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Pizza crust is undervalued. I know it because I pass not one, not two, but three dollar-slice establishments on my way to work, wading through frowns of dough morning and night.
But the crust, when done well, is the best part. I save it for last, not to kick it to the curb, but to eat it slowly, end to end. To think, what would pizza be without crust? On a thin pizza, it's the crunch counterpart to the almost soupy middle; on a heftier one, it's plain fluff, a relieving sauce-soaker-upper at the end of a sagging slice. Crust shouldn't be tough or damp or—again, many will disagree—cold. (In those circumstances, discard it: You have my blessing.)
For those of you who agree—who also have visions of gnawing off the circumference of an entire circle and leaving the saucy, cheesy inner for others—you'll want to fry your next batch of dough. Giving a disc of dough a bubble bath in hot oil makes for a crackling exterior and the airiest, fluffiest, most trampoline-like insides of anything you've had before. It's a crust so delightful that it needs no toppings. (And it's not slick or greasy: I promise.)
It's easy to do: Make your favorite pizza dough (I like the Genius recipe from Jim Lahey, because it requires patience rather than kneading), then divide it up and flatten each piece to yoga mat-thickness (too thin and you'll sacrifice a chewy interior). Next, dredge it in a mixture of flour and cornmeal and season with salt, pepper, and cayenne (experiment with other spices, if you'd like) and fry the pizza pucks in about an inch of oil that you've heated to 350°F. You'll want to use a heavy-bottomed pan with high sides (there'll be some splattering) and to strain the oil between batches if it gets too gritty. Cook each piece until golden, then flip.
When the dough disc is a glistening golden-brown pillow, transfer to a rack or a paper towel-lined plate, sprinkle with salt (and chopped fresh herbs), and tear it to pieces like you are a
pizza rat wild animal.
Or, use it as a dipper. At Allswell in Brooklyn, Chef Nate Smith serves their "griddled sourdough" (he uses a sourdough flatbread as the base recipe) with a spicy edamame dip, but it would be excellent with anything herby, like cilantro-lime yogurt, or fiery, like cayenne-spiced bean dip. And, yes, it'd be good swiped through tomato sauce, too.
If you're really missing the toppings and slices that make a pizza a pizza, you can always dress it up right after the fry (follow the lead of Speedy Romeo's genius grilled pizza)—you'll have eliminated any risk of a saddeningly soggy crust and avoided the scare of transferring a fully-dressed pizza to a burning-hot stone.
And before we start comparing fried pizza dough to fried Oreos, fried Twinkies, and fried Coca Cola, let's remember that the Italians did it first—they just called it montanara.
For the Jim Lahey no-knead pizza dough:
- 500 grams (17 1/2 ounces or about 3 3/4 unsifted cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping dough
- 1 gram (1/4 teaspoon) active dry yeast
- 16 grams fine sea salt
- 350 grams (1 1/2 cups) water
For the dredging:
- 1 cup (approximately) all-purpose flour
- 1 cup (approximately) cornmeal
- Cayenne pepper, to taste
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Canola or other neutral oil, for frying
- Flaky salt, for finishing
How do I top thee? Let me count the ways...
- Chorizo + white beans + cheddar
- Salsa verde + poached tuna
- Smushed or chopped meatballs + mozzarella
- Blue cheese + caramelized onions + fig compote
- Pickled radishes + refried beans + sliced avocado + fried eggs
- Pear + honey + goat cheese
- Roasted broccoli rabe + sausage
- Chive-y crème fraîche + salmon + radish
- Ricotta + sautéed dates + flaky salt
- Sautéed mushrooms + Parmesan
- Shaved broccoli + sundried tomatoes + cheddar
- Sliced persimmons + prosciutto + smoked Gouda
What would you top your fried pizza dough with? Tell us in the comments!