Wood-Fired Pizza (throwdown)

Last weekend I got the chance to visit my brother and his family. He’s just starting his new business, making wood-fired pizza for different events (concerts, fairs, parties…). This has been in the works for some time, but apparently it takes a bit to get a pizza oven custom-made, etc. Of course all while holding a full time job and being a dad too! I’m amazed that they have literally just started and already have 27 new events booked already!

So I’d been hearing about his pizza for a while. In all fairness, I guess I’ve had some before, but only out of the regular oven. So this was my first opportunity to have any of the “real” wood-fired pizza!

On Friday night, we got treated to several of his pizzas that he serves to his clients – chicken raspberry chipotle, an amazing 4-cheese pizza, classic margarita… all delicious – oh, and a couple of amazing dessert pizzas too!

In the morning, it was my turn to get in the act. We were hopeful that the oven would be about 450 degrees to make some of the Olive Fougasse that the French Friday with Dorie crowd will be familiar with. We also made some no-knead artisan bread. Unfortunately, the oven wasn’t quite as hot as we hoped, but we still went ahead to use it – after all, it was kind of an experiment! Our loaves didn’t get as brown as we would have liked, but I don’t think it mattered. The fougasse was almost immediately devoured, and was very, very popular. The artisan bread would have been gone immediately, but we were kind of planning on having some of it later, so everyone showed some restraint.

Since the oven was still pretty warm, we threw in a baking dish filled with pork for carnitas. Later we had our finished carnitas with homemade salsa fresca, beans and fresh tortillas.

The following day was fresh pasta… you can probably see how this is going. With the great sauces that were made to go with it, and some focaccia, it was yet another great meal.

And then… the throwdown! My brother made up 24 of his special balls of pizza dough, so at least we didn’t have to do that. That meant that we could have 8 people competing (making 3 pizzas each for judging). We (fortunately) had more people than that eating and voting – as it turned out, it was a lot of pizza! The rules were that you couldn’t vote for yourself and the order was picked at random.

I went first, and held my own for a while. Smoked chicken, roasted red peppers, crimini mushrooms, brie (and a brie cream as a “sauce”), and then finished with freshly snipped chives and truffle oil.

My pizza didn’t last long – I didn’t even get much of an opportunity to take a picture! But it was early in the evening… Others made delicious pizzas with smoked salmon, various cheeses, asian flavors and vegetables, herbs, butternut squash – all different and all delicious! And in keeping with our family – not a single boring (or traditional) combination in the bunch. It made voting difficult (and no one ended up with no votes).

But I have to point out a couple of others. My pick for the winner was actually a dessert pizza. The dough had just a bit of olive oil, then quarters of fresh, ripe apricot. Then dollops of goat cheese and some shredded fresh sage. It was finished off with a drizzle of honey after it finished baking. Amazing! The apricots got lightly cooked in the 7-800 degree oven, worked perfectly with the herbs and tangy cheese and the counterpoint of honey.

The overall winner, however was the “carbonara” pizza. It was even noted that there was a bit of cheating involved :). Since it included bacon! This was also the last pizza to be baked, and we waited with a lot of anticipation. A garlic cream bechemel, topped with fresh peas, caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, cheeses, the aforementioned bacon. It was finished of with shredded parmesan to make for a wonderful pizza and well-deserved winner!

Of course, this was devoured almost immediately too, so there’s no picture of the end result – you just have to trust me, it was fantastic! (and my #2 pick)

What a fun time – as you can kind of see, we were in a beautiful location (their backyard!) surrounded by cooling green and gorgeous flowers (a welcome change from the 100++ of AZ!). And of course, it was so great to have a good-natured competition to add to the fun.

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