Western Civilization's Favorite Food: (Chattanooga Style)
Making local, farm-to-table pizza with a year's-worth of CSA bounty.
Italy of course, but also New York has it, Chicago has it, San Francisco has it, and many other locations around the world have claims to pizza flavors that are worth travelling for the experience. So what is the "Chattanooga Style Pizza?" We aren't big-time yet, but let's suppose we have some potential for developing a "worth-the-travel" flavor as well. There are some fabulous pizza's on Chattanooga's restaurant menus, many of whom source locally produced ingredients. And with regional agriculture growing and developing, even Chattanoogans who don't own restaurants have enough access to the best quality local produce, meats, cheeses, and grains to fill our pantries, refrigerators and freezers with prime ingredients.
Pizza is (essentially) whatever you like to eat served open on bread, and even the bread part is open for interpretation. Nevertheless, the basic components of the popular comfort food we call pizza are: crust, sauce, and toppings. Arguably, the type of oven and temperature in which a pizza bakes could also be at the top of the list for basic components of good pizza. So if you can, bake on a hot pizza stone in a very hot oven (around 500 degrees), or in a wood-fired oven. If you don't have access to this sort of heat power, any oven will do; you just may need to play with ingredients and temperatures to suit your oven, or pre-bake your crust to avoid sogginess.
And here are a few ideas for building your own perfect Chattanooga Style Pizza:
Fresh pizza crust is essential. Store-bought pizza crusts are tough and flavorless, so if you are serious about making good pizza it's a great idea to start with a good recipe for yeast or sour-dough pizza crust. For a soft, thicker crust try this one: Quick Pizza Dough
A great party idea, or to get kids involved, is to use cake tins for personal pizzas. This is also a great way to make several different pizzas. Most ovens will hold around six 9-inch tins.
The sauce is often regarded as a compulsory ingredient on pizza, with jars of "everything-tastes-the-same" blindly opened and spread without any further thought. But freshly made marinara from whole tomatoes can add transforming flavor. Here's an easy recipe:
1) Quarter several whole tomatoes, discarding cores, and place in a blender or food processor. Pulse until they are like a textured sauce, but not pureed.
2) Place the tomatoes in a heavy stew pot or in a slow cooker. Add a generous amount of crushed or minced fresh garlic (about 1-2 cloves per tomato), some dried herbs (like herbs de Provence), a bay leaf, a generous splash of red wine, olive oil, and season to taste with kosher salt and pepper. Add fresh or dried cayenne pepper if you want a little heat in the sauce.
3) Let the sauce simmer for several hours with the lid of the pan tilted to allow the steam to release. Stir occasionally. The water in the sauce will reduce and the flavors will become more concentrated the longer it cooks.
Pizza toppings can include all-local ingredients from your CSA share and other vendors from your farmer's market. All your hard work putting away extras will bear fruit as you use them to make the perfect pizza. Caramelized onions, pickled corn, roasted peppers, frozen beet greens, pickled banana peppers, pesto, fresh tomato marinara, and local cheeses from Sequatchie Cove Farm are ready to top a truly Chattanoga Style Pizza. Other ingredients like teriyaki marinated chicken, grilled meats, sausage, or local pepperoni from Main Street Meats are delicious proteins to add on top.
Try these combinations, or create your own unique flavors:
1) Marinara, chopped beet greens, roasted sweet peppers, pickled corn, pickled banana peppers, smoked sausage, Sequatchie Cove Farm Coppinger Cheese.
2) Marinara, greens, pickled corn, pesto, Main Street Meats pepperoni, Cheddar Cheese.
3) Pesto, caramelized onions, roasted sweet peppers, grilled teriyaki chicken, beet greens, Sequatchie Cove Farm Yetti Cheese.
4) Pesto, caramelized onions, pickled banana peppers, pickled corn, Sequatchie Cove Farm Yetti Cheese.