People have an obsession of making food taste like other food.
This concept is very childish. It’s kind of like naming an animal after another animal. Then again, I did name my cat Cricket after that bug-like chirp she makes often. I suppose, then I too, am very childish. Some of my best friends are stuffed animals. But as you know, I’m 34, and my life is just a black hole of despair. The only thing I have to look forward to someday is cold empty oblivion, a swirling mass of nothingness, and the black void would still be better than my loveless and jobless life, where I am destined to be that lonely guy who ends up dying in his easy chair, whose corpse isn’t found for 10 years and is fused to the furniture.
“Ha ha, I’m so hilarious. Such a kidder, that Dannis Ree,” I say to myself, the tears streaming down my haggard and world-weary face.
But seriously, how poorly does your food taste that you have to make it taste like another food?
I don’t have numbers to back this claim up, but I believe the second most flavor-imitated food is based off of pizza. My guess is that bacon-flavored items are first. Bacon-simulated items are a true crime against physics and nature; they always taste like acrid burnt rubber and they put you in a deep rage. Never buy bacon-flavored anything except for maybe condoms and lube. That is your mother’s favorite odor combination, bacon and sex. She makes these weird bacon and sex scented candles that make me throw up every time she lights them.
So I asked myself, “Dannis Ree, how can you take stupid pizza-flavored food and make it even stupider, even though it is already stupid?”
And thus I had it: Pizza-flavored Pizza. I would take pizza-flavored items and make a real pizza with it. I am the culinary version of Victor Frankenstein.
For this particular foray into culinary hell, Harvey, Mr. Bee, and I went on a field trip and visited my friend Derrick Tung, who is a pizza master. He has had a new pizzeria in the works for a while now, so when the doors open, I will tell you all about it and make all of you go. Derrick is a very nice guy and I met him through the comment section of Serious Eats. Who said you can’t strike up a bromance that way?
Before I visited, I purchased what may only be described as a vulgar amount of pizza-flavored items: Pizza-flavored Pringles potato chips, Flavor Blasted Pizza-flavored Goldfish (I flavor blasted your mother last night), Pizzeria-flavored Combo pretzels, Pepperoni Pizza Hot Pockets, a pepperoni pizza Lunchable knockoff, gourmet (my ass) pepperoni pizza-stuffed pretzels, Stouffer’s pepperoni pizza macaroni, Totino’s Pizza Rolls, Cheese Pizza Lunchables, and Cheese Pizza-flavored Spaghettios.
I’ve listed all of this off with utter glee and horror. Who knew there was this much pizza-flavored garbage out there?
To start, I had to cook the toppings as recommended by the packaging. All of these items were microwaved accordingly. I haven’t microwaved this much food since I was last on a week-long bender, waking up in seedy brothels, cradled in your mother’s arms, my memory fading in and out. Those were the good ol’ days. Actually, it was just yesterday.
After I did this, I scooped out the inside of the Hot Pocket, chopped up the Totino’s Pizza Rolls and pizza-stuffed pretzels, and I left the macaroni as-is. Then I prayed to the Heavens for spiritual forgiveness.
I heard a booming voice say shortly thereafter, “Dannis, you’re fucked.”
Next, I tore open the Lunchables and its knockoff with an unwavering determination to get this job done.
I don’t understand how children eat this shit.
You’re supposed to assemble it into a pizza-like disc, and then eat it uncooked. The cheese tastes like skin shavings you get from your heel after using a pumice stone to violently rip it off, the sauce tastes like tomato candy, and the dough tastes like pita bread with leprosy. The worst part is the “pepperoni.” It is just a counterfeit pepperoni, with the texture of bologna and the flavor of fabricated meat failure.
Either children are stupid (yes), or their parents are showing their unbridled laziness by allowing them to eat this horseshit (also yes).
Now it was time for the dry ingredients. I have a confession to make: Pizzeria Pretzel Combos are my favorite road-trip food. I don’t often have a craving for them on a regular basis, but as soon as I hit the road like a mentally stunted version of Jack Kerouac, I always pick these up at the first stop. I always throw some at your mother’s head too, because I always seem to “randomly” run into her at truck stops with makeup smeared all over her face.
