Jim Lahey is an experienced baker of gobstoppingly good bread at the Sullivan Street Bakery in New York. Super Chef is no stranger to his original bakery – and the rectangular Roman style slabs of pizza he sold there. He also runs a pizza restaurant called Co. He perfected the no knead method of making bread – and uses that in My Pizza: The Easy No-Kneed Way to Make Spectacular Pizza at Home (Clarkson Potter 2012) written with Rick Flaste.
As a former art student who turned to baking, I see a pizza crust as a canvas, an invitation to paint and sculpt with food. I hope that doesn’t sound too pretentious; pizza is after all, peasant food, but a glorious peasant food when someone approaches it with care and affection, taking bread and building it into a beautiful whole meal.
Jim keeps the tone bouncing from serious and dedicated to fun and frivolous. Be prepared to invest in a pizza stone, a pizza peel, and the best ingredients from olive oil to salt packed anchovies. The method Jim uses is to heat the stone in the oven, then under the broiler and to use the broiler to cook the pizza – since the stone is so hot it will cook the bottom. The key to his great pizza, obviously, is the dough. The recipe (p. 26) calls for very little yeast and long periods of time for it to do its work – that way, you don’t do any work. You have to think ahead – making the dough the day before – or a few days before and refrigerating it. But this is spectacular dough – so get our your calendar and plan your week.
My Pizza is divided between red sauce pies, white sauce pies, and no sauce pizzas, and there are added recipes for salads, soups, and even desserts to round out a meal. The Basic Tomato Sauce (p. 34), ” The tomato sauce is really not much more than pulped tomatoes.” There is no long simmering with a clove of garlic held by a string – this is a bright, uncooked sauce that is the perfect foil for all those great topping. The Fennel and Sausage Pie (p. 49) includes Pork Sausage (p. 124) and fresh fennel. There is a fun Pepperoni Pie (p. 61) with no pepperoni. Instead Jim uses the flavors of pepperoni – replacing the red tomato sauce with red pepper sauce (p. 127), adding Merquez (p. 123) and chili flakes. It’s closer to a Middle Eastern lahmajun.
If you are a meat eater, then Charcuterie Pie (p. 75), one of the white pies, hits the spot. It has sauerkraut, knockwurst, bratwurst and Dijon Mustard. With summer coming, Corn and Tomato Pie (p. 83) sounds perfect. On the Béchamel Jim layers cherry tomatoes, basil and corn with Parmigiano-Reggiano and Mozzarella.
The cover photo of the Ham and Peas Pie (p. 71) by Squire Fox doesn’t do justice to the recipes in the book. Ignore it and instead focus on these great recipes – and better photos inside – like the Rosa Pie (p. 38) that screams: “PIZZA” with delicious effect.