We had a pizza night last Friday night. Pizza night is usually scheduled to mark some event of note, most often it is to welcome foreign guests on their inaugural visits to Hancock Hall. This last pizza night was in honor of my friend Meg who hails from Los Angeles. Sure, I wrote that we welcome "foreign" guests and Meg is from the US, but I've been in Los Angeles at times and felt like I was on another planet, let alone another country! Anyway, pizza night is neither a complicated nor formal affair. A bunch of good friends piled around my homemade, rough-hewn-planked, cut-nail-fastened, Viking hall-style feast table drinking too much wine and beer and shouting over each other while pizza after pizza after pizza pops out of the oven. It's a whole lot of fun. I've got references if you don't believe me!
The pizza of course is important and includes regular things like cheese, chourico and roasted red pepper. Over the years we've also created some "house specials" including smoked bbq chicken with caramelized onions, Coney Island hot dog pizza, and summer squash with tomatoes and black pepper just to name a few. There have been some alcohol-fueled Frankenpizzas as well. Memorable only for their absurdity including one "works pizza" that probably had about 2 pounds of chourico and $50 of saffron on it. ALCOHOL-INDUCED-FAIL!
One of the most popular of our house special pizzas is a shrimp or seafood scampi pizza. Living in New England and specifically on Narragansett Bay has its benefits. We have access to some great fresh native seafood including cold water lobsters and small sweet bay scallops, both of which feature in the pizza recipe below. If you can't get lobster or bay scallops, you can substitute similar shellfish (langoustines, etc.). If you can, try to get fresh seafood as it certainly makes a big difference.
Before we move on to constructing the delicious Lobster, Shrimp and Scallop Scampi Pizza below, allow me to address four primary ingredients that all but guarantee your home made pizza is as good or better than the average shop. Get used to seeing these important "ingredients" because I am going to add them to every pizza recipe I offer. They are critical to your success.
Cornmeal: Cornmeal's tiny grains act like little ball bearings between flat surfaces. Spread cornmeal on the surface of what you build your pizza on and you'll be able to slide your masterpiece right off it and into your oven. Speaking of what you stretch your dough on, go get yourself a...
Pizza peel: Buy one, construct your pizza on it, use it to put your pizza in the oven, use it to take your pizza out of the oven. Seems like a small thing right? Try it! By the way, when you're using your peel to slide your pizza into your oven make sure your oven contains a...
Pizza Stone: Nothing is going to make your home pizza match or exceed the quality of the pizzeria bought stuff more than a pizza stone. Get a thick one and get a big one. I park mine right on the lowest rack of my oven and that is where it stays. It makes all the difference in the world and in no time you'll be pulling pizzas out of your oven that will make the thought of a store-bought pie a less-than-ideal option. The pizza stone is not going to work optimally though unless you...
Preheat your oven: Flat out, no joke, crank her up to 500°F and do that a full 45 minutes before you plan to sprinkle that peel with cornmeal, stretch that dough and then slide that pie onto that stone.
Lobster, Shrimp & Scallop Scampi Pizza
Enough pizza dough for two 14" to 16" pizzas
For the scampi:
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs sweet butter (unsalted)
4 cloves of garlic (chopped)
1 pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 lb. raw shrimp (shelled and deveined)
1/2 lb. of raw bay scallops
1/2 lb. of cooked lobster (shelled and cut into bite-sized chunks)
Place a small sauce pan over a medium flame. Add the olive oil and butter. When the butter is melted, add the garlic and sauté until the garlic softens. Be careful not to brown or burn the garlic or it will become bitter.
Add the red pepper flakes and stir for a few moments. Add the shrimp and scallops and cook until half-done (just beginning to whiten).
Remove from heat, add the lobster pieces and be sure to stir the mix until everything is well coated. Strain the scampi sauce into a bowl, DO NOT DISCARD THE SCAMPI SAUCE! Place the lobster, shrimp and scallops in the fridge until needed. Allow the scampi sauce to cool while you prepare the other ingredients and wait for the oven to come to temperature.
For the pizza sauce:
2 cups grape tomatoes
The reserved scampi sauce
2 pinches of oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Place the grape tomatoes, scampi sauce and oregano in a food processor and chop until you have a moderately chunky sauce.
Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix it a little and adjust seasoning to your preference. Set aside while you prepare other ingredients and wait for the oven to come to temperature.
For the pizzas:
Cooking spray (Pam® or something similar)
1/4 cup parmigiano-reggianno cheese (grated)
Trader Joe's® Quattro Formaggio cheese blend (shredded parmesan, asiago, fontina and provolone)
1/2 cup of chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup of chopped fresh basil
Extra virgin olive oil (for drizzling)
Stretch a dough ball to a 16" to 18" disc and place it on your cornmealed peel. I'm not going to go into dough stretching here because it is a learned thing and there are a variety of methods, each with its proponents, each for good reason. Do a little research and practice a bit. Don't plan on a perfectly round pizza all the time!
Spray a thin layer of cooking spray over the stretched dough.
Spread half of the pizza sauce mixture evenly over the stretched dough (if it seems like you don't need half, that's okay, just use what you need).
Sprinkle a little of the basil and parsley evenly over the pizza (reserve most of the basil and parsley for when the pizza comes out of the oven).
Sprinkle half the parmigiano-reggiano evenly over the the pizza.
Distribute half the lobster, shrimp and bay scallops on the pizza (try to avoid putting too much in the center of the pizza).
Distribute half the shredded cheese blend over the pizza. It is important to remember to keep most of the cheese out of the middle of the pizza. As it melts it will tend to gather toward the middle anyway.
Place the pizza in the oven until it is slightly browned on the bottom and the cheese is bubbly (8 to 12 minutes). Remove, add additional basil and parsley to taste, drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil, allow to cool for about 5 minutes, slice and serve.
Make a second pizza with the remaining ingredients.
EAT! NOM, NOM, NOM, NOM...