Monday, March 16, 2009

Guilty Pleasures: Supreme Pizzas at the Hut

I find this to be true: that whenever one places dietary restrictions on oneself, the craving for the things that are expressly verboten (it sounds harsher in German, doesn't it?) suddenly surfaces. When I don't make a conscious decision to behave and not eat poo, I'm fine and don't have any unnatural urges to eat poo, but as soon as I say, "I'm being good," that's when the Popeyes and Pizza Hut monster rears its ugly head.

Such was the case this week. I have been very, very bad, and I'm not going to lie about it. I ate an obscene amount of Popeyes' best spicy stuff a few days ago, and downed about half a large Pizza Hut Supreme Pizza. And you know what? It was delicious.

Now don't start calling me a bad New Yorker; I love my thin crust pizza, sweet marinara, oven-baked flavor, and stringy cheese. But in New Orleans, where pizza undeniably (for the most part) really kind of sucks, you develop a shamefaced affinity for franchised fare. After all, with chain restaurants, at least you expect a certain level of mediocrity, so your expectations can only be exceeded. Plus, it's consistent and therefore "safe" no matter what latitude or longitude you order it from.

That being said, I truly do have a love affair for Pizza Hut's pan pizzas. My affection for the greasy, doughy pies stem from a reading program called BookIt! that the company sponsors to encourage children to read. After you read a certain amount of books, you get a certificate for one free personal pan pizza, and when your parents are really gung ho about natural ingredients and fresh food, it's an especially special treat when you get to eat something bad for you, even if your mom will only let you get the cheese one (she doesn't trust processed meat, really, and I didn't have my first slice of any pepperoni pizza until high school).

My preference has since shifted, and I justify my 400+ calorie slices of Supreme Pan Pizza to the fact that it has all these vegetables! The scent of roasted veggies hits your nose first. Sweet, red onions, toasted and slightly charred or burnt at the edges; green bell peppers sliced thin and given the same treatment, with their trademark crisp "green" crunchy flavor; shriveled but still slightly moist snow white mushrooms; and of course, who can forget the hearty, tangy marinara, all crushed tomatoes and basil, oregano, and other herbs? I mean, hell, it's almost like a salad, if you really think about it!

(That's right; keep lying to yourself, you big ol' food whore.)

So fine, I can almost make it okay in my mind and call it a "healthy" meal if I weren't such a glutton and didn't love the periodic burst of meat in nearly every bite. Pizza Hut is pretty generous with their toppings, and slightly crisp pepperoni (I wonder if this is included in their new "everything natural" campaign ...) and browned pieces of non-encased Italian sausage bites offer a great little zing of spice in every mouthful. I just love when the outsides of things have a shell of crunch, and live for the pepperoni with the slightly burnt edges that melt and crumble in your mouth and the sausage bits that offer a bit of resistance like a mini-meatball.

One of the best things, though, is the crust. As a pan pizza, they spray down the pans with some kind of buttery substitute (I'm sure it's not actual butter since that stuff ain't cheap) that gives the crust a lovely rich crisp and a golden brown color at the bottom. Also nice is the thin sheen of grease that forms in the beautiful toasted hollow patches under each slice. Since the sides of the crust on the end are well lubricated with the butter-esque substance, even those are delicious to eat, crispy on two surfaces and richly flavored.

The only downside? Unless you emphasize a dozen times "well done," the crust is never fully cooked through in the center. It's mushy, soggy, and wet-doughy, if that can even be a description, totally ruining the point of each slice. Because of that, it feels kind of cold in the middle, is chewy in the way fresh Bubblicious is after the first few chomps, and outright unpleasant regardless of the tastiness of the toppings, which could also be to blame for the crust's condition. With that much going on atop the pizza and more dough-to-pan contact on the outer edges resulting in more cooking there, it's no wonder that Pizza Hut Supreme Pizzas are never perfectly cooked. Meanwhile, the downside to having the whole darned thing cooked longer is that the top of the exposed crust may get slightly burnt and lose that light "enriched white flour" flavor and some of that buttery taste. But like I said: certain levels of mediocrity. And at just $11 a pizza with the right coupons (which they're always running), you take that with a few grains of salt ... sprinkled on top with some garlic powder.

And why not?

For perfect reheating, and to finish cooking the crust:
  1. Preheat toaster oven to 325. The smaller space allows for faster cooking and proximity to the heat makes things brown very nicely. Also, it's more energy-efficient.
  2. Place pizza on aluminum foil, dull side up. This encourages cooking rather than toasting since the shiny side reflects heat.
  3. Bake for around 7 minutes for 2-3 slices, waiting until the pepperoni is sizzling and slightly indented and partially filled with oil until you take it out.



4 comments:

  1. A friend of mine in Sweden found you and sent me the link... I would never do a blog but if I was going to this would be it. Love it.
    I have food pictures at myspace.com/nolarr
    -Rosalind

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  2. Wow, what an awesome comment -- how cool! Thank you so, so much! I'll definitely check out the food pictures on your site when I get a chance.

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  3. I think BookIt-related pizzas are the only times I've ever eaten Pizza Hut in my entire life.

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  4. Haha, that's probably a good thing!

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