Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Eaing Out A Gamers Piehole

It’s been a much more sedate weekend so far. And that’s not so bad overall. It’s a dice rolling, Dungeons and Dragons kinda weekend. Not D&D proper, but Savage Worlds, an offshoot of another fun pen and paper game called Deadlands. But you’re not here to verify that I’m a card carrying nerd. It’s about food right?

Well, to the point, the lady of the gaming cave also mentioned that she wanted to have a Make-Your-Own pizza party. So, of course I absolutely must take my contribution to the most absurd extreme possible. And since it’s an Eye-tahl-euhn type dish, it’s straight to Sam’s Deli I fly!

I did establish that I intended to go over the top early on and got together a rough shopping list. So I wander into Sam’s and begin my slow, teasing meander with the store. She’s like a lady. You don’t just sprint right to her meat counter and start spanking the prosciutto. You ease into things with her wine section. Take a casual stroll, all the while eyeing your naughty desire. Everybody knows what you’re there for, but there are the societal niceties to be observes before you get into her well preserved meat slurry…if you know what I mean.

But before I indulge my porcine desires, I need to secure the base for the red sauce I volunteered to make. So 2 cans of the San Marzano puree and a small tin of paste is first. Plus I’m eyeing their rather vast selection of anchovies. But I’m fairly certain that my spurting desires are going to sink my budget long before I can indulge in comedy pizza toppings. So I pinch off that stream and divert back to the original reason I need to change my underwear.

Oh my beloved meat counter. When daddy finally wins the lottery, he’ll just walk in and wave at the length of the glass and and say “I’ll take it.”, like a stoned, fat kid looking at a Taco Bell menu. There ain’t much behind the glass that I wouldn’t quiver with delight at the idea of eating it smothered in cheese on some crusty spaghetti sauce bread. This is gonna be hard as hell to stay in budget.

Well first we need pepperoni. And they’ll totally slice it to size if you buy a full stick. And it was only a half pound. So, we’re doin good so far. I MUST get some of Sam’s home cured prosciutto, so a quarter pound of that. On to a halfer of Calabrese and Molinari salamis, some buffalo mozzarella for margherita pizzas and a couple hot Italians. I’m bracing myself for the pain. Thirty bucks! Right the fuck on! I got change to pick up a couple pizza skins and the aforementioned anchovies for food comedy! Piiiiiimp. Got out for under $40 and I got braggable meat to swing around at the party!

It’s Fresno, so with triumph must come comic tragedy. In this case, it was me getting a new video game and totally slacking off on picking up the 1 secondary herb that I really needed to make the red sauce absolutely fucking perfect. So…around 4 a.m. I finally tear myself away from my digital mistress and jump into the truck for a run to the 24 hour Maxxipad Grocery Store. Dude, there are a fuck-ton of bike riding tweakers on the road at that hour on Blackstone and Barstow. A small flock was sweeping through the parking lot, presumably looking for bits of string and lost crack rocks to fuel their meth inspired Death Ray.

So, after dodging speed aficionado piloted forklifts and getting conflicting opinions on what constituted a retail spice section by the very heroes who stocked it, we’ve scored a fresh clove of garlic and small tub of dried marjoram. Nothing like a nigh-morning adventure for under $2. Now, back to the Hobbit Hole for some dead tired cookery, because there’s no way in hell I’ll wake up early enough to make a sauce that’s worth a shit. To the fire!

This bad boy is to taste, so you get ingredients, but it’s up to you to figure out what ratios you like in your sauce. But it started out with two quart cans of San Marzano tomato puree and 5 cloves of fresh (spicy!) garlic. From there it’s salt, olive oil, red wine vinegar, sugar, honey, oregano, marjoram, basil, sage, thyme, black and white pepper, red pepper flakes, 1 italian green pepper, tomato paste and dill. Basic hints would include going light on the salt, thyme, vinegar, sweeteners, pepper and thyme. Too much can really start a May Revolution in your sauce pot and it’ll be well out of your control. Start with your tomatoes, half the garlic, a dash of olive oil and a little salt. Then start to build your flavors on that foundation. Once you can taste that particular herb in a quick slurp, back off and work on some of the others. Eventually you’ll find the balance you like between that kitchen sink of Italian herbs, acidity and sweetness. The trick in this case was my being baffled by an underlying bitterness (to my palate) that I couldn’t figure out since I hadn’t burned anything. It was the lack of dill. A bit of abuse to a few sprigs we had drying on a hook and suddenly the bitter was gone and a nicely assertive sweetness was in it’s place with a smooth link between it and the acid being facilitated by that dill flavor. FINALLY! It’s almost 8 in the morning and I’ve still got to make a damn character!

If sleep came, I was unaware of it. For the 4 hours of laying down, I think 3 were spent imagining topping combinations and fretting about if the sauce was the right caliber for an adult’s tastes without being so strong that the kiddies, who’d be flitting about, wouldn’t like it. I know it’s sad. But whatever petty boy-hobby fantasy football crap that keeps you up at night is somewhere in the same realm of sad, so eat my ass. I give a shit about those rare moments I get to attempt to show off my food holier-than-thou-ness. Not that I actually in my own transcendent nature. But when all your friends know that you’re a food blogger, it ratchets up the stress level on making edible shit that may even taste good.

Ugh. Morning. Coffee. Lovely girlfriend using her feminine wiles to lure me back into the daylight world. Lovely, sucky girlfriend. Ok, up, showering, getting Picasso Pants together. In the interim, she had used the Sam’s receipt as a fairly accurate checklist and has all the food pimpery loaded and ready to fly up to Coarsegold for our middle aged nerdgasm party. And thank whatever uncaring cosmic entity that has internet connectivity, for that woman. Without her, half of this blog would just be me whining about everything that I forgot in my eager rush to slobber all over whatever calorie bearing item that caught my temporary fancy. So, we’re Mitch All Together as we head out of town.

