Going to Graceland: McMan's Elvis Pizza

John McManamy Health Guide
  • Sometimes I surprise even myself.

    This weekend I found myself spontaneously inviting a friend of ours over for dinner and a movie. The movie part was easy. I had just purchased a box set of Fred and Ginger, just released for the first time on DVD, all lovingly restored (I will wax eloquent on Fred and Ginger in a future blog – tap dancer’s honor).

    The dinner part, well there was hardly any food in the house and our guest was scheduled to arrive in less than two hours. Just enough time to get a pizza dough started (see previous my blog). If you can conceptually rethink pizza as a hot open-faced sandwich, then you will never have to worry about what ingredients you have on hand other than yeast and flour.
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    So what did I have in the fridge and the pantry? Just enough no-fat mozzarella to coat a small classic Italian-style pizza with crushed tomatoes and olive oil. Some emergency Parmesan (the kind you shake out of a container rather than a block that you freshly grate or slice), a bit of Italian sausage and mushrooms, and I was in business.

    Now for my other small pizza. This is typically my “gourmet” pizza, but, alas, I had no gourmet ingredients. What would Elvis do in this situation? I pondered. What was Elvis’s favorite sandwich? No, I decided, peanut butter and bananas wouldn’t do. But wait, what kind of eating joints do you find around Graceland? Aha! The Elvis pizza.

    McMan’s Elvis Pizza

    There they were thawing in a baggie in the fridge, two quarter-pound loins of lean pork, originally destined for no-frills meat-and-potato fare. Now they were headed for an oven barbecue. Barbecue recipes call for much fattier pork, but smart substitutions is what creative (and healthy) cooking is all about. First a little dry rub (my Jamaican rub with nutmeg and allspice and various peppers goes wonderfully with pork) A little dusting on both sides, plus another rub with a celery flavor, then into a baking pan, ready for the oven.

    But first the barbecue sauce. The main thing you have to know about barbecue sauce is it’s basically ketchup and vinegar. I threw mine together in one minute with tomato sauce, sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, emergency garlic powder, and some of the dry rub. Then I splashed a copious supply over the pork, covered the pan with aluminum foil, and cooked at a low oven heat (about 300 F) for about half hour.

    While the pork was cooking, I chopped up the half an onion that was in the fridge (I would have preferred a whole one) and sautéed the large pieces in olive oil until they were caramelized and sweet.

    When the pork was done, I pulled both loins out of the sauce and sliced them into paper-thin strips. In the meantime I boiled down the sauce on the burner to a more desired pizza-ready thickness. By now, my pizza crust was ready, spread out on a nine-inch pizza pan. On went the barbecue sauce, and on top of that went the pork and onions. Over this went a bit of fresh thyme I happened to have handy.

    Now here is where I was truly inspired. There in the fridge was a nearly-empty bottle of no-fat ranch dressing, barely enough for one small salad, the perfect yin to the barbecue sauce’s yang. After whacking the bottle several times I had what appeared to be a mandala version of an original Jackson Pollock. Too bad it was headed for a 500 degree oven rather than MOMA.

  • Six or seven minutes later, I pulled my creation off the pizza stone, and served it with a flourish to my expectant audience. Fred and Ginger were about to start and I had just made the best pizza of my life. Life doesn’t get much better than that.
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Published On: March 02, 2006