As ex-NewYorkers living in small-town Connecticut, my wife Barbara and I have spent considerable time trying to find a proper bagel, a genuine hot pastrami sandwich, cheese cake such as they serve at Junior’s on Fulton Street, and also a legitimate, thin-crust, NewYork style pizza. A few years back, at a deli-restaurant we happened upon a real bagel, and when buying a dozen to take home, I learned they were shipped in daily from Brooklyn! When they went out of business, along with the other kosher deli in West Hartford, only one such establishment within reasonable distance survived, the New York style deli in Vernon, which is a bit of a drive for us and jam-packed seven days a week. Our solution was to buy the ingredients separately and concoct our own reasonable facsimiles of these tasties at home.
But pizza is a different matter. There are more than a dozen pizza parlors in our neighborhood--it’s a college town--and a couple of them are pretty good, though they don’t stand up to the perfection of our rosy recollections. And it would be difficult to replicate a real pizza in our kitchen, since the secret of the proper crust is a super-hot oven, brick or otherwise. A delivered pizza or even one you pick up yourself gets a bit soggy or limp, and late on a Friday night, when we often think pizza, we’re usually too lazy to drive to a restaurant. What to do?
On trips out west to visit our son’s family in California, I discovered Tex-Mex food, and to Barbara’s surprise, I was venturesome enough to give it a try it and become a fan. Though we occasionally go out to a Mexican restaurant, much more often, I concoct my own version of burritos with flour tortillas, mild cheese, salsa, and some form of beef or chicken, served with scoops of sour cream and guacamole. But what about pizza?
Before folding a burrito I was working on I realized that laid flat it looked something like a small pizza, the sort they serve in Munich with a single anchovy in the center. So I experimented and developed my own formula for Mexican pizza: a burrito-size flour tortilla, thin sliced or roughly grated mozzarella, red sauce, and sliced sweet Italian sausage. When this tasted too strong and was lacking something, I substituted thin slices of tomato for the sauce, and added oregano and a few drops of olive oil. This ensemble I cook in a toaster oven without a pan until the cheese is melted and the edges of the tortilla are crisp and brown. Voila! Is the result a true New York style pizza? No, but it is close enough for Barbara and me. Incidentally, Mexican pizza is open to adaptations. Like something spicier? Use salsa instead of the tomatoes, or pepperoni instead of sweet sausage. Like something saltier? Add a few anchovies. Add or subtract whatever you fancy and enjoy!