The American dream is built on the notion that anyone from any background can be anything if they put enough blood, sweat and tears into their pursuit of passion. The American dream is also built upon the foundation of crippling poverty that most of us recall as “the college years.” I, for one, was Sally-Struthers-telethon-
After summoning all my strength and courage to find and eliminate the spider (and in the process I was possibly squealing in a manner no man should ever squeal) me and my equally hungry then-roommate, Sarah, boiled the bag of beans and ate them gratefully, but not without a minor grievance. What had appeared to be bean soup in our bowls turned to dust the moment we put it into our mouths. I wish I was exaggerating, but I’m not. That is how old and volatile these beans were.
Ignoring the consistency, we ate until our stomachs were replete and our mouths were coated in the dust of what was possibly decade-old bean soup and concluded that we were, without a doubt, the 99%. To further my point, we also may or may not have once eaten rotisserie chicken out of a trashcan. To be fair it was a really cold house in the middle of winter, it was our trashcan, and it was only in the empty can for a few hours. Does that make it sound better?
No, no it does not.
In addition to garbage poultry and magical beans-to-ash soup, my college years were, in typical collegiate fashion,
peppered littered with pizza. Pizza was my therapist and confidant during that tumultuous time. It gave me the energy to get up and arrive at class five minutes late instead of the typical ten, and dried my ocean of belligerent tears when, at 4 o’clock in the morning during finals week, while blind with exhaustion and 14 pages into my 25 page thesis, my computer committed seppuku taking my thesis down as collateral damage. It was dinner, lunch and breakfast in most cases, and remains the one food from college years that I can still eat joyously to this day and not have to reminisce with the still bitter taste of my once Gandhian level of poverty.
Now that I’m an adult (sort of), I still eat pizza regularly, just with a bit more moderation and flair, constructing them from only the best ingredients to satisfy both palate and ardent appetite simultaneously. I also make sure to conceive them from my own two hands and ingredients rather than that of a furry-palmed, mouth breathing Little Caesar’s associate.
It’s been a good while since I was in college, but the difficulty of those years can pervade time and stick with a person, popping up every so often and reminding us softly what we had to go through to get where we are. There were weeks when I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it with 15 hours of class, 40 or so hours of work, 5 papers a week and barely a minute to fit a meal in edgewise, let alone a dollar in my pocket to purchase said meal. Those years cultivated a skill previously lost on me: prioritization, which kind of forced itself on me like a goon in an alleyway, though without it I admittedly would have never made it to the end. It taught me that, though onerous at times, my life could be lived well enough with very little. Likewise it taught me that a little struggle is good for the ego, that you never forget the times you had to go without, but also that I never, ever wanted to struggle ever again.
But most importantly, college taught me that pizza is awesome.
So I present to you a recipe that is both a nod and a middle finger to those years:
Steak and Arugula Pizza with Red Wine Gorgonzola Sauce
Preparation time: 1 hour(s) 40 minute(s)
Cooking time: 20 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 6
For the dough:
- 1 heaping teaspoon of dry active yeast
- 1 1/4 cups warm water
- 1 tbsp natural honey
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 cups bread flour
- 2 tbsp olive oil
For the sauce:
- 1 tbsp oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 1.5 tbsp butter
- 1.5 tbsp flour
- 1 1/4 cup red wine
- 6-8 oz Gorgonzola cheese (depending on personal preference)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
For the assembly:
- Prepared dough
- Prepared sauce
- 6 oz shredded fontina cheese
- 2 to 3 oz ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup fresh arugula
- 4 to 6 oz ribeye or filet mignon, broiled or grilled rare to medium rare and sliced into thin strips
- Corn meal
For the dough:
- Mix together the yeast, honey and salt into the warm water and set aside for five minutes, or until frothy.
- Put bread flour and oil into a food processor and turn on. Slowly pour the yeast mixture into the food processor while running until all is incorporated into the dough.
- Place onto a floured surface and knead for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
- Place into a greased bowl (or cut in half and place each half into a separate greased bowl if making two pizzas), turning over to ensure both sides of the dough are greased, cover with plastic wrap and set aside for an hour and a half in a warm spot to rise.
For the sauce:
- In a medium saucepan, heat oil and sautee garlic and shallot until translucent and just browned.
- Add butter and flour, mixing well, and continue to sautee until a blond roux is formed. Slowly add red wine while continuing to whisk vigorously.
- Bring to a simmer and add Gorgonzola. Continue to whisk over medium-low heat until the cheese is melted and the sauce is thickened.
- Add salt and pepper and remove from heat.
For the assembly:
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees
- Roll out dough until desired size, sprinkle a baking sheet with corn meal and place rolled dough on baking sheet.
- Top with sauce, making sure to not put too much sauce on as the dough may become soggy.
- Sprinkle generously with shredded fontina cheese and add balls of ricotta cheese throughout the pizza.
- Bake for 15 minutes or until crust has browned slightly.
- Remove from oven and top with arugula and sliced steak.