Expectations really are the worst. They make us do unreasonable things. They’re rife with a kind of annoying pressure and stress of self construction. They can drive us completely mad, scrambling to do everything and to do it just right less someone discover the real messiness that is our very human life. That was the case for me last week when I found myself with a to do list a mile long that included such items as pack house, consign old jewelry and once-loved designer purses from an early-twenties phase when you cared about things like designer purses, fix all four of your broken fences, find renters for your house, do two months’ worth of advanced blog photography and recipe development (that one’s actually laughable), clean and prep for going away party, and fight that nasty cold you can’t seem to shake. Oh, and while you’re at it, repair the plumbing that just flooded half your basement.
And amongst all of those things, even including the partially flooded basement, the item that I am completely embarrassed to admit kept me awake at night was the thought of the 40+ people who were coming over to our house on Saturday for one last hurrah before we leave Portland. What am I going to cook for forty people and how can I make it not a big fat disappointment? I wondered to myself at noon on Sunday and 7pm on Tuesday and 2am on Thursday.
If you’ve been hanging around these parts for a while, you know I’m more of a ten-person dinner host than I am a forty-person party host. I like to cook things like zucchini soufflé and homemade pasta with fresh-from-the-garden tomato sauce and finish it all off with some kind of crackle-topped crème brulée. I admit, I get my kicks on fussy homemade food, it makes me smiley. But soufflé for forty seemed unreasonable at best, impossible at worst. And after many moments spent worrying, exhausted to the point of what felt like and probably kind of was delirium, I treated myself to a massage and settled on pizza.
Now here’s the thing about pizza. Pizza is basically every single overwhelmed back-to-school parent and work-too-hard-at-a-job-that-pays-little twenty-something and girl-on-the-verge-of-a-breakdown-cause-she’s-moving-onto-a-boat’s panacea. Easy, versatile, reheats well, only requires turning on the oven for a few minutes. This particular pizza draws inspiration from one I sampled at my local Whole Foods Market a few months ago – a Korean-inspired pizza that they were offering as a special for just one day but that I sometimes not-so-subtly suggest they to add to the menu permanently. Here, I use fresh Whole Foods Market dough, pre-marinated Korean short ribs, and a garlic white sauce that’s sweet from a touch of honey and spicy from a dollop of gochujang. Once cooked, it’s finished with a handful of thin-sliced scallions and a bunch of bright cilantro leaves.
I’d pre-assembled and parbaked the pizzas on this particular Saturday before our party, but for some reason still felt nervous about putting them out for the crowd, knowing that people often expect “more” from someone who works in food. Or at least that’s how I feel sometimes. But nonetheless I heated the grill, tossed the parbaked pizzas onto the grate, nearly burned all of them because I was lost in conversation and just a little bit in the clouds from the IPA, and then presented them on the ugliest platter I own because it was the only platter that wasn’t already in use.
They were gone in minutes. Even more, they got positive mouth-half-full head nods and affirmations from the crowd who didn’t seem to care one bit that I’d neglected to serve them fine dining food or spill-over-the-top soufflés at our farewell gathering. There was pizza, there was them, and there was, in the words of a friend, a permanent smile fixed to my face the entire day.
And just like that, I’m reminded that expectations really are the worst. And, more importantly, that pizza is the answer to everything.
This post was sponsored by Whole Foods Market but all recipes, photos, and opinions are my own. Thank you, friends, for supporting the brands I love and the brands that keep C+M thriving.
- 1 pound of thin cut short ribs, bones in
- ½ cup of Korean marinade*
- 1 15-ounce ball of Whole Foods Market Fresh Pizza Dough
- 1 cup of whole milk
- 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
- 1 medium-sized clove of minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 2-3 teaspoons of gochuchang
- 2 cups of shredded low-moisture mozzarella, about 8 ounces
- 1-1/2 cups of kimchi, chopped, I used Choi’s
- Olive oil, for brushing crusts
- 1 bunch of scallions, sliced into thin ½-inch diagonals
- 1 cup of cilantro leaves, loosely packed
- 1 teaspoon of toasted sesame seeds
- The day before: Add short ribs and Korean marinade to a zip-top bag and let marinate in the refrigerator overnight or, at minimum, for 2 hours.
- hour in advance: Remove pizza dough from refrigerator and allow to rest at room temperature. This step is crucial to working with pre-made pizza dough.
- Preheat oven to 550 degrees F, or as high as your oven will go. Place pizza stone or a large cast iron skillet in the middle rack of you oven and leave there while oven preheats.
- In a small saucepan, heat the milk over medium-low heat until just simmering. Remove from heat and set aside with a lid that covers it tightly. In a separate medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat until melted. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add flour and stir to incorporate but do not allow the flour to turn color. Whisk in milk, a little bit at a time to the flour mixture until sauce is about the texture of a thick gravy. Add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, 1 teaspoon of honey, and 2-3 teaspoons of gochuchang, stirring to combine. Set aside while you prepare the remaining toppings.
- Grill or pan-sear short ribs over medium-high heat until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Once meat is cool enough to handle, pick meat from the bones, discard bones and excess fat, and chop meat roughly.*
- Remove preheated stone/cast iron skillet from oven, being very careful as it will be hot. Sprinkle with semolina flour or cornmeal. Stretch the dough into a circle and lay on the stone/skillet. You may also want to divide the dough in half and form two circles for smaller pizzas if your stone/skillet is less than about 14-inches in diameter. Don’t worry if it’s not a perfect circle, imperfectly shaped pizzas are just fine too. Use a spoon to spread white sauce all over the pizza surface, stopping 1 inch from the edge. Sprinkle with mozzarella and dot with kimchi, as much as desired. Add meat to pizza and brush edges of crust with olive oil.
- Cook in preheated oven for 8 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese is melted. Remove pizza from oven, top with green onions, cilantro, and sesame seeds.
For my Korean marinade, I used a sauce that is available from Whole Foods Market's meat department. However, a store-bought jarred marinade works fine too.