When I was eating only flax groats and soaked linen last month, I craved pizza. This is not especially unusual because I love pizza. I love it more than my kids do. Basically every dinnertime I consider ordering a pizza, but rarely do because I like to keep it as my ace in the hole, for the nights when it all goes to shit around here. Anyways, it wasn’t generalized hunger I was experiencing. It was hunger for pizza. And not just pizza toast either, although I would have settled.
This was around the same time that Ben and I checked out Kenji Lopez-Alt’s book, The Food Lab, which is the book version of his long-running recipe-science column on Serious Eats. The column is terrific, and I have found the recipes to be careful and reliable. They have a little of that Cooks’ Illustrated obsessive perfectionism about them, but they’re more “lard turns out to be the best frying medium” and less “first we fried it in honey and it was a disaster.” (Sorry for the Cooks’ Illustrated inside joke.) Anyhoo, we made Kenji’s mac and cheese from the book, which is fantastic, but it has a stick of butter and 1 ½ pounds of cheese in it, so it fucking better be fantastic is how I feel about a recipe like that. But this recipe below, adapted from the website, is everything I love in a recipe: utter genius simplicity that results in something a thousand times better than the sum of its parts. As a pizza experience, it is uncannily satisfying.
Kenji calls this “Extra-Crispy Bar-Style Tortilla Pizza,” leading me to believe that bar pizza is a phenomenon I have missed entirely, frequenting bars infrequently, as I do. But it’s just brilliant, for some reason, even though you’re going to see right away that what this is is just an open-face quesadilla. There’s something about the way the cheese crusts at the edges, though. Or the way the whole thing bubbles up. Or the way its is simultaneously crisp-bottomed and tender-topped.
The four of us ate nine of them in two days, and even though I had to make them one at a time, it was still quick. Michael put ham and pineapple on his; Birdy used corn kernels and fresh garlic; I did a green-olive one and a spinach one and some different ones for Ben to ease his rapacious starvingness.
They were all perfection.
|Birdy's snow-day companion.|
Weirdly Addictive Tortilla Pizza
Kenji does not recommend whole-wheat tortillas, but that’s what we have and like to use, and I can’t imagine it being better with white. But I do think you need a cast-iron skillet for this. Definitely please don’t use non-stick, because toxic broiling fumes! A note about the sauce: I use either tomatillo salsa or crushed tomatoes seasoned with a little olive oil, salt, and garlic powder, but you can use whatever pizza or pasta sauce you like best. Oh, also, Kenji adds in some parmesan, but I have not bothered with this yet. I’m sure it would be delicious, though.
1 whole-wheat tortilla
¼ - ½ cup sauce
½ - 1 cup shredded cheese: supermarket mozzarella (I like whole-milk, either Polly-O or Trader Joe's) Monterey Jack, or a blend
Toppings: any of the usual suspects, including the regular meats and veggies, plus corn kernels and spinach leaves
Adjust your oven rack 6 to 8 inches from the broiler and heat the broiler.
Bloop a tiny bit of oil into a cast-iron skillet (one big enough for your tortilla to fit in) and heat it over high heat until it shimmers. Turn the heat to low, wipe out the extra oil with a paper towel, and put the tortilla in.
Spoon on some sauce and spread it all the way to the edges, then add cheese, also all the way to the edges, and toppings (some toppings, such as spinach leaves, should go under the cheese; others can go on top like the word “toppings” suggests). You really want some cheese to come into contact with the hot pan. For some reason, my children call this part of a quesadilla or grilled-cheese sandwich "cheese crusto." But the accent is inexplicably on the second syllable: crus-TOH.
Turn the stove off and put the pan under the broiler for 2 to 4 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and, if you like, browning. Use a spatula to peek underneath and get a feel for the situation of the tortilla. If it is floppy and not browned on the bottom, put it back over medium heat on the stovetop for a minute or two or three, until it is perfect. Slide onto a cutting board (you might want to use a spatula to first release the melted cheese at the edges), then cut and serve.