Chop chop chop. Chop the Combos. Chop your dick off. Like this rapper did.
Derrick, the pizza master that he is, kindly prepared some real pizza dough beforehand. This is legitimate, lovingly crafted dough. He used a 62% hydration ratio, one day cold fermentation in bulk, an additional day of cold fermentation in single portions, with regular-ol’ all purpose flour.
Now, I can see some of your eyes bleeding. This is how pizza perfectionists do their work. Derrick described this recipe as his version of New York-style pizza dough. When you go to your favorite fancy pizza place, just know that this is what those homeboys are doing in back to ensure your pizza tastes great.
Cold fermentation means that Derrick let the dough rise in the refrigerator. What that does is it allows the dough to ferment slowly, and this process adds a deeper bready flavor with you having to fool around with it a lot less. It also gives the dough a stronger gluten structure, giving the final result a better texture. After it’s done rising for a few days, all you have to do is pop that fucker out and start using it.
Food science, clowns. Learning is cool when you fucking put swear words in it.
Now, for the sauce, we used the Cheesy Pizza SpaghettiOs (I lost IQ points just typing that out) in its entirety.
There are no meatballs in Cheezy Pizza SpaghettiOs, just sauce and noodles. SpaghettiOs are just like alphabet soup that only contains the letter “O.” The “O” stands for “Ohthiswasabadidea.”
We simply took the contents of the can and used the whole thing as the sauce base. This is a riff on Adam Kuban’s SpaghettiOs pizza that you can read about at Serious Eats, in which I am also, coincidentally, quoted (for real!).
As you can see, the sauce was a little thin on its own, so we used the Lunchables pizza sauce to give the dough a saucy red rimjob around its circumference. In most cases, a rimjob resulting in a bright red color is something to be alarmed about, but with pizza, that’s exactly what you want.
Derrick carefully slapped the rest of the pizza-flavored ingredients on the pizza, taking care to cover the dry bits with cheese so they didn’t burn in the oven too quickly. However, Lunchables don’t have much cheese at all, so we were a little light in that department. The pizza-stuffed pretzel, Hot Pocket, and Totino’s pizza rolls did thankfully add a little more cheese.
This abomination was now ready for the hellfire of the oven. Where it truly belonged.
Voila, assbags! C’est magnifique! Or more like, la sua magnifica! Mangia, mangia! Ravioli, mezzaluna, linguini, pastrami! Gabinetto!
But, of course, I can never leave well enough alone. Don’t think we forgot about the other dry snacks. We placed the Finger (Flavor) Blasted Goldfish and the Pizza-flavored Pringles in an adorably small food processor and blitzed them until they were a coarse powder.
I could snort this inoffensively pizza-flavored shit off your mom’s buttcheeks.
And in fact, later, I did.
Make it rain, bitches!
This was in place of a finishing cheese like grated Parmesan, which a normal human being would use. I am not a normal human being. In fact, I have my doubts about the point of my entire existence.
Take a look at that! It looks like a real pizza! I was extremely impressed at Derrick’s skills and my ingredient-picking ability to make a pizza-flavored pizza.
How did it taste?
Disappointingly, and delightfully, it tasted like actual pizza. It was hard to determine just what kind of pizza it tasted like, but it tasted like generic pizza on a deliciously crisp and chewy crust. With that many different pizza-ish toppings, it was difficult to discern between ingredients in each bite, but there wasn’t a single flavor that felt out of place. Derrick had family members over that night who tasted the creation, and everyone looked around and said incredulously, “This is…this is actually okay! Needs more cheese, though, then I’d be very happy.”
Man, I was hoping this one was going to taste like weird chemicals and sweaty ass, so I could go off on a tirade about how stupid it was to flavor food after other food. It was actually delicious, and the entire pizza was devoured in a matter of ten minutes. Goddammit. Also, Harvey and Mr. Bee came home covered head to toe in flour.
I’m going to leave you with a Totino’s Pizza Roll commercial that actually is a great depiction of what goes on in my head every moment of the day.
Bonus points if you watch the whole thing.