it was opening night and I’m sure they were swamped with take out orders since the parking lot was full and they rest of us were parked on the road all the way to the other side of the lake. After we got our food we were out of there in a half hour.
The tap list hasn’t changed but Kay’s doesn’t really need to be a craft beer bar or anything. The one thing that did change is that all of the staff wear uniforms now, and this is an awful, terrible thing. Why? Because this is one of those little, innocent things that the new owners think is an “improvement”, making the Kay’s waitstaff look more “professional”. Except this is the antithesis of Kay’s Pizza and that means the new owners just don’t get it. This isn’t a TGI Friday’s. Kay’s isn’t “professional”. It’s a po-dunk pizza shop in the middle of Burden Lake that hasn’t changed in 60 some odd years. And in all of those years it did just fine. Why change it now?
I’d love to say that the uniforms and the dough are the only changes that will occur and Kay’s will be just fine. But if history serves us correctly, new owners of restaurants just can’t stop getting their hands in there to change things, “improve” things, and to make the place “their own”. I’m sure they’ll update the website to look like something that wasn’t created with Geocities. And then they’ll, god-forbid, level the floors. Unfortunately, these aren’t things that will work for Kay’s, and will work even less for it’s customers.
New owners: please don’t fuck this up. Thank you.
Pitch Black Pizza Stone [Kitchen Tech]
After my pizza post I got talking with Brad about pizza stones, what mine looks like and how well it’s seasoned. The thing with pizza stones is that, while they don’t need to be seasoned and you can use them as is, it doesn’t really hurt to accelerate the process. As you use it, the stone takes on a natural non-stick patina just like your cast iron , and it’ll get darker and darker with age. I’ve had mine for about five years now, and as you can see in the picture it’s almost completely pitch black, again, just like cast iron.
In fact, it’s totally fine to leave your pizza stone in the oven. For those with “hot spots” in their oven this can really help out with distribution of heat. Hell even putting your stone through a cleaning cycle isn’t going to hurt it. These things are pretty much indestructible. (Unless you’re Elise. Luckily hers was still under warranty.)
Seasoning your pizza stone is a simple as putting down a layer of oil on it and tossing it in as your baking other things; no need to turn your oven on special. After a few times through it should look like the above, and you’ll never have an issue with pizza sticking.
PS. Don’t forget that you’re not limited to cooking pizza on a pizza stone. The even heat distribution is great for baking cookies, breads and any other food you’d usually put on a baking sheet. The more you use it, the better the patina formed!
Not bad charring for an electric oven [Kitchen Tech]
Made this last week when we had a gluten craving. It was short notice so no homemade dough, or even decent dough was available. Sadly, Price Chopper dough had to do.
The technique: You can read more detail about this here, but here’s the short and dirty version. A pizza stone is a must, and should be placed into your oven while cold. Or if you’re lucky to have a cast iron pan use that. Crank your oven to the max temperature (mine is 550). None of this 350 degree bullshit. Heat your pizza stone for at least an hour and make sure it’s at the highest rack with enough clearance for the pizza as it rises. Boom, you have pizza that looks like this. You’re welcome.
How it works: Cooking pizza at high temps can be tricky. I’ve tried placing dough directly on a 500+ degree grill and burnt the shit out of the dough before the cheese even cooked (sorry, Elise). That’s because the heat is directly applied to the bottom of the dough, and there’s all of the air above the pizza that’s at a much cooler temperature and pretty much screws the pooch on the whole ordeal. Cooking it slower at lower temp is fine but you’re not going to get this bubbling and charring as you’d get with the high heat. This leaves you with boring, flat pizza. Snore.
So the problem becomes how do you cook the pizza bottom and top at the same high heat at the same exact time? Well we’ve already established that directly heating the bottom of the pizza is the enemy of even cooking, so you’ll want to keep the pizza bottom protected from the radiant heat of the heating elements of the bottom of your oven by A) normalizing the temperature using preheated pizza stone B) placing it on the highest rack possible.
That covers the bottom, but what about the top? The top is cooked using indirect heat from air in your oven. Even though the air above the pizza is lower temperature than below, it has such little space to move it’s actually moving faster and transferring more heat than the air directly heat below the pizza. Ideally, this combo allows you to cook the pizza top and bottom at relatively the same time and temperature. It takes a few minutes longer than wood-fired being that you’re running at least a couple hundred degrees cooler, but since I don’t have that luxury (yet) this’ll have to do.