What's For Dinner: Cast Iron Skillet Pizza

When it comes to lazy-night dinners, pizza is first on the list. Back in the day, for ultimate laziness, we would rely on the frozen variety, but after realizing how simple it is to make pizza dough, these days our pizzas are made from scratch. 

However, as much as I love pizza, I H-A-T-E stretching out the dough. Pretty much every single time I attempt to make a pizza, I let loose with a string of words that would make a sailor proud (and that no amount of Life Buoy could make clean) when holes form and the dough stubbornly refuses to stretch into the shape I want it to. 

However, on a recent episode of The Splendid Table podcast, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, managing culinary director of Serious Eats, described a method for making pizza in a cast iron skillet. I heard this recipe while walking the dogs in the afternoon, and since I happened to have some pizza dough in the fridge, I immediately set to making a cast iron skillet pizza for dinner later that night. 

This is just the technique I was looking for -- no more pizza dough drama, as you just pat the dough into the bottom of the skillet, and voila, it's ready to be topped. The crust cooks up nice and thick and golden brown; if you find the bottom hasn't been cooked crisp enough, after taking the pizza out of the oven, you can cook the pizza in the skillet over the stovetop for a few minutes to achieve the crispness you desire. Like any pizza, the flavor combinations are endless. Though I am partial to a margherita with tomato and basil, for this pizza I went a little more savory with sliced mushrooms and black olives. And cheese. Never forget to use lots of cheese. (Because pizza is really just an excuse to eat a whole lotta cheese, right? That's why I tend to top my pizzas with a ton of vegetables, so I don't feel quite as bad about the massive cheese intake.)  

Cast Iron Skillet Pizza with Mushrooms and Black Olives (printer-friendly version)
makes one 10-inch round pizza

For the crust: 
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
3/4 teaspoons coarse sea salt
3/4 cup water, plus an additional tablespoon or two if necessary

1. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, yeast, salt, and water. The dough will be pretty shaggy and sticky; if it seems too dry, add in a bit more water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm place and let the dough rise for six hours, or until doubled in size. The dough can be refrigerated up to three days before using.

To make the pizza:
1/4 cup pizza sauce
1 cup aged mozzarella, shredded (sold in bricks, not balls)
2 cups sliced mushrooms, sauteed
1/4 cup sliced black olives
1-2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan

1. Preheat the oven to 550 degrees.
2. Add about 1 tablespoon olive oil to the cast iron skillet and swirl or brush to coat the sides and bottom of the skillet.
3. Press the prepared pizza dough into the skillet, completely covering the bottom.
4. Spread 1/4 cup of the pizza sauce over the pizza dough.
5. Top with about 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese, 2 cups sauteed mushrooms, and 1/4 cup sliced black olives.
6. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and grate 1-2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese over top the pizza. Let cool for a few minutes before slicing and serving.