CE #1: Upside-down Pizza
A loyal blog reader and good friend of mine suggested I add a Cheap Eats series to my blog. In the dental world, CE stands for ‘Continuing Education,’ courses that you pay to take to keep yo’ skillz fresh; here, though, CE will stand for ‘Cheap Eats,’ meal recipes that are both affordable and delectable. Thanks for the suggestion, Chris!
Most people are familiar with the classic tale of the humble 3M Sticky Note. Intending to develop a new adhesive, the 3M scientists instead came up with the now mainstream temporary adhesive that allows us to peel, stick, unpeel, and re-stick all of our most essential reminders and lists. My discovery of Upside-down Pizza has a similar birth story.
Full disclosure: When I set out to make this pizza, I was 100% intending to cook it in the standard fashion, crust on the bottom, cheese on the top. However, an unfortunate slip of the wrist while transferring my prepared pizza to the hot cast iron skillet resulted in the happiest of all accidents: Upside-down Pizza!
Inverting the pizza before baking allowed the cheese to caramelize and develop into a delightful golden crust, while the direct exposure of the dough to the high oven heat cooks the crust all the way through. No soggy, soupy crusts here because the moisture-containing toppings (sauce, peppers, onions, etc.) are actually bottomings! Granted, the pre-cook flip and the post-cook un-flip require a bit of finesse (and some heavy-duty oven mitts), the end-result is totally worth the effort — you may want to invest in a spotter though.
Now, what makes this recipe a Cheap Eat? The homemade pizza dough! Making the dough yourself saves quite a bit of money. The yeast packet costs mere cents, the flour you use brings a similar cost, and the remaining ingredients add only negligible additional financial burden, all resulting in a pizza night that barely requires your wallet to open. All that remains is adding some generic (no salt added) pizza sauce and cheese, some assorted vegetables that you likely already have on hand, and an optional garnish of on-sale pepperoni.
I have previously shared another no-knead pizza crust recipe here, but I will provide another option below. The most important ingredient in this entire recipe is actually free…time! As with any no-knead yeast recipe, you must allow enough time for the fermentation magic to happen; however, this is entirely hands-off time, so your only inconvenience is planning out your pizza night a day or two in advance — a great way to build self-control 🙂
CE #1: Upside-down Pizza
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour (or, for a heartier taste, you can use a ~3:1 mix of AP:WW flours)
1 packet rapid rise yeast
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2/3 cup tepid water
1/4 cup stone-ground cornmeal
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cornmeal and olive oil, for assembly
1 small can no salt added tomato sauce (if you don’t like your pizza too saucy, just use half of the can and toss the rest in a homemade soup for added flavor)
20-25 slices pepperoni (or turkey pepperoni)
1/2 cup onion, very thinly sliced
8 ounces low-moisture, part skim mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
~1/2 cup sweet pepper, very thinly sliced
2 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated
Prepare dough [1-2 Days in Advance]:
In a mixing bowl, combine half of the flour, with all of the yeast and brown sugar. Stir in the water until smooth, and allow to sit for 10 minutes (you should see small bubbles forming at the surface, evidence that your yeast is alive and well!). Add remaining flour, cornmeal, olive oil, and salt. Use a rubber spatula to briskly fold all ingredients together until totally combined, smooth, and no longer sticky (dough will still be a bit tacky, but not straight-up sticky). Spray the inside of a gallon-size zip-top freezer bag with nonstick spray, and scrape dough into a ball, then transfer to the oiled bag. Seal the bag, trapping as much air as you can inside the bag (allows room for rising). Place in fridge overnight or up to 2 days. Remove dough from fridge 90 minutes before preparing the pizza.
Place a 10″ or larger cast iron skillet in your oven, and preheat to 450 degrees farenheit. On a large sheet of parchment paper, sprinkle a hefty amount of cornmeal (to prevent sticking). Stretch your pizza dough out to the diameter of your skillet — you shouldn’t need to add any additional flour to handle the dough, but if you feel the dough is too sticky, dust on a little flour, trying not to add too much extra (the more flour you use, the tougher your baked dough will be). Place your stretched dough onto the cornmeal-lined paper. Spread a thin layer of sauce over the dough, extending all the way to the edges. Top with a layer of pepperoni, then the onions, then the mozzarella slices. Place the pepper slices on top of the mozzarella, and finish with the cheddar. DON YOUR OVEN MITTS! Remove the skillet from the oven. Pour 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil into the HOT pan, and swirl to coat, ensuring that you cover at least 1″ up the sides. Carefully pick up the parchment paper edges to lift the pizza (you can slide a cutting board or large plate underneath the paper if it makes this part easier for you. Invert the pizza into the HOT pan [bask in the satisfying sizzling sound that greets your ears], using a spatula or butter knife to tuck in any stray peppers or cheese. Peel off the paper. Smooth out the crust, and — still using your OVEN MITTS — transfer the STILL HOT skillet back into the oven. Let cook for 25 minutes, until crust top is browned. Remove skillet from oven. Take a very large plate or metal pizza pan and place it upside-down over the top of the skillet. SECURE YOUR OVEN MITTS! With one MITTED-hand positioned securely over the middle of the plate or pan, firmly grasp the handle of the skillet in your other MITTED-hand, and flip the skillet-plate unit over, turning the pizza out of the skillet onto the plate — it’s best not to lift the skillet-plate apparatus too high above the counter, just in case it’s heavier than you expect. Use a spatula to scrape out any cheesy cling-ons, and restore them to what is now the top of your pizza. Let sit for 10-15 minutes prior to slicing.