Here’s that part where I tell you all about my 70th level half Avatar bard/thief who did this amazing thing to a dragon’s butthole. And I know you don’t game, but this is one of those universally funny dragon butt stories. We’ve all done this to a dragon’s butt once in our lives. What’s that? You haven’t? Well I supposed I could get some friends together and we’ll hold a small dragon down, so you can give it a shot. Seriously, it’s fun. All the cool kids are doing it. Roll a d30. Ooops, you failed. Dragon herpes. Sorry hoss, never seen that happen before. (Lies)

And so dinner time finally slinks it’s sultry way between the 100 stories we all know and re-tell to push the game back while the breeders children have their various crises and triumphs of mono numerical emotional chaos. Finally, it’s time for the adults to play with yeasts and fires and meats that have been preserved through salts and bacterial action. Sorry nerd brethren, but daddy has a sexy new game that’ll make him fat and poxy and generally unattractive and it’s called cooking.

So, the lady of the house, we’ll call her Raquel, had pre-prepped through her magical baking skills, 3 different dough batches. The most braggable was the Italian herbed dough, which reminded me of several of the nicer bakeries I used to go into in LA once the focaccia craze hit. The second was a medium dough. And the third was an Alton Brown recipe, once she had cut the flour in half and still it was damn near a cannonball. Which brings me to another odd point. A lot of Alton’s recipes suck ass. His prime rib recipe/method rocks for sure. But a good number of his scientific tried and true recipes come out tasting like well seasoned mandrill ass. And to her credit, she was able to cut some moisture into the taffy-like density of the dough and soften it into a workable texture to pound out some pretty fine looking ‘za’s.

I was secretly smug that the kids and the husbandly type opted for Dirty Uncle Pook’s Red Sauce. And secretly relieved when nobody had to lock themselves in the shitter for an hour. But now for my pizza! For I brought friggin anchovies! And god damn, if’n it wasn’t said wisest before I could make up the words. They smell like cat food. And it’s “hairy” with fine bones. So we toss the furry catfish bait into our gobs and chew. As the flavor sets in, it’s completely swept away by a violent wash of pure salt. I think I’ve found my dirty old man delicacy that will keep the wee ones from hanging around me after I’ve started my mid-morning libations. “Hey kiddo! Wanna anchovy? Well then bugger off! And get me another beer!” Ahh youth.

Sufficed to say, I may have picked up some boozery libations prior to the gaming and cookery. And I might just have buggered off to the back yard for a smoke and a pleasant stare at rocks’n’trees’n’things, so I fairly well missed what most of the parently types put on their own pizzas. All I know is that the pepperonis were decimated and there were some really fun eye contact moments when folks sampled the Calabrese salami before topping their pizza with some. That’s one of those special salamis that pretty much knocked Genoa off of the pedestal that I had it on for about 30 years. Though I was shocked that I came home with so much prosciutto left. Poor kids, don’t know what they were missing. I however had some serious plans in mind.

Oh the food-snob shame! I had completely forgotten all of my pizza skin slapping skills in the intervening 8 years. So as I’m trying to hero my way through my dough, I’m just watching Mrs. EoF cringe and wince at my complete lack of technique. Finally hubris had to fall prey to reality and I shamefacedly stepped away from the board and allowed my lady fixed my screw ups and left me with a workable pizza skin. Ok, back to my know-it-all expertise. You start with a thin, light coating a sauce and light dusting of cheese as a basic foundation. Then the first layer of pepperoni. Then more cheese. But leave the ‘roni’s still peeking through. Then a layer of Calabrese with a few studs of buffalo mozzarella. Then more cheese. Then the Molinari and the squarsh blossoms and another dusting of cheese. Finally, it’s prosciutto roses to top off my gift bouquet of meatly goodness to myself for Fat Drunk Bastard’s Day. My thighs are fucking quivering in anticipation!

425 degree oven for…until the cheese starts to brown! There’s a sky scraper stack of shit on that pizza, yo. It need’s time to let fire stuff run up and down that majestic column of artery clogging mouth-sex that you’ve compiled. Wait until your crust is gold and creeping towards actual brown and make DAMN SURE that your mozzarella browns and lightly crisps on top! You want your toppings to fully cook and meld with the meat mess you’ve progenitored. Do it right and people will remember your pizzas more fondly than the stripper at a bachelor party. And that young lady could shoot an ice cube across a room!

The beloved woman also made a really smoking riff on the margherita pizza with fresh squash blossoms, prosciutto, basil and a couple anchovies to keep her dusky Italian soul going “Squeeee!”. I had a bite and it was really quite lovely. Sweet and pungent with basil, light creamy buffalo mozzarella, with just a little salty bite here and there from the anchovies and prosciutto. Not wholly traditional, but when something tastes that good, tradition can find it’s own damn ride home.

Normally the blogpost roundup goes here. But I don’t see much of an overarching lesson from today other than to never take old yeast from your mother-in-law and to take TV people recipes, especially leavened baking recipes with the proverbial grain of salt. At the end of the day, he’s really an actor that is trying to get his well paid content in the can. Sucks that they might be shooting a show with a completely different recipe because it looks better on TV. But, it’ll really bake you noodle if you found out how many well dressed food pics are of items that are totally not food and in some cases rather toxic. At least the pizza was real. And I totally killed an entire army of Orcs single handedly, with the butter knife of Chthanteroch. That’s what level 70 does with all purple gear and the Mysteriously Sparkly background trait. So damn cool.



  1. I think I need a shower after that post....cleanup on aisle 9!

  2. I've got a tube of Wet Ones, if that'll help.