There’s an old joke: “what’s the difference between a chef and a cook?”
“A cook cleans up kitchen when they’re done.” If that’s the definition, then I am definitely a cook, not a chef.
That’s ok, because I really do love to cook. There’s something creative and powerful about taking a bunch of ingredients and turning it into a meal that’s ideally nourishing and enjoyable. That said, sometimes I end up with meals that are more nourishing than they are enjoyable.
A recent Facebook exchange with a pair of #SQLFamily members and others reminded me of that. About once a month I will make homemade pizza. I’m a big fan of this since I can experiment with toppings. I generally use King Arthur Flour recipe (though somehow I was able to print mine by mass of ingredients, not volume) or, as in this past weekend the Sourdough version. For me, the way I knead it and let it rise, I’ll end up with a fairly fluffy crust, so if you want a thin crust, you’ll have to try something else.
Now, generally I end up making 2 pizzas (unless I’m in non-covid times baking for a larger group in which case I’ll double the recipe). Almost always one of those is a typical pepperoni pizza. If I’m feeling healthy, I’ll use the turkey pepperoni, but more often lately I’ve been using real pepperoni I’ll slice myself. I almost always use store bought mozzarella, but if I have the time and the motivation, I’ll make my own.
The second pizza can vary. Above is a white pizza I made this summer with some basil from the garden.
But, why stop there? My personal favorite is a “Thai chicken” pizza with Thai seasoned chicken, peanut sauce, snow peas, and red onions.
Or one with bacon, sautéed onions, sliced Granny Smith Apple, and some sun-dried tomatoes. That has a nice mix of flavors. I think it’s my wife’s favorite and the favorite of a friend of mine.
Or cheddar cheese with bacon, black pepper and towards the end 1-2 eggs cracked over the top. I call this my breakfast pizza.
Or a BBQ pizza.
Or… well you get the idea. I like to get creative.
But this weekend I wasn’t feeling particularly creative and decided to try something different. I had heard about folks who have air-fried pizzas, so I decided to take a crack at it. I took the 2nd half of the dough and divided it into 4ths and told each member of the family it was up to them to create their own pizza. I par-cooked the crusts a bit first in the air-fryer before they topped them. I also setup a “toppings bar” for them to pick from (nothing super creative this time though).
Now, let me stop by saying, no experiment is truly a failure. As a friend of mine who worked on the InSight Lander made a point of saying, even the fact that drill head got stuck and did not complete it’s original goal, we learned something about the soil of Mars.
While these were far from my best pizzas, I learned something about making them in the air-fryer. They came out a bit dryer than I might prefer, but I wasn’t really surprised, I did kind of expect that.
I still far prefer a really hot oven and pizza stone (huge hint: give the stone a good 30 minutes or more to come up to temp, otherwise it will actually end up insulating the bottom of your pizza and it won’t cook well). But, I’ll probably try again, perhaps with a moister dough and drizzling the edges with garlic butter or olive oil (hey, any excuse to use those, right?)
I’ve also bought some King Arthur 00 Pizza Flour and will start to experiment with that. My first attempt I made some mistakes, but I’m looking forward to another attempt, especially this summer when I can use fresh basil and tomatoes.
In the meantime, I’ll keep experimenting with the air-fryer.
Now, I will say, air-frying wings DOES work well and is my preferred method now. Still moist and very tasty, but far fewer calories and in theory a bit healthier.
I’ve determined getting decent steak fries isn’t worth it (too thick and bulky to get the inside cooked without overcooking the outside), but I’m honing in on getting pretty decent shoestring fries out of it.
And putting a final crisp on our veggie burritos is often quite pleasing.
In any event, before I get too hungry I’m going to stop now. But I’ll encourage everyone to experiment in the kitchen. It can be fun and who knows, you may even enjoy it!