If you like food, and laughing, and reading, then you will enjoy Jim Gaffigan’s Food: A Love Story. If you do not enjoy food and laughter, then that makes me sad. Comedy and comestibles are probably my chief joys in life —if they can be consumed in a literary manner, all the better.
I am always a bit unsure how to approach writing about comedy for a column that is supposed to be funny. Writing funny about funny writing is like overkill, right? It makes me feel like I am presuming I’m funny enough to be elevate Jim Gaffigan’s funny factor. Which really I can’t, because he is nth degree hilarious. What can I say? Comedy is serious business. Seriously —I think my improv classes have resulted in frustrated tears far more often than tackling drama.
Food: A Love Story is a compilation of Gaffigan’s thoughts on edibles. His relationship to food is indeed one of love but also of hate. His commentary on, oh, let’s call it his “extensive” eating resume, is self-depracating and forgiving all at once. Reading this might drive you into a shame spiral for your eating habits you are less proud of. Or, it may just spur on the “you only live once” philosophy when it comes to eating what you please. After all, Gaffigan boasts that he doesn’t simply live each day like it was his last. He eats each meal like it was his last. Might as well make it satisfying. And filling.
Gaffigan also writes about regional food. In his book you can draw boundaries on a US map based on what is eaten where. Examples include “Eating BBQ Land,” “Mexican Foodland,” “Seabugland,” and so on. I am originally from St. Louis, which falls into “Super Bowl Sunday Foodland,” and I was happy to see him mention our famed toasted ravioli. I now am in Los Angeles which seems to be “Mexican Foodland,” which I am forever grateful for, because Mexican food is THE BEST.
I’ll give you a few more of his opinions I whole-heartedly endorse. For one, French fries from McDonald’s are GOOD. Yes, your Book Cook occasionally needs a dosage of McDonald’s tastiness. Moderation in all things, right? Other thoughts I agree with include: cake pops are ridiculous and fish is gross (never ate it even when I did eat meat). Gaffigan and I both like breakfast food but not so much in the morning. #FoodTwins.
When it came time to choose a recipe in homage to this book I wanted to go with the food Gaffigan associates with Chicago. I lived there briefly and ‘lemme tell you: the pizza is stupendous. Also I haven’t made you pizza yet —not even during pizza week! Ridiculous.
Why does deep dish rock? The answer is simple: More bread. I love the cheesy deep dish that Chicago is so famed for. I haven’t found a Los Angeles place that compares (sorry adopted hometown!) so I decided to make my own. And you should too. We could make one pizza between us and share it with everyone and still have enough, because this pizza pie is filling for sure. However, don’t let that deter you from a second slice. Gaffigan writes that he does “forge on” and surely we can be as valiant as he?
I turned to a cookbook I’ve spoken of before, Baking Illustrated, for the crust. But then, in efforts to prove I am not a psychopath, I decided to combine my love of pizza with my love of Mexican food. I topped this sucker with cheddar and salsa. Why? Because I can.
Deep Dish Mexified Pizza adapted from Baking Illustrated by Cook’s Illustrated Magazine Editors
- 1 medium russet potato (around 9 oz.), peeled and quartered
- 3 1/2 cups (17 1/2 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. instant yeast (I used Rapid Rise)
- 1 3/4 tsp. salt
- 1 cup warm water (about 110 degrees Fahrenheit-get you thermometers out! The wrong temperature can kill your yeast)
- 6 Tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil plus a bit for oiling the bowl
- about a 2 cups of your favorite salsa
- 6-8 oz. shredded cheddar
Bring a saucepan of water big enough for your potato, plus said potato, to a boil and cook until the potato is tender. It should be around 10-15 minutes. Drain and let it cool until it isn’t too hot to handle. Grate it on the large holes of your grater and measure 1 1/3 cups of lightly packed potato.
Put one rack of your oven in the highest position and another in the lowest. Heat the oven to 200 degrees, maintain 10 minutes once it has reached that heat, then turn it off. This is where you are going to let your dough rise.
Combine the flour, yeast and salt in a food processor. I pulsed to combine a bit at this point. Now, with the motor running, add the water until the dough starts to form a shaggy ball. Add the potato and process several more seconds. Then add 2 Tbsp. of the oil and process until the dough gets smooth n’ sticky. That should take several seconds. Oil an oven-safe bowl. Add the dough ball to it, turn it so it is coated in oil and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Put in the warmed oven and allow it to rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.
Oil your pan or pans with the remaining 4 Tbsp. oil. If you have a 14-inch pan for deep dish pizza, go for it. If you do not, two 10-inch round pans or a 9-inch squares will suffice. If you are splitting the dough in 2, only put two Tbsp. of the oil in each. Turn the risen dough out and punch down. Pat it into a 12-inch round if using the 14-inch pan, or divide and pat into 9-inch rounds or 8-inch squares. Move it into the pan or pans, cover with plastic wrap and let it rest until it stops springing back when you try to shape it. That should be about ten minutes. It might resist a little, still, but not nearly as much as before.
If you have a pizza stone, place it on the bottom rack of the oven. Otherwise use a baking sheet (turned upside-down if it is rimmed). Preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. You are heating up that pizza stone/baking sheet to help your pizza get a nice brown crust. Uncover the dough and pull it to form a 1-inch high border around the edges of your pan(s). Cover and let rise somewhere warm (but not in the oven this time) until doubled, about 30 minutes. Uncover, prick all over with a fork.
Turn oven to 425 and place the pan(s) on the baking stone/sheet. Bake until the crust is dry and browned. For 14-inch pizza about 15 minutes, for the two pans 5-10 minutes. Take the pizza out, add the salsa and cheese, then place on the stone until the cheese melts, about 10-15 more minutes. Move the pizza to the top rack and bake until the cheese gets a bit of color on it, about 5 minutes. Take out of the oven, cool about 5 minutes then use a big spatula to move the pizza to your cutting board. Be careful, that pan is still hot. Then dig in!