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COVID-19 Dinn-ovation: Enhance That Cheap Pizza!

Here’s a suppertime project the whole family can get in on without the need for any serious planning or specialized cooking knowledge. Given that the usual New Year’s Eve Party is out of the question this year, it may be the most fun you can have without having your own glitter able to drop at midnight!

Asparagus Pizza - © The Food Network - © The Food NetworkHome Made Pizza with Asparagus: Yes… Anything goes!

The first time I planned a New Year’s Eve party that involved Pizza as a ‘headline’ food theme, I learned – the hard way – that it’s more trouble than it’s worth to plan to have a selection of your fave pies delivered from your fave go-to neighbourhood joint on New Year’s Eve. It’s probably the single busiest day of the year for every Pizza joint – large or small – and trying to put an order in, let alone delivered anytime near when you want it.

Order at noon and then re-heat the pies when you want to serve the refreshments? C’mon! We all know that re-heated Pizza is never the same as fresh, piping hot, once- and only once-fired Pizza. What’s the point of arranging for your favourite delivery Pies if you’ll be serving them either soft and rubbery (if you re-heat them covered), or overly crisp and downright hard (if you reheat them uncovered) rather than just perfectly crispy-crusted? And the Cheese pull is never quite the same, either…

Nah. Fuhgedabatit!

There is a sort of ‘guerilla’ solution…

My solution, short of canning the idea of Pizza altogether, is to get in some cheap, ready-made frozen Pizzas from the supermarket nice and early. It could even be as early as a week or two before the big night.

Here’s the secret: Frozen supermarket Pies generally fail badly not in the Crust department. It’s probably a good idea to audition two or three Pies from top brand names to see whose crust you prefer, before you commit to your New Year’s purchase. Once that issue is settled, you can get down to the serious business of toppings. This is the dimension in which you can make the biggest difference in a ‘bought’ Pie.

Proteins

Commercial frozen Pizzas usually fail the worst in the Meats department. Because Meat is the most expensive ingredient they can put on a pie, that’s almost always what you get the least of. Ad the quality of – say, Pepperoni, for easy comparison’s sake –  varies widely from brand to brand.

The second-stingiest ingredient commercial Pizza purveyors provide is Cheese. And, again, not only the amount but the quality varies from surprisingly good to ‘downright rubbery’.

Next comes Fresh Produce

Sweet and Hot Peppers, Red and/or Sweet Onions, Mushrooms, and so on. Again, there’s a problem with relative abundance. But there’s also a major question of freshness.

The issue of ‘other stuff’ – Pickled Peppers, Olives, Anchovies, Artichoke Hearts, and so on – you could just flip a coin. “Life is like a jar of Artichoke Hearts,” Mrs. Gump used to say: “You never know what you’re gonna get…”

So… Concentrate your efforts here

If you consider the cost of a prepared, Frozen Pizza compared to a big, juicy, perfectly-dressed personally-made (or easily-enhanced) one, you’ll find there’s a lot of headroom to fund the cost of additions you want to make to your customized Pies. Get just enough of the ingredients you want to have on hand for the ‘decorating’ party you’re planning. A lot of things you’ll want on Pizza may not show up in other recipes you may be planning for the coming week or so. Do you really have room for all the leftover jars and bags in your fridge. Not me, that’s for sure!

Get no more than 100 g / 4 oz. of any Meat you want to add. One or two Sweet Peppers and one or two fresh Jalapeños will be more than enough. One Medium Onion (or one of each type, if you want more than one). Get only enough  – one or two small jars – of any special ingredient (like the aforementioned Artichokes) for the number of Pies you think it will be wanted on.

You want Bacon or Sausage crumbles? Save a ton of money and fry them up yourself earlier in the day. And make plenty. Folks who like these savouries love to pile on lots of them!

Cheeses, of course, are a special case

You’ll want at least two Cheeses for your Pizza-dressing ingredient array: Mozzarella, of course, and grated Parmesan or Romano. Call me crazy (and who doesn’t, at least once or twice in any given week?), but I also love to have Monterrey Jack and/or Sharp Cheddar on hand. They both contribute great, robust flavours which go really well with ingredients such as THin-sliced Roast Beef and some sweeter (less-salty and/or spicy) Cured Meats. And both are really good melting Cheeses, to ehnance that coveted, fresh-from-the-oven Cheese Pull!

Normally, I would advise against buying the readily-available bags of pre-shredded Cheese you can get in all supermarket dairy cases. It’s relatively expensive. But In this situation, I heartily endorse it. You may not find Jack or some other Cheeses you want, but you can get all the Mozz and Cheddar you want, and that’ll save you some time and effort, for sure.

Ready, set, go!

You’ll have a lot of fun concocting your own custom Pizzas without fussing with fresh or frozen Crusts or dough using the ‘Dress and Go’ method. In between, let the movie streams flow, and indulge excessively in the chips and sweets. What you drink is entirely up to you!

My additional take…

I think we’ll all enjoy saying goodbye to 2020 – one of the hardest, most feared and dreaded years we’ve faced in a many years – most of us, in our lifetimes. I say, even if we can’t have big gatherings and party the night away like dancin’ fools, we should exercise our God-given rights and freedoms to give it a great big kick in the rear on the way out door. Let’s make our last memories of 2020 good ones!

~ Maggie J.

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