‘Garbage pizza’: Sometimes the best pizza ingredients can come from scraps
I like routine. I like schedules. I like predictability. Surprisingly, 19 years ago, I married the exact opposite kind of the person.
Maybe I should have thought it through a little more. He asked, I was (and still am) in love, and here we are 22 years later still living unpredictable lives.
Even before we got married I should have expected planning anything would be challenge. Anyone who works “on call” cannot uphold a routine, be predictable or maintain a schedule. Which, if you noticed, I thrive on.
That being said, when my husband is present the kids and I make the best of it, and for me that translates into meal planning that does not always materialize.
When Dad is away, the kids and I get as lazy as we want around meal times and are completely satisfied with simple meals: grilled cheese and fruit, breakfast for dinner, pastas, roasted chicken, burritos, burritos, burritos, etc.
When Dad is home, I love to prepare multi-course meals as well as test out new menus and recipes. But more often than not, Dad will get called out, and I am left with a fridge full of ingredients I cannot always muster the will to cook or convince my kids to eat.
Hence, I end up with a bounty of miscellaneous veggies or other ingredients that at some point our chickens and rabbits devour.
Recently, my husband and I got the rare opportunity to skip out and meet some friends for dinner. I selected a farmer’s market vegetarian pizza off the menu and it was not only delicious, it was inspirational.
Some people may cringe when a pizza arrives with carrots, broccoli and cauliflower, but I got excited and thought, this is the perfect way to use up all the forgotten ingredients in my crisper drawer.
So, the very next day I prepped some pizza dough and told myself I was going to make refrigerator pizza or, as my husband calls it, “garbage pizza.” I was excited for the challenge as I have always dreamed of having my own home “Chopped” show where I am totally limited to the contents of random neighborhood pantries.
I committed to only using what I could find in our pantry and the refrigerator. I immediately went to the shelves to look for tomatoes or tomato sauce and was denied. My husband offered to run to the store, but I stood firm, declaring, “I’ve got this.”
Out with the red sauce in with the white. I found a lazy red onion in the fridge and decided to make a quick version of a béchamel sauce.
A béchamel sauce is simply a reduced milk base sauce, infused with onion, that is thickened with a blonde roux and a touch of nutmeg. To make it more pizza worthy, I planned on adding some grated Parmesan cheese as well as some Parmesan cheese rinds to infuse more flavor.
I was looking forward to a veggie pizza, but I knew I would encounter resistance from my hubby and the kiddos as well as the friends they had over. So, I dug around and found some frozen chicken tenders from my countless chicken fabricating days.
I decided to poach the chicken in a quick vegetable broth. One old onion quartered, a few whole garlic cloves smashed, one wrinkled carrot chopped, one limp celery stalk chopped, as well as some fresh thyme from the garden. In went the frozen chicken with enough cold water to cover it. I gently cooked the chicken until done, let it rest and then chopped it. Viola!
On to cleaning out the fridge. I found some droopy spinach (sorry bunnies, not yours, yet), a half full (or half empty) jar of roasted red bell peppers, a shriveled shallot, a sad bundle of basil, a half block of Monterey jack, a little white cheddar and a little remaining Parmesan.
I prefer raw greens on pizza so as not to overcook them, so I just gave them a rough chop. I drained the bell peppers as I did not want a soggy pie.
I caramelized the sliced shallot in a little butter, safflower oil, a pinch of sugar, salt and pepper trying not to eat too many directly out of the pan.
I sliced the basil using some that was less than attractive knowing no one would notice because it would be cooked anyway. The cheese was quickly grated and my mise en place was in order.
By the time my pizza dough proofed (1 hour) all my other ingredients were prepped and ready for assembly. I preheated the ovens to 425 degrees, divided the dough in half and lightly floured my counter. After oiling two half-sheet pans, I rolled out my dough into two awkward thin rectangles.
I spread a thin layer of the creamy Parmesan sauce over the top of both pizzas, after sampling it 12 times time make sure it was just right, then went about placing my formerly less than desirable refrigerator ingredients on top.
Into the oven pies went, and 15 minutes later we had two beautiful crispy thin-crust pies that no one would have guessed were the result of cleaning out our fridge.
Well, my husband suspected it but he knows the dangers of mentioning it.