Friday, April 29, 2011

Chef James Landis, Part Three: A guide to making a proper pizza

Posted By on Fri, Apr 29, 2011 at 9:30 AM

Blue Grotto's panne frattau is the restaurant's take on brunch pizza.
  • Blue Grotto's panne frattau is the restaurant's take on brunch pizza.

Three days of interviews with chef James Landis of Blue Grotto creates craving for a piece of pizza. He recommends the Guanciale.

"It's basically a bacon and jalapeno pizza," Landis says. "But it's not spicy to where it's stupid. I don't want to start crying. I'm not doing a tough-man competition when I'm eating." 

Today, he talks about the key to making a proper pizza. On Wednesday, he explained why an open kitchen is as much a stage as he'll ever need, and yesterday he made the case for why everyone should love sweetbreads.

I'm definitely a hand-toss, hand-stretch man. It's got to be thin, and you can taste it in the dough. The center doesn't have that doughiness, where it's uncooked. And the pizza still has that edge where it bubbles up. You get the right crispiness.

As for making the pizza, you have to punch out all the air pockets.

Otherwise, it'll make your life hell when you go back to stretch it.

You've got to learn the proper technique. You walk before you run and

then, eventually, you can run. You need to have the right balance of

ingredients. Too much and it's deep-dish. Then, I'd rather eat quiche.  

You need the right amount of water. If it's humid and 90 degrees out, you need to cut back on the water because the dough is just sitting there absorbing water while it rises. But if it's 40 degrees out and the middle of winter, you need just a little bit of water. It's about understanding that balance.

You need a balance of flavors. If you've got a lot of cheese, you need a

little acidity of tomatoes to cut through the fat. If you've got

something sweet, than a sour or spicy topping to cut it. As long as

everything works together, that's the key.

You need quality ingredients. I hate when you get a bunch of bad

ingredients thrown on a pizza, and then somebody wants to charge me $20

for it. I can tell when somebody is using subpar ingredients. It's

usually the cheese or cured meats, pepperoni or prosciutto, where you

can tell. As for my favorite topping? It's pork, although you could

probably tell that from my menu.

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