2010 May: Perfect Pies

There was a time not too long ago when the only pizza that even came close to being called “seafood pizza” was a clam pizza (a.k.a. white pizza). I have covered the clam pizza idea in this column several times, and it is still very popular (when simplicity meets good taste head on, what’s not to like)? For example, with a clam pizza it is simply a matter of brushing the pizza crust with garlic oil (or just really good EVOO followed by some finely chopped garlic). Now sprinkle –– lightly –– some clam juice over the olive oil and garlic. Next, take a portion of chopped sea clams and spread those over the pizza. From there, I like to sprinkle on dried thyme and finely chopped fl at-leaf parsley. Lastly, sprinkle on a small amount of finely grated Parmesan cheese. Simple, yet delicious!

If only all seafood pizza ideas were so simple. But that begs the question, where do we draw the line between seafood that work on a pizza and those that don’t? The answer to that is split 50/50 between food costs and common sense.

We might agree that caviar is seafood, but we aren’t going to touch that with a 10-foot fishing pole. We might agree that crab would work for a seafood pizza. Here again, though, considering the cost of real crab, how much would you have to charge for that pizza to eke out a profit?

Recently, in some of the more upscale pizzerias, I have seen smoked salmon making its way onto menus more often (made famous by Wolfgang Puck). And we can use the process of how this pizza goes together as a model for working with seafood pizza. By that I mean the crust is brushed with olive oil and baked until it is cooked through. Once the crust is out of the oven (and you can prep this step well ahead), it is brushed with a creamed mixture of fresh dill and sour cream or creme fraiche. The next step is to arrange the chopped smoked salmon on top of the dill cream sauce. This is one decadent and delicious pizza, but once you work out the food costs and what you would need to charge, it might not be for you, so let’s try another approach, this one using shrimp:

Shrimp and Black Bean Pizza
Yield: one 14-inch pizza (scale up in direct proportion)

1½ cups canned black beans, drained and rinsed

¼ cup chopped red onion

½ teaspoon ground cumin

1 clove garlic, minced

½ pound fresh plum tomatoes, diced (about 1 cup)

¼ cup chopped scallions

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 14-inch pizza shell

6 extra-large shrimp, shelled, cleaned, cut in half lengthwise (If possible, grill or sauté the shrimp in olive oil ahead and set aside.)

3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

In a large bowl, combine the beans, onion, cumin, garlic, tomatoes and scallion. Add the olive and toss to combine.

Spread the bean mixture evenly over the crust up to the border. If possible, grill or sauté the shrimp in olive oil ahead and set aside. Bake the pizza without the shrimp or the cilantro. When the pizza comes out of the oven, add the cooked shrimp (you will have about 12 pieces of shrimp) evenly over the bean mixture. Sprinkle on the cilantro. Serve. 

Pat Bruno is Pizza Today’s resident chef and a regular contributor. He is the former owner and operator of a prominent Italian cooking school in Chicago and is a food critic for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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