Also known as pizza bianca, white pizza is a variety of pizza that is made without tomato sauce, either by leaving the sauce out entirely or by replacing the sauce with a white cream and cheese sauce (not white sauce, which is something else). It frequently contains large amounts of different varieties of cheeses (ricotta, mozzarella, provolone, and parmesan), is oilier than regular pizza thanks to olive oil, and is heavily seasoned with garlic and other herbs in an effort to replace the large amount of flavor lost to the lack of tomato sauce.

White pizzas accept toppings the same as other pizzas, but typically do not pair well with heavily seasoned meats like pepperoni and sausage. In my experience, I have had white pizza that contains nothing but the above ingredients; white pizza with onions; white pizza with diced tomatoes; and white pizza with broccoli, onions, and chicken.

Because it is cheesier and oilier than regular pizza, white pizza is very high in fat and makes a very satisfying meal. Additionally, many people find it to be quite delicious, owing to the fact that it is fundamentally a heavily seasoned cheese bread. Depending on your local restaurant's recipe, it may be more or less like regular pizza, but it is almost certain to be delicious. It's just as certain to be bad for you, so enjoy in moderation, please!

I was riding the train home from school the other day and witnessed a public act of vandalism. Some guy in the middle of downtown Portland had a can of black spray-paint and had written on the sidewalk in great big letters:


This hit home for me in an odd sort of way. My father, I believe strongly, has never had anything but the best of intentions when it came to the raising of his children. Still, people are not perfect and my old man, bless his heart, is quite far from perfection himself. I will spare you poor readers the litany of professional opportunities lost, rugs snatched out from under feet, and Saturday visitations from 4:00 to 9:00. I should briefly mention that I am certainly not blameless in this whole affair either. Suffice to say, we get along now, he's not a deadbeat dad anymore, and at this point, I don't know if I'd still bother holding it against him. Besides, while he may not send me fat stacks of cash or a new Bentley every other week, he does make an effort every now and then to make my stay in the Big Scary City a little more pleasant. Chief among these efforts are the morels he goes into the Idaho wilderness to find, pick, dry, and send to me.

When I got back to my house, there was a little package from home in the mailbox. Inside, a jar full of dried chunks of heaven. I paused for a moment to reflect on the nature of fatherhood in America and concluded that I'm pretty well off after all.

My father is a great and jolly sort of man. He detests nastiness of any sort, loves kids, and loves nature. He's still a hippie, in his own way. One of the few people I know who actually does not compromise his principles.

It's harder than you might think.

One of the greatest gifts he helped impart upon me was a love of cookery. They being of the decidedly new-school parent camp, I was encouraged to go about things however I chose. I suppose this amounts to "learning it the hard way". Still, after many horrific messes dumped in the compost heap and burning pans carried outside to stop the smoke alarm (and a hearty helping of parental patience), I have managed to occasionally rustle up something tasty and avoid burning the house down in the same go.

My father loves garlic. Mushrooms, specifically morels, are possibly one of the only foods he loves more than garlic. Combine the two? Sublime alchemy. Perfection.

Pizza for Papa.

White Pizza with Morels

3 cups flour plus a little to spare
1 cup warm water
2 tsp. yeast
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. olive oil plus a little to spare
1-2 heads garlic, the more the merrier
2 shallots, diced up real tiny-like
5-10 morels, cut into smallish pieces (see below)
5-10 crimini mushrooms, sliced 1/8" thin
2-3 fresh roma tomatoes, diced small
1 cup milk
a pinch or two of sugar
a pinch or two of salt
black pepper
asiago cheese
mozzarella cheese (see below)

Cheese: There is a terrible injustice being foisted upon the average American consumer without their awareness. This injustice takes the form of part-skim mozzarella, which is/may be (one of) the reason(s) your pizza you make at home doesn't taste quite the same as the ones they make in the pizza shop on the corner. If you've a decent grocery store around where you live, sort through all the shrink-wrapped hunks of mozz 'til you find one that touts itself as whole milk mozzarella. This is what you are after. This stuff is good.

Don't you dare buy that pre-shredded shit. This is not some late-night drunken snack (not to trash late-night drunken snacks or anything), this is a slow, subtle dish. You're after a sauce that pleasantly, not sharply, introduces itself. Cheese that complements the flavor of the sauce and the texture of the crust. The last thing you want is insipid cheese with awful little grainy chunks of whey everywhere. Yech. Grate your cheese. If, like me, you don't have a grater, just slice it.

