Skillet-Fried Pizza

My husband Ben is a pizza junkie. He grew up in Chicago where he delivered pizzas for Lou Malnati’s and eventually moved to New York where he made it his mission to try and critique every famed pizza joint the city and its boroughs had to offer. Then Ben settled in eastern North Carolina where the pinnacle of the pizza scene is Papa John's and Little Caesars. Bless his heart. 

The lack of quality pizza was difficult for Ben to accept, so I went to work on making pizza with a chewy crust, blistered edges and quality toppings at home. I knew high heat was key. I also knew my oven would never heat a pizza stone to the blazing temperature necessary to achieve those results. So I looked for a different approach, and the key tool for the job turned out to be my cast iron skillet. That skillet and the oven’s broiler made Ben’s dream possible. We make pizza all the time at home now. And if I’m not up to making dough from scratch, I buy it at the supermarket and divide the ball of dough into thirds to suit a 12-inch skillet. Any toppings you like work just fine, but the marriage of slightly bitter turnip greens with sweet Italian sausage and smoked mozzarella is one of my favorites.

1/2 teaspoon dry active yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons room-temperature water
2 cups bread flour plus more for dusting
3/4 teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling, divided 
½ cup marinara sauce, divided
½ bunch turnip greens, blanched and shocked
½ pound Italian sausage, crumbled and browned
1 round smoked mozzarella, sliced into 1/3 inch thick rounds
Salt, to taste
Parmigiano-Reggiano, for grating

Make the dough: In a small bowl, combine the yeast, sugar, and ¾ cup water and stir. In a mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, 2 tablespoons water, and salt and stir to evenly incorporate. Add the yeast mixture to the flour and process on low speed for 4 minutes. You are looking for the dough to form a coarse ball. Turn the mixer off and let it rest for 2 minutes. Process again for 3 minutes or until the dough is very smooth, comes off the sides of the bowl, and just sticks a little to the bottom. If the dough seems to be too sticky to come together and hold its own, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time. If it’s too dry, add water in the same way.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and cut it into 4 equal portions. Roll each piece into a ball and place it on a greased baking sheet. Cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and let the dough rest at room temperature for 10 minutes. If you need to use it that day, let it proof at room temperature for an hour. Then take it off the baking sheet, punch it down, and reshape it into balls. Refrigerate at least an hour before using. (We allow our dough to ferment for 2 days, refrigerated, before using, but it’s perfectly acceptable if you don’t.)

No matter how long your dough has been in the refrigerator, bring it out 30 minutes before you want to roll it out. It will make it much easier to work with.

Build and bake the pizzas: Preheat your broiler. Just before you’re ready to cook your pizzas, heat a 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Stretch your first dough into a 12-inch round. Drizzle about 2 teaspoons olive oil over the bottom of the skillet and carefully drop the stretched dough down into the pan. Let the bottom crisp up and brown nicely. Flip it over in the pan. Lower the heat slightly and quickly build your pizza on the crispy side of the dough.

Start by spreading a scant ¼ cup marinara over the bottom of the crust. Then lay down half turnip greens. Sprinkle with half with sausage, and finish with half of the smoked mozzarella, slices, a sprinkle of salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Slide the skillet into the oven and broil for about 4 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the sides of the crust are blistered and brown. Bring it out of the oven and drizzle with a little more olive oil if you like. Grate Parmigiano-Reggiano over top. Serve and repeat to make the second pizza. (You can allow the remaining dough to ferment for 2 days in the refrigerator for two days.)

Yield: 2 (12-inch) pizzas