Nathan Myhrvold and Martha Stewart talk about modernist pizza
When it comes to pizza, is there really anything new under sun-dried tomatoes?
Well, how about an all-black pizza, made with squid ink and black mozzarella? Or saffron pizza? Or a cheddar-apple-bacon pizza made with “Frankencheese”?
Nathan Myhrvold, the techie / foodie who was Microsoft’s first CTO and founded Intellectual Ventures, introduced this menu today in an online conversation with lifestyle guru Martha Stewart who’s is focused on Myhrvold’s latest magnum opus, “Modernist Pizza”.
In Myhrvold’s mind, the breadth of the pizza palette is one of the reasons why it was worth spending four years of his time researching a topic that has now given rise to a guide in three volumes of 1,708 pages (including over 1,000 recipes and a cookbook).
“It’s amazing how the world embraced pizza – street food for the poor in Naples in the 19th century that became the most popular and important dish in the world,” Myhrvold said. “Maybe it could have started another way, but it’s a hell of a start. And then, based on that, creative chefs and pizza chefs can come up with all kinds of things. “
Myhrvold, whose interests range from dinosaurs and asteroids to next-gen nuclear power and metamaterials, plunged into the pizza world with the same vigor that sparked “Modernist Cuisine” in 2011 and “Modernist Bread”. In 2017. He and his team visited over 250 pizzerias around the world and conducted over 500 experiments to learn about the science of cooking and the culture of pizza making.
One of “Modernist Pizza’s most explosive claims – that the best New York-style pizza is actually made in Portland, Oregon – leaked months ago. But now that the set of books is finally on sale (priced at around $ 400), readers can know where to go and what to look for when it comes to making or consuming pizza.
During today’s chat, most of the jokes between Myhrvold and Martha Stewart were about comparing their favorite places.
“We have a local pizza here. You haven’t come to Mount Kisco, have you? Stewart asked Myhrvold. “Unfortunately, no,” he replied.
“They make a white clam pizza that’s basically linguini alle vongole, that sauce on top of pizza, and it’s their most popular pizza,” said Stewart, who kneaded the dough as she spoke. to occupy his hands. “I went to get it once, because I was quite skeptical. It was actually very good if you eat it immediately. … Have you encountered something like this?
“Well, we have a whole section in the book on how to adapt pasta sauces,” said Myhrvold, who then embarked on a discussion of an algorithm for making a clam sauce that won’t become mellow.
During the conversation, Myhrvold broke a few myths about pizza making and passed on some tantalizing facts. Here is an assortment:
- Some pizza restaurants consider their dough to be the secret to their success, and Myhrvold’s book includes around 50 different dough permutations. But he said most pizza restaurants think of dough “like the marble of their marble statue… they don’t want it to be that interesting in and of itself.” The real secret to pizza dough is how it sits: “The best dough sits overnight,” he said. Myhrvold also noted that throwing dough in the air is “totally for the show”. In fact, the best acrobatic dough spinners use a special type of dough that is not edible, he said.
- All over the world there is a wide variety of styles of crust. In Brazil, the dough is stretched “ridiculously fine,” Myhrvold said. “It’s almost like you’re stretching phyllo dough.” Meanwhile, in Naples, a style of crust known as canotto has caught on. “‘Canotto’ is an Italian expression for an inflatable boat, and the idea is that [the pizza] has a super puffy rim, which if it’s a good paste and it’s tasty, it’s actually really good, ”Myhrvold said.
- Based on his research, Myhrvold prefers electric or gas pizza ovens to wood-fired ovens. “They’re really hard to use, and that’s because the heat source doesn’t stay constant,” he said of wood-fired ovens. “If you’re an expert, you know how to compensate for that. But my analogy is that it’s like riding a unicycle. It’s really tough, and then once you get the hang of it, you can’t do a better job of getting somewhere. For someone on a bicycle, it is much easier.
- In addition to Lovely’s Fifty Fifty in Portland, Myhrvold’s favorite pizzerias include Razza in Jersey City, Enzo Coccia pizzerias in Naples, and Pepe in Grani in Calazzo, Italy. Myhrvold praised another Portland pizzeria, Scottie’s Pizza Parlor, for the way it heats up individual slices. “The problem with a slice is that, unless you’re lucky, the pizza was left outside for a while before you got your slice, and they’ll reheat it in the pizza oven. for a minute, “he explained. “But this guy from Portland came up with a two-step method – two different ovens at two different temperatures in order to reheat your pizza.”
“Modernist Pizza” likely won’t be the last cooking opus to come out of Myhrvold’s kitchen: although the goal of his next gastronomic project has yet to be officially revealed, it should be noted that his lab has recorded the ModernistPastry.com website address. This address currently redirects to ModernistCuisine.com.
And if that’s not enough to keep going, Stewart dropped another clue towards the end of today’s conversation: “Can’t wait to see what you do with the baking,” she said. at Myhrvold.
Correction for 6:30 p.m. PT on October 21: When Nathan Myhrvold referred to the reheating method at a Portland pizzeria, I mistakenly assumed he was referring to Lovely’s Fifty Fifty. He was actually referring to Scottie’s Pizza Parlor. Sorry about that, Scottie (and Nathan)!