Monday, August 12, 2013

A Pizza With Punch - Easy Lemon Pizza "Sorrentina"

Lemon what?
That's the type of reaction I've been getting all week when telling folks about a recipe for Lemon Pizza that I was planning to try. It may even be the most loved yet controversial dish on Neurotic Kitchen so far. But that's ok, because as you probably know by now, I love a good controversy. 

If anything, I learned a little about myself in this process. Specifically, I realized how grossly I'd misjudged people's views on lemons. I thought everyone felt the same way about them that I do. "It sounds interesting but I don't get it," my coworker mused. "Lemon is more of a seasoning than a food," she added. Someone else asked, "do you actually eat the lemon rind?" Even my other half, who is generally adventurous with food, was skeptical. Out of the apprehension he'd refuse to eat much of the finished product and would then proceed to give me his grumpy I'm still hungry look, I had a traditional pizza ready to fire up if the lemon experiment flopped. After about the fifth person to express shock and awe, I finally got it...  

I might just love lemons in an unnatural way. From a young age, I'd chew on lemon slices as if they were fruit. I still do at times. And all throughout this blog, you'll find lemon driven recipes. The general population seems enamored of lemons too, but what I learned is that having them as a main ingredient is a bridge too far for some. Yet many Southern Italians, in particular, find it totally normal, so perhaps this is all just coded somewhere in my genetic heritage. If you're looking to really dive into a citrus obsession, I suggest this entire salad made of lemons from none other than Mario Batali.

Today's Lemon Pizza recipe was not my idea in the least. I wish I had come up with such a novel topping. The inspiration for tonight's meal was actually a fantastic Wall Street Journal piece (check it out HERE). Upon reading it, I knew immediately that I would definitely be sampling this intriguing recipe modeled after "The Sorrentina" Lemon Pie that can be found at Keste, (an NYC-based Neapolitan Pizza place that's been on my "must-try" list forever). 

The WSJ article does a great job of explaining how such unexpected flavors really do work together. My light adaptation of the recipe is made with store-bought dough and uses a Pizza Stone. I've also changed the cooking time slightly to make up for my oven only being capable of heating to a top temperature of 525. Finally, I opted to use regular Buffalo Mozzarella because I prefer it to the smoked version. If you have time to make your own dough according to the original recipe, by all means, you should do so! But if you are looking for a quick version of this unexpectedly fabulous pie, I recommend you give ours a go. As for the results, I bet that this pizza will make a believer of even the biggest lemon skeptic. I, for one, will be headed to Keste soon to try the real thing. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Things to note about this recipe - and eating lemons:

Soaking the Lemon Slices, Photo: NK
1. Lemons sweeten and mellow when cooked at high heat.

2. Slicing lemons VERY thin cuts down on their intensity in a good way.

3. Finally, the recipe calls for you to soak the lemon slices for 15 minutes. Don't skip this step as it lessens the tartness considerably. 

Equipment you'll need:
A Pizza Stone 
Parchment Paper

Dough Handling Pointers to get you feeling confident:
click HERE

Lemon Pizza "Sorrentina"Inspired by Keste / Roberto Caporuscio
Adapted from Gold
Yield: Makes three 8 Inch Pizzas, Serves 4-6
1 16 Ounce Round of Pizza Dough (preferably purchased at a pizza shop) or make your own 10 hrs ahead according to the original article.

2 Organic Lemons, rinds well washed and sliced into VERY thin slices (and again into half moons, if you prefer, which I do)

15-18 Basil Leaves, torn into large pieces 

9 Ounces Regular (non smoked) Mozzarella, thinly sliced (drier versions of Mozzarella work best) 

Extra Virgin Olive Oil,

Sea Salt

Flour, for rolling the dough

Equipment: Parchment Paper & Pizza Stone

Position a rack on the uppermost part of your oven and place your Pizza Stone on top of it. Turn oven on and set it to the highest temperature possible - usually between 525 and 550. Allow the Pizza Stone to heat for 30 minutes.

Soak Lemon Slices in a bowl of water for 15 minutes. When finished, remove and pat them dry with paper towel.

Meanwhile, flour a clean surface as well as your hands. Take the Pizza Dough Round and roll and stretch until you have the size you're looking for. Make it as thin as possible in the middle then pinch to create a thicker crust. This all works best if you can do the dough prep over parchment so when you're done topping the pizza it's already on the parchment for easy transfer to the stone in the oven (for help on that process, see below*).

Top the Pizzas:
Arrange Mozzarella evenly on the dough rounds, leaving space at the edges for the crust to rise - you should use about 3 Ounces of Cheese per pie. 

Next, add at least 6 whole (or 12 half moon) Lemon Slices per pie or more - as much as you like, I really have never had too many!  

Tuck in the small fragments of 5-6 torn Basil Leaves on each pie as well.

Now drizzle the pie with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, making sure that the edges have been oiled as well (this will help to create a nicely browned crust). I take a paper towel and spread the Oil around the crust edge to be sure.

Finally, sprinkle pie with a good dose of Sea Salt (and if you wish, a light sprinkle of Black Pepper, but I skip this).

*Carefully pick up the parchment and move it and the Pizza onto the Pizza Stone in the oven to cook. 
*Transferring to the Oven: The easiest way to do this is to slide the parchment and pizza onto a pizza peel and then carrying it to the stone, carefully sliding it on. If you don't have a peel ask someone to hold two corners of the parchment while you hold the other two and carry it over to the stone. If you are alone, I would try and find a hard, flat, portable surface like a cutting board. Drag the parchment and pizza onto it, bring it to the oven, the carefully shimmy it onto the stone pinching the leading corner of the parchment and dragging it across the stone so the pizza is evenly centered and stays intact. 

Cook Times:
For an oven at 525 - cook for 10 minutes

For an oven at 550 - cook for 8-10 minutes

When cooking is done, turn on your Broiler and allow crust to brown 30-60 seconds (watch it like a hawk) until the pizza takes on some nice color and the cheese gets browned in parts. Remove from the oven and leave it a few minutes until the cheese firms up a bit. Slice and serve!

Grill Method: (video of the final results HERE). The grill method is roughly the same as the oven method above, just preheat your stone on a grill, and aim for the 525-550 temperature range. Transfer the parchment with the pizza on it right onto the stone. If you have a pizza peel, it will be even easier to slide it right on. Of course when grilling you won't have the option to use the broiler to brown but I have found that grills will get the pizza nicely browned. Pizza on the grill, it's a delicate balance between getting the top cooked but the bottom not burnt. Lower temps are probably better for this. I would recommend peeking at the bottom of the pizza around minute 8 to make sure you don't have to lower the heat - there've been times when the grill is running too hot and the bottom of the pie has blackened before the top of the pizza is cooked. You will get the hang of it quickly! 


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