Book Review: Thursday Night Pizza—Father Dominic's Favorite Pizza Recipes

Well, now, you just knew this Italian girl would find a book like this! From the moment I received Thursday Night Pizza—Father Dominic's Favorite Pizza Recipes, I was putting on my Italian flag apron and getting out my pizza stones.  Written by Father Dominic Garramone, O.S.B., of public television's "Breaking Bread" show, this monk certainly knows his way around the kitchen. After all, he's been in charge of making pizzas for his fellow monks for twenty years. Ask them, and they'll tell you that nobody makes pizza like Father Dom.

Why Thursday, you ask? After all, isn't Friday night usually pizza night?  Not at the Saint Bede Abbey in Peru, IL, because Friday is a fasting day year 'round. This makes Thursday nights at the abbey haustus night. Haustus is derived from the Latin hausere, meanig  "to be filled. "  And fill up these monks do on Thursdays, with relaxing community time and recreation, music, rousing games of Uno and Scrabble, lots of yummy snacks and drinks, and, of course, Father Dom's incredible pizzas.  With this 115-page book of Father Dom's from Reedy Press (2010), we can be there on haustus night with the priests...well, sort of!

I was a little skeptical at first. I mean, I already had my own versions of homemade pizza dough and sauce, and my family and I liked them just fine, thank you very much. But I was intrigued. And I love cookbooks. And to top it off, Father Dom seemed funny with a good sense of humor.  And a paisan, to be sure! But deep down, I just knew my dough and sauce would win out over Father Dom's! Off to the confessional to confess the sin of pride...but first: time to make the dough!

After studying Father Dom's instructions and techniques, I shooed everyone out of the kitchen. It was time to get to work and I didn't want any distractions. It was my own version of Bobby Flay's smackdown...except Father Dom wasn't in my kitchen.  It would have to be an imaginary culinary smackdown!

I opted for the Basic American-Style Pizza Crust from page 30, since it was closest to the one I usually make.

Doing an inventory of the recipes included in the book, I found that Father Dom offers 19 pizza options and two dessert-style pizzas. He also includes five tasty appetizers. But I wanted dinner.  I did a quick check of what I already had on hand, and decided on the Broccoli Chicken Pizza. It called for preparing his white veloute sauce, not your basic tomato sauce, but it sounded delicious, so I forged ahead.

I made the dough, and liked what I saw as it rose:

It was rising beautifully.  I was impressed by the texture.  Okay, chalk one up for Father Dom.

Next, I started the veloute sauce, which is a white sauce made with chicken stock, butter, flour and milk. I seasoned with salt and pepper and sneaked a taste.  Yum! Velvety and creamy. Father Dom's 2 for 0.

I chopped broccoli and some leftover cooked chicken. I opened a can of black olives and sliced those.

It was finally time to assemble the pizza...and bake it at a whopping 500 degrees on my pizza stone. The temperature seemed a little high, but I wanted to follow Father Dom's recipe exactly.

As it baked and I smelled the delicious aroma, I knew I'd be a goner. And when it came out?  Well, see for yourself:

As I bit into it, I heard angels singing. The sun burst through the clouds. Yes, it was that incredible.  The crust was crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, just like Father Dom had promised. I promise to always, always use bread flour in my pizza crust, Father Dom. The white sauce was creamy and the perfect complement to the chicken, mozzarella, broccoli, and olives. We were hooked.

But what about the red sauce? I had to test that as well. The book offers ten different pizza sauces, but on another night I chose the quick and easy 8-Minute Pizza Sauce. This winner calls for a 1/4 cup of red wine. Oh my. As it was simmering on the stove, I knew I had been beaten.  It beats my old pizza sauce by a country mile. It had the perfect consistency and amount of zing. How long had I been searching for the perfect pizza sauce?  Too long!

I give up, Father Dom.  You win!

Now can my family and I please get an invitation to haustus one of these Thursdays? We play a mean game of Scrabble...

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