The California Pizza Kitchen (referred to as CPK or C-PAK) tradition started my first E3. We were all walking back to the hotel from the convention center and as we walked down Figueroa, we’d pass bars and restaurants but nothing caught our eye. Eventually we got to the CPK and, realizing this was the last restaurant before we’d have to turn down 7th to our hotel, we decided to eat there. We ended up eating there every night of the show because we knew it was there, they let us stay forever and it was far enough from the convention center to not get too crowded. We’d sit back, bullshit, laugh, eat and talk to tons of other other show-goers about everything they saw that day. One night we saw Dan Hsu chatted up by what looked like groupies. Groupies or escorts. True story.
The next year we went back to the CPK every night as well as it had become a tradition by then. I remember the last night of the show, watching the Lakers game on the CPK television and telling Bill we had to get going, like now, because the game was almost over and regardless of how the final score went down, that city was going to explode. The Lakers won, the city did explode and all night we were treated to sirens, helicopters and gunfire. The AC unit in the room was busted which meant sleeping with the windows open and enjoying the cacophony of a city that just lost its shit over a basketball game.
I love going to E3, but I love the CPK even more as it’s a chance to talk to everyone and unwind after a day that ranges from genuine “holy crap, I gotta play this now” interest to “I can’t believe I have 29 more minutes of this demo” dis-interest. All in all, it’s quite tiring and come the end of the day, a beer and a pizza is the perfect pick-me-up before a long night of podcasting and writing.
So, with that in mind, I decided to dust off my recipe for Pepperoni Pizza, revised over the years to meet the approval of my wife’s refined pizza palate. In the interest of saving time, I’m taking this wholesale from my old blog. It’s not plagiarism if I copy from myself, right?
Pepperoni Pizza, Binky Style
1. 1 pizza dough from Publix, thawed if previously frozen and taken out of the fridge for 2.5 hours – feel free to make your own dough. I find it too time consuming and not worth it. Maybe you’re a dough-master, so do whatever floats your dough boat.
2. Classico tomato and basil pasta sauce – I’ve tried a bunch of sauces, even made my own, and we like this one best. It’s somewhat understated, which is good as my wife doesn’t like a real bright sauce.
3. Kroger pizza cheese – This one is very important. Mozzarella isn’t flavorful enough, so this cheese is a blend of five cheeses including mozzarella, parmesan, reggiano and other ones that I can’t remember. Kraft makes one too if you live somewhere without a Kroger.
4. Crushed red pepper flakes
5. Boar’s Head sliced pepperoni – For us, this pepperoni is over by the deli counter, not with the sausage and other pork products. Look for it and pay the extra. It’s well worth it.
1. Preheat your oven to 450. I set the racks so that I have one closer to the top of the oven and one closer to the bottom and shift the pizza between the two. Obviously, your oven will be different so position things accordingly.
2. Roll out your dough for a 16 inch pizza pan. If you have a pan with a slight lip, use it. This will make the crust’s edge a bit thicker, and thereby tastier. You don’t need something as deep as a deep dish pan, maybe a lip of like half an inch.
3. Once the dough is rolled out, spray your pizza pan with cooking spray and place the dough on the pan.
4. When the oven is ready, poke the dough all over with a fork. This will keep large air bubbles from forming when the crust is baking.
5. If you’re only using one oven rack position, bake the crust for 8 minutes. If using two, bake it on the bottom rack for 4 minutes, and then the top for another 4 minutes.
6. Remove the crust from the oven after 8 minutes. Spoon the sauce on the crust one to two spoonfuls at a time. I use a soup spoon, as in a spoon for eating soup, not one for stirring or making soup. It’s very important that you just get the sauce, no tomato chunks. Use the spoon to smooth the sauce all over the crust. You don’t want to over do the sauce. A little goes a long way. When you’re done, the crust should look like it was painted with a light coating of sauce, not completely covered with it. Obviously you can put on as much or as little sauce as you want, but this is the way I do it and it’s been working pretty well. It ends up being about 3 – 4 spoonfuls of sauce. Spread the sauce so that it comes up to about an inch from the edge of the crust.
7. Cover the entire crust with cheese. I use almost an entire 2 cup bag, however you can put on as much as you want. Make sure you evenly coat the crust.
8. Sprinkle a liberal coating of crushed red pepper over the cheese.
9. Put your pepperonin on the cheese so that the pepperoni doesn’t overlap, but instead touches edge to edge. Working from the outer edge of the sauce inwards, you should be able to get 3 – 4 rings of pepperoni, depending on the size of the pan, with a slice in the middle.
10. Take another handful of cheese and sprinkle it all over the pepperoni. This may not sound important but it is very important. As the pizza cooks, the pepperoni will lose some grease. The cheese will melt and mix with the grease, so that when you brown up the top, it makes a really tasty mini-crust.
11. Throw the pizza back in the oven for 10 minutes. 5 on the bottom rack and 5 on the top if you’re going the dual rack way.
12. After ten minutes take a look at the pizza, you want the top to be bubbling slightly with a slightly brown color. You don’t want the cheese to burn, but you don’t want it whitish either. You should hear the pepperoni sizzling slightly. If you’re going with one rack position, take the pizza out, raise the rack, and put the pizza back in with the oven light on so that you can watch the pizza until it’s ready.
13. Take the pizza out, slice it up and enjoy. Be sure to have plenty of beverages on hand because between the pepperoni and the pepper, you’ll need something to drink.
Much like CPK at E3, Friday night pizzas have become a tradition at my house. I always look forward to Friday night for the obvious weekend related reasons, but being able to make a pizza, kick back with a beer and relax is also pretty high up there. Oh pizza, is there nothing you can’t do?
Still hungry? Check out the Don’t Shoot the Food archive.