The Ultimate Cheeseburger Pizza and How NOT to Make It
This started out as an entirely different post. May being National Hamburger Month, the powers that be at Serious Eats tasked me with creating a "cheeseburger pizza."
"Heh, heh. I'll see that and raise them 20," I thought. "I'm going to make THE ULTIMATE CHEESEBURGER PIZZA." (Note: Yes, this pizza was so epic it warranted CAPSLOCK.)
See, I love cheeseburgers and I LOVE pizza.* Why not mix the best elements of both while paying very, very careful attention to quality and detail? All the chain pizzerias that have failed in this quest just haven't been careful enough, I thought.
What could possibly go wrong?
Turns out ... a lot. By the time I ate my first and only slice of this thing, the wife (aka "Girl Slice") was hiding in the bedroom, complaining ("It smells horrible"). I was sitting at the table sweating my ass off because the oven had been at 500°F-plus for the last two hours, and the fate of this very blog post was in jeopardy. After all, why would I want to write about a failed recipe?
Then I remembered the wisdom of the Slice'rs. One of you, I can't remember who, mentioned in the comments once about the journey being as important as the destination and that you found it just as interesting** to see mistakes. Oh, and there are plenty here.
I was SO DAMN CONVINCED this was going to be awesome that I actually started writing this post before as I was waiting for the dough to rise:
I know all you purists out there are going to moan. That's fine. I was once like you. Maybe still am a little bit. You're asking, "Why, Adam, would you go and ruin two spectacular and noble foods by mashing them together into a god-forsaken hybrid? Why not leave 'cheeseburger pizza' to Domino's?!?"
And I would tell you that you have not had a cheeseburger pizza like this cheeseburger pizza.
I would still say that's somewhat true. You have not had a cheeseburger pizza like this one — and you should never, ever want it.
But check it out... The thought was there:
The crust is Kenji's Easy No-Roll, No-Stretch Sicilian-Style Square Pizza. I figured this would be a hearty enough crust to stand up to the onslaught of STUFF.
The sauce: Again a Kenji recipe. Cheese Sauce for Burgers, Fries, and Chips.
For the all-important beef portion of this affair, I took a page out of Mark Bello's Pizza a Casa Spicy Salsiccia, using his "giant patty" par-cooking technique to create a nice craggy sear on the beef while still allowing it to retain its juiciness like a good burger.
Cooking it over a hot flame until just shy of medium-rare, I had a good crust but left it raw enough that it wouldn't overcook in the oven. Look at the JUICE here.
I suppose the crust could function as the bread element here, but I really thought this thing needed buns, hun. I hit upon the idea of cubing Martin's potato rolls (AHT's favorite bun) and butter-toasting them into crunchy croutons.
Unfortunately, this is where things start to go wrong, wrong, wrong. As one of my Facebook friends said when I posted about this, "This seems very...literal. If you're going to go that far, don't you need sesame seeds?"
Funny enough, a coworker of mine suggested a sesame-seed crust. I think that idea is going into my next iteration of this pizza.
Toppings: First, an observation. Don't you like that both pizza and burgers use the word toppings? I suppose in a cheeseburger pizza, what might be considered a topping (the beef) would actually be an integral core element in a burger. But whatever. Just putting that out there.
This is where the thinking went DANGEROUSLY WRONG. From left: pickles, bacon, white onion, beef, Martin's potato roll croutons, cheddar-mozzarella blend.
The pickles just absolutely killed this thing. I remember when dhorst tried pickles on a pizza to not so great effect. Diana, why did I not heed your warning?!? It's not like pickles don't go with all these other elements, as they do on a cheeseburger, but on a pizza, there's just this cognitive dissonance there, ruining the whole experience.
I'd either remove the pickles entirely or switch them out for jalapeños.
I'm also going to ditch the croutons. I thought they'd give it a nice textural element, but they just ended up burning about halfway though the bake. I removed the pizza and plucked them off, then tried crushing them over the pizza post-bake, for some added "cheeseburger" flavor. Meh. Totally unnecessary by this point.
At this point, I think I have to admit that Pizza Hut in the video up above was onto something. If you're going to do a cheeseburger pizza, there's no need to be so literal. I went against my better judgment here to try to create some sort of mildly viral post by going over the top. I think a minimalist cheeseburger pizza that just hints at the burgerness would be much better. And now I'm sort of intrigued by making one. Watch Slice in the coming weeks for an updated CBP.
* Pizza gets the CAPSLOCK here because it's my true food love. Burgers are a fling, pizza is eternal.
** OK, maybe almost as interesting.