Morels: I obviously get dried morels. If you buy or pick fresh morels, ignore the part about soaking them and use them in the recipe as normal. If you've got the dried ones, you're going to want to take the cup of milk for the cream sauce and soak them in it for half an hour or so. This improves both the milk and the morels. Just make sure you drain them on some paper towels or something after they're rehydrated, or you'll get a soggy pizza.

First off, you're going to want to get the dough going. This is a very basic method for dough and you can fancy it up any number of ways. I am quite fond of putting little chunks of minced garlic directly in the crust. If you've got a little spice-shaker in your cabinet that says 'Italian Seasoning', you might want to toss some in there if you like little green flecks in your pizza crust or whatever. That's about all the stuff's good for.

Take your warm water and dump the yeast in. Put the sugar in with it. Stir this up and leave it alone for a few minutes. While the yeast is waking up and getting ready, put the 3 cups of flour in a mixing bowl along with the 2 tsp. of olive oil and the salt. Here's where you can toss in your raw garlic or green shit for the crust. Add the yeast/water mixture. Stir this up a little bit and add a little water if needed. You're going for a cohesive ball of dough type thing here. Stir it some more, throw some flour on your (clean) countertop, and knead it a little. Not too much. You're not making bread here, nor are you making bread jerky. Be gentle. Set the oven to 200°F and set the bowl, covered with a cloth, on top of the stove. Leave it there for a couple hours. Come back when the dough has doubled in volume. Knead it about 20-30 times. Again, be gentle. Part of creating a good crust for a pizza is not overdeveloping the gluten in the flour, which you will do if you knead the hell out of it like I used to. Divide the dough into two nice round portions, unless you've got a gigantic oven and a gigantic sheet-pan at your house. Set 'em back on the stove and cover them. Keep the cloth away from the burners, no?

Then soak your morels (if needed) and get your garlic roasting. Chop the very tops off the bulbs of garlic and put them in a roasting pan. Pour some olive oil on top of 'em. A little more. That's it. Stick the pan in the oven at 350°F for about 20-25 minutes. Keep an eye on it. Remember that this dish is not about sharp, distinct flavors. This means no raw garlic but also no burnt garlic.

While the garlic's going, you'll want to start the sauce. Put the butter in a saucepan and melt it. Chop up the shallots and throw them in there. Cook 'em 'til they're getting clear, but not so much that they brown. Once the shallots are halfway cooked, toss in a couple spoonfuls of flour. Mix it up. You're making a roux, if you didn't already figure that out. Stir the roux around and let it cook for a few minutes. You want it to have a slightly nutty (cooked, but not too cooked!) smell. Once you've got that, (slowly, shaogo reminds me, so that the sauce doesn't get all lumpy and coats everything properly) pour in the milk. Keep stirring. Toss the diced tomatoes in, stir once or twice more, and let it simmer for a few minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, take the garlic out of the oven. Make sure it's nice and properly roasted. You don't want any firm chunks of garlic. It should smoosh into an unctuous, wonderful smelling paste with little more than a touch. The outsides may be a little crispy and brown. This is fine too. Get all the garlic separated from the skin and mash it up with a fork. Stir this delicious stuff into the sauce and keep stirring it. Toss in a pinch or two of black pepper. Turn the sauce off.

I'm not quite sure how to go about explaining the throwing of a pizza, but I'll give it a shot. Gently, take one of your round pieces of dough and put it on a countertop dusted with flour. Cornmeal would be better. Lay the dough on the counter and press your fingers into the dough about a half-inch or so from the edge. Turn it ever so slightly and repeat. What you're going for here is a round piece of dough with a ring of fingertip marks evenly spaced a little ways away from the edge. If you properly kneaded and gently handled your dough, you should now be able to flip it over. Stretch it out, manipulating only the depressed area and the dough immediately inside it. Don't crush the middle. The reason you do this stuff all on the edge is so that the air will stay in the middle portion of the dough and make it a little fluffier. You don't have to completely avoid touching it (though that'd be nice), just don't sit on it or like rest your iron on it or anything. This is not a cracker-crust. If you're feeling super-competent you may wish to do that pizza-throwing maneuver. I don't, because 1. I'm not usually very competent and 2. as a result of 1. it usually ends up on the floor. Which does not taste quite as good.

Okay, so your crust is stretched, your sauce is simmered, your cheese is grated and your morels are sliced. Make sure your oven is heated to 400°F. Assemble your pizza! Stick it in that oven for just on the short side of 20 minutes. Pull it out when it looks as though it's just about to start browning on the top.

Let it sit and cool off for a minute. Admire your lovely creation. Then cut it into pieces and stuff them into your gaping maw.

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