Chef Jose Mier Tosses His Dough Into the Ring (er, Oven)
I’m reminded once again of the Monty Python cheese shop sketch where John Cleese exclaims at one point “it’s the single most popular cheese in the world!” You would have to hunt for a pizza parlor that did not carry the Margherita pizza to say the same thing. But I doubt you would have any trouble finding this iconic pizza anywhere you look.
What’s that? You’re one of those who has never heard of the Margherita pizza? It’s very simple, pizza dough, tomato sauce, cheese and basil. It’s as simple as can be and yet it is perhaps the most famous pizza in the world. While we, especially here in America, love to pile the toppings on our pizzas, this is simplicity itself and there’s nothing to get in the way of the pure unadulterated flavor.
The name of this pizza goes back to the 19th-century when the chef named this particular pizza after Queen Margherita, utilizing the colors of the Italian flag, red, green, and white, symbolized by the tomato sauce, cheese and basil.
I’ve been making my own pizzas for many years. I got frustrated with the routine of ordering a pizza from my local parlor every weekend. It dawned on me that it is so easy to whip up a batch of my own pizza dough that it wasn’t worth spending the sometimes outrageous amount of $20 for a large pizza. Plus, I freeze my excess dough and I can take it out on a moment’s notice, defrost it, and create my own spectacular pizzas and less time and for less cost than it takes to call my local pizza delivery place and have it delievered.
If you haven’t tried making pizza yourself here’s your opportunity. And the Margherita pizza is a great variety to start with. Since it’s so popular, and one of the most popular foods in the entire world, you’ll have no trouble finding recipes online. Tutorials on pizza sauce as well as making the dough itself are everywhere as well.
For those of us without pizza ovens, however, we have to make do with whatever is in our kitchen. There’s no way our ovens can reach the temperatures of restaurants’ brick lined pizza oven but we can try to come close. Even so the fresh flavors of homemade pizza will make it well worth the effort. Just in case you want to get as close as possible to a pizza oven, many cooks recommend that you turn your oven to its highest temperature, somewhere around 500 to 550° and many suggest using a pizza stone which you will preheat and which emulates the surface of the pizza oven.
It may take some practice but you’ll get the hang of it. It took me a while to settle on a recipe that I liked but I found one. The one I use is from Bobby Flay.
The flavor of the pizza will come from your choice of crust, but mostly from the tomato sauce and I beg of you to make your own. There is no substitute for the flavor of Italian plum tomatoes, garlic and seasonings. If you’ve never made your own pizza now is the time to start. Try your hand at Margherita pizza and join the millions of others throughout the world who consider this one of the greatest foods of all time.
Remember that place I said I ordered pizza from all the time? It’s another Sun Valley, CA favorite of mine: Casa Nuova, located at 8759 Glenoaks Blvd. If you’re in the area and order from them don’t tell them Chef Jose Mier is making his own pizza now. It will be our little secret.