Monday, September 5, 2011


Some of you may be following me on Facebook and Twitter - if so, you know that I've been gearing up for a lil' family competition that took place on Labor Day.  My family (dad's side) held it's second cook-off, this time the theme was pizza.  There were 6 contestants, 5 savory pizzas and 1 dessert pizza.  The game was on!

Earlier this year, we held a lamb burger competition and sadly, I came in third place. I tried to take the blow with my head held high, but my culinary ego was slightly bruised. I vowed to make my comeback next time around when we planned our pizza cook-off.

The competition was tough this year, all the contestants amped up their game, we were all pretty serious about making delicious pizzas and the hard work all paid off. When I initially began putting together my game plan for pizza, I was heavily focused on the pizza dough (note I was the only contestant who made their pizza dough from scratch), so I relied on Jim Lahey's recipe in one his brilliant book called My Bread. There are tons of sources, but this recipe was simple, straight-to-the point and I trusted his skill set and bread making skills.

About a week and a half ago, The Cooking Channel (my latest telly addiction) featured a week's worth of shows dedicated to the art of pizza making.  Was it a sign from the man upstairs? I stumbled upon a show on pizzas that were creative, "out of the box", so to speak and was instantaneously inspired as a result.  I've praised the Argentinians here in my post all about chimichurri sauce - it was this that sparked my imagination when creating my winning pizza!

Chimichurri sauce is a fresh herb sauce - it's made with parsley, oregano, red wine vinegar, garlic, olive oil, salt and red chili pepper flakes. And it goes with everything! With chimichurri as my finishing sauce, I worked up the foundation on my pizza.  I made a simple tomato sauce with San Marzano tomatoes, pureed and simmered in some olive oil with garlic, salt and a teeny tiny bit of sugar. 

With a couple spoonfuls of the tomato sauce spread around my pizza dough, I then topped it with caramelized onions, fresh mozzarella, feta and skirt steak.  I actually the pizza with the skirt steak until the last 5 minutes or so.  This kept the structural integrity of the melt-in-your mouth skirt steak. After I removed it from the oven and let it sit for a few minutes, I drizzled the chimichurri sauce all over it.

As I mentioned before, the competition was certainly not lacking, what I loved about the competition was how different and unique all of the pizzas actually were, nothing fell into the same category. It actually blew me away. 

Samantha made a rustic pizza with garlic olive oil, grilled onions and tons of feta! She served it with a variety of dipping sauces - baba ganoush, olive tapenade, cucumber yogurt, jalapeno yogurt, red pepper and walnut. It was straight up divine! A perfect appetizer pizza for any party!

Dorothy made a pesto sauced pizza with roasted chicken, grilled red onions, sun dried tomatoes, mozzarella, pecorino romano and pine nuts. All of the ingredients were layered to perfection. The sun dried tomatoes were sweet and juicy, the pesto was fresh and floral. I could easily see this on a menu!

Clarissa was inspired by Thai cuisine - she made a peanut sauce pizza with Thai chicken meatballs, carrots, green onions, bean sprouts and cilantro. Savory and out of this world, it was a decadent pizza! 

Dad took a more traditional route, he's always made a fabulous chicken parmesan and he decided to turn it into a pizza! Tomato sauce, chicken parmesan, mozzarella and pecorino romano.

Harrison took on the challenge on dessert pizza.  He used nutella as a base, added coconut flakes, marshmallows and crushed graham cracker crust.  Then he took a blow torch and melted the marshmallows - a fancy Smores inspired treat!

It was such a fun day and we look forward to the next food competition! I hope your Labor Day was just as much fun!

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