Week 19: Mother Sauces – Cheddar Stuffed-Crust Pretzel Pizza

I got a little ambitious for this week’s Mother Sauces challenge (which I’m just now putting together is themed so for Mother’s Day). Making, documenting and incorporating the tomato sauce I regularly make, a batch of which I completed last night for restocking purposes, would be a pretty big yawnfest. Instead, I chose to take the béchamel route and build a pizza around the cheddar sauce so introduced by the designated wikipedia page. What followed was a plot to not only create a pretzel crust to enhance the tasty mustard and cheddar elements, but also to stuff said crust with cheddar. It went pretty alright.

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I began with the sauce, first whipping up a basic béchamel sauce to work from.

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Then dry mustard, cheddar and worcestershire sauce was adding according to whimsy.

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The dough was rolled out and thin slabs of cheddar were wrapped into the crust. Transferring the dough into a pre-heated cast-iron pan without incident proved to be difficult but manageable with the help of a large, flat spatula.

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The cheddar sauce was applied liberally as the base with mozzarella and pepperoni to follow on top.

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A baking soda-boiling water concoction was dabbed onto the crust to earn that familiar pretzel browning from some oven time. Pretzel salt was specifically sourced for this project and the remaining half gallon requires a commitment to future pretzel projects, which I’m okay with.

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All this cheesy business requires a wine that can withstand a salty punch to the face. When a dish veers to an extreme savory note, a push towards fruity expression in wine can offer some balance to the palate.

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Torres Alegre – 2005 “Cru Garage” Zinfandel (Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico) is a sun-pampered, incredibly fruit-driven style expressing dried dark berries and overripe plums with hedonistic intensity. Alone, this wine can sit heavy, especially with a lackluster acidity that would normally be a deal-breaker for me personally. Alongside a plate of salty flavors, all is forgiven as the fruit brightens and sings. The same concept can be applied with most any fruit-forward wine and should be.

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Pizzeria Luigi & Temecula Zinfandel

Let’s begin the great 2015 San Diego pizza adventure with the basics: pepperoni pizza from Pizzeria Luigi, a no-fuss pizzeria often listed by locals as a favorite, paired with 2009 Reserve Primitivo from Wiens Cellars of nearby Temecula Valley. The bottle was a gift from a fellow sommelier with the sole stipulation that it could only be opened with pizza by its side. So be it.

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Though its origins have been genetically tracked back to Croatia, Primitivo is the Italian name for the varietal we know better as Zinfandel. With this nominal borrowing, it’s not surprising to find some stylistic leanings towards the more acid-driven wines of Italy. Acid in wine is a great accompaniment to most food, especially foods high in acid themselves like tomato-based cuisine. The acidity in this Primitivo is balanced enough to stand up to hearty pizza sauce while the tannins, textured and dusty, are a perfect complement to rich cheese. Though somewhat leaner than the ass-kicking abv levels of 16% found elsewhere in California, this Zinfandel is thoroughly New World in style, driven by ripe fruit aromas and a full body. The generous heaps of dark raspberry and blackberry fruit provide a lovely, uncomplicated counterpart to every saucy bite of pizza.

It’s easy to get smitten over an abundance of sauce on a pizza, especially thin-crust, since it’s so rare to find naturally in the wild. The chewy crust holds up well under the weight of the bright, herbaceous tomato sauce so generously spread on while the pepperoni slices supply a faint but distinct spiciness. Any lengthy focus on minute details beyond this would only take away from the experience. Like the wine, this pie isn’t built for complexity. Pizzeria Luigi supplies straightforward New York style pizza relying on classic flavors without being overly complicated, which is perfect for an indulgent night of Parks & Rec in sweatpants.