Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Weirdly Addictive Tortilla Pizza


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.

Olive oil
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.

22 comments:

  1. This is perfect! I was informed (via text) by my teen daughter that today is National Pizza Day and, perhaps, we could somehow incorporate that into our already planned Pancake Tuesday dinner. My head commenced to spin. But this, this might just mean that my child can make an after-school snack that doesn't involve me and I can "concentrate" on the dinner.

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  2. This recipe is like a slap in the forehead! Yes! We will certainly be making it this week. Speaking of making your recipes, we made your ribs last weekend, and though they were similar to our old favorite recipe, they were somehow even more delicious. I think it was the 4 hours they sat in the fridge with the dry rub on. Thank you for feeding us for so many years!

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  3. Cooks Illustrated! I get it. So funny! This sounds super delicious, and way easier than whatever they would have proposed. (Not that I don't swear by their pie crust!)

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    1. Allyson5:41 PM

      So, I'm a total Cook's Illustrated nerd, and now I feel stupid because I don't get this reference. Help!

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    2. The Cooks' Illustrated book The Science of Good Cooking is totally transformative. My older girls are working through it slowly, learning CONCEPTS rather than recipes. The 11 year old made a perfect pork roast last week, and their egg chapter churns out deviled eggs, egg salad and the best scrambled eggs on the planet. We've used it a lot and not had a dud yet.

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    3. The Cooks' Illustrated book The Science of Good Cooking is totally transformative. My older girls are working through it slowly, learning CONCEPTS rather than recipes. The 11 year old made a perfect pork roast last week, and their egg chapter churns out deviled eggs, egg salad and the best scrambled eggs on the planet. We've used it a lot and not had a dud yet.

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    4. Allyson- the joke is that Cooks Illustrated recipes are always a bit overcomplicated, and their experiments with recipes often are long winded and circuitous...

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  4. Allyson5:40 PM

    I'm the one that always orders pizza extra crispy, so this looks amazing. Especially since quesadillas are already a go-to dinner around here, and I therefore usually have the ingredients in the house. Yum!

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  5. I never encountered bar pizza before moving to Minnesota, but I think it is a broader Midwestern thing. Bar pizza (at least here in MN, where the Platonic Ideal of bar pizza is Heggies: http://www.sctimes.com/story/life/food/2014/12/16/heggies-frozen-pizza-following/20495399/) has a very thin, crispy, cracker-like crust. So I can see how this recipe would mimic that. I can't wait to try it!

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  6. My picky, picky daughter will eat approximately 4 foods, pizza and quesadillas being two of those, so this will blow her mind. I can't wait to give it a go- thanks for sharing!

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  7. annette8:14 AM

    Glad you're off the soaked linen. I tried that but this is way better!

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  8. But I don't have a cast iron skillet yet (she whines) Yes, I know, I need to get one tout suite (sp is wrong). This probably wouldn't work in the oven, right? I need to check out this book now. :) For sure... glad you're eating all the good things again. Love to you guys from the Buckeye state.

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    1. If you were in Indiana rather than Ohio I would give you one of my cast iron skillets. Don't buy a new one - get a used one from a flea market, garage sale, antique store and just clean it up. The old stuff is WAY better than the new stuff. Do you have a pizza stone? I bet you could preheat the stone and use it to make the bottom crispy.

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    2. Thank you Rachel_K for taking the time to respond! Appreciate your advice and will look out for one for sure. I have an amazing apple pie recipe in a cast iron - I'll see if I can send it to you. Everyone RAVES over it. <3

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    3. Couldn't email you... if you are interested - email me at jrd101798 at gmail dot com and I will send it your way. :D Maybe I should send to Catherine too.

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  9. Thank you for this. My 11 year old is currently starving all the time now so I plan to make her 2 of these tonight for dinner. Off to find a copy of the Cook's Illustrated book to flip through. This whole post has made me curious.

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  10. Oh, Catherine--I just love your weird and wonderful family (and your recipes). I smile every time I read one of your posts. Very excited about the new book, too!

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  11. plazamom6:15 PM

    I also don't own a cast iron skillet but am eager to try this. I wonder if it would work on a cookie sheet in the oven instead? Might be a little messier (with cheese expansion around the edges) but might still work?

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  12. This is my kind of recipe! Simple and easy to follow and I think I have most of this stuff already at home. Perfect for nights when I just get home from work and have no idea what to fix for supper and this way, everyone can make it special by putting their own favorite toppings on it! Thanks Catherine, hope you and your family are staying warm in this frigid winter.
    xoxoxo

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  13. Anonymous10:55 AM

    After all these years, I was a little skeptical. It just seemed too basic to taste like real pizza. But once again, there is some magic in this recipe that makes it simple but so, so good! We've made a bunch of these. The kids asked for them for breakfast today. AND I use the technique of the 'dinner boards' recipe when I lay out the toppings--a nice big slap of a cutting board with little selections of toppings (a small pile of mushrooms, thinly sliced onion, a little cluster of spinach leaves, some pieces of left over ham or chicken from the night before, the last of the leftover half of tomato in the fridge, all cut up and bright red). Somehow it all looks pretty and appealing on the board, then ends up on the pizza and getting eaten. So good! --Cathy K

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