A high percentage of the suggestions for what to eat in NYC told us that pizza is pretty much its own food group here!
But with us being us, there’s no point just eating it… We wanted to learn how to cook it from a pro, then give that information to you so you can recreate it at home as easily as possible.
We were pointed in the direction of Alison Roman – senior food editor for Bon Appetit magazine (a bit above our level, right? Haha!) – who agreed to show us what it is that makes NYC pizza so special.
We arranged to meet early one morning in a green market in Brookyln… Yeah, we were slightly confused as well! But, as soon as we got talking to Alison, things became a lot clearer.
According to Alison, the standard NYC-style pizza is very simple – a thin crust, with a simple tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese… That’s it! So why were we at a fruit and veg market?
Well, as well as showing us the standard flavour pizza, Alison also wanted to demonstrate how to use it as a base to add some awesome flavours to… and where better to get those flavours from than high quality, simple veg?!
We picked up some scallions, garlic, oregano, basil and parsley plus some honey (more on that later) and headed for Bon Appetit’s test kitchen to make the pizza!
Now it just so happens that Bon Appetit’s test kitchens are placed on the 35th floor of the brand new 1 World Trade Center (Freedom Tower), with stunning views of the new subway station being built below, Battery Park and even the Statue of Liberty… Not a bad place to cook at all!
As you might expect, security was very tight – it took 30 minutes for our camera equipment to get cleared and make its way to the 35th floor! But once we were in, the building was spectacular! The kitchens had Ben buzzing with excitement – so much room, so much equipment, so many possibilities!
Now on to the pizza making…
Alison had made the dough the day before using a stupidly simple recipe and giving it 24 hours to prove. This meant it was the most elastic dough I have ever seen, you didn’t need to roll it out! Just stretch it out nice and thin into the shape you want and voila! So simple!
On to the sauce. Again, simplicity was key here… The pro tip here is to use canned tomatoes – they’re consistent, not too watery and perfect for a pizza sauce! Mix them up with a bit of garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil and you’re… sorted.
Next up was the cheese – we mainly used mozzarella, either sliced or grated depending on the type of coverage you prefer, then topped it off with some grated parmesan for that salty finish.
Now this was the part that changed my life forever… Alison put some honey in a pan with some chilli flakes and heated it up for a few minutes on the stove before drizzling it over the pizza.
The pizzas went into the oven (500 degrees ºF) for around 10 minutes and we waited very impatiently.
Once ready we left it a couple of minutes so we didn’t completely burn our faces off.
And the result?
This is what pizza should be like – it’s so different from the deep dish pizza pie in Chicago, it’s incomparable – and helps us avoid the whole NYC vs Chicago pizza arguments!!
The crust was airy and crispy, almost like foccaccia bread! The simplicity of the tomato sauce and cheese was actually really refreshing – good pizza doesn’t need a tonne of toppings added to it!
And how did the chilli honey work out? BOOMTOWN! The sweetness and thickness of the honey mixed with the gentle spice of the chilli flakes was really something to behold… The first thing I do when I get home after kissing my wife and daughter will be to make some of that and put it on EVERYTHING!
Once we’d devoured the pizza, we started the process again but this time making the most of our fresh veg and herbs – scallions and parsley was a real simple winner!
Now you might have noticed how many times the word ‘simple’ has been used in this post… That’s because everything about this was simple and easy! There is nothing to stop you making amazing pizza at home, other than a bit of time making the dough. Other than that, it’s just adding the flavours that you want to add and cooking it at a high heat… Easy peasy!
This experience really made me think twice about where my next pizza comes from… As well as making vats full of chilli honey!!