“I’m kind of a heretic of homemade pizza,” says Blaine Parker. “I don’t want you to buy a pizza oven. I don’t insist on a scale to weigh ingredients. I recommend regular, commercial-style low-moisture mozzarella cheese. Hardcore pizza people will hate my book.”
“Hate” might be an overstatement. But Blaine Parker’s book is indeed different. An Amazon “#1 New Release” in pizza making for over a week, it claims that it’s not a cookbook. Call it a how-to guide. It’s called, “Free The Pizza.” Subtitle: “A Simple System For Making Great Pizza Anytime You Want With The Oven you Already Have.”
Why the emphasis on the oven?
“People have been buying outdoor pizza ovens like crazy. A lot of those ovens end up in the garage covered in dust. I know people who buy them and learn a hard truth: it’s not about the oven. The oven does not make the pizza for you. That’s still on you. And when you’re a beginner navigating a tiny, 900-degree oven, that’s one heck of a learning curve.”
Parker knows about ovens and their learning curves. “I’ve owned all kinds, from a $300 pellet-fired oven to a $7,000, half-ton wood-fired behemoth that lived in my kitchen. One of the best pizza ovens I ever owned was a 1950s vintage Wedgewood gas range that reached 650 degrees. But my favorite pizza oven is the regular old, electric home oven that came with my house.”
Is it any wonder? Parker says if he can surround his dining table with friends who are eating what they say is the best pizza they’ve ever had, maybe he’s doing something right.
He also understands why people say the pizza’s so good. “There are so many artisan pizzas better than mine. I’ve had pizza at Mozza, Bianco, Pepe’s and Lombardi’s, just to name a few. And they’re great. But so many people have only ever eaten a commercial-grade, mass-produced product. I’m recommending making pizza using some of the best practices of the craft. And I’m also focusing on making a familiar, American-style pizza. Plus, we’re talking about serving it fresh from the oven. It hasn’t been sitting in a delivery box, steaming itself for 30 minutes.”
He acknowledges the explosion of Neapolitan style pizza places, which are often considered the gold standard. “I appreciate what they represent. I’ve had pizza in Naples, and I’ve even made that kind of pizza myself. But I prefer a pizza with more structure. I like baking the pizza so it has some crunch. Unlike traditional Neapolitan, I the crunchy, chewy, stretchy-cheese American-style pizza experience. And that’s the kind of pizza I’m helping the home pizzamaker make when they use my book.”
So, is he saying that anyone can make pizza? “I am. If you like to cook and you love pizza, and you want to be able to make it better than delivery anytime you want, this book is written for you. My freezer is filled with dough balls and sauce. There’s always cheese in the refrigerator. Anytime I want, I can have a fresh pizza on the table without too much thought or fuss. It’s really about desire and simple preparations. Do that, you have a home pizzeria.”
And there is some professional validation here. The foreword to “Free The Pizza” is written by chef John Courtney, a Food Network Chopped Champion who was trained in Michelin-star kitchens in France. He currently runs Chop Shop, a specialty butcher shop with a wood-fired oven in Park City, Utah where he also makes and sells pizza. He’s eaten Blaine Parker’s pizza and was happy to give the book his endorsement. He calls it “a fun adventure as much for the home cook as for this professional.”
“Free The Pizza” is available at Amazon in Kindle, paperback and hardcover. More about the book as well as the blog and the pizza website are at www.FreeThePizza.com
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Disclaimer: The views, suggestions, and opinions expressed here are the sole responsibility of the experts. No Boston New Times journalist was involved in the writing and production of this article.