Watch Your Temper

When you find yourself far from the food you love, you make do — or you make it yourself.

Over the years, Chef Sin and I have lived in and visited a few different places. Along the way, we’ve come across a lot of great food — dishes we wish we could take with us, and that we later long for. Like turkey pot pie from Strongbow Inn in Valparaiso, Indiana. And kalua pork from Tommy O’s Aloha Cafe in Vancouver, Washington. And that simple plate of nachos served up at the great Rubidoux landmark Gay & Larry’s in Riverside, California.

We can’t get back to some of those restaurants as often as we’d like (even if we wanted to, in the case of the now defunct Gay & Larry’s). So we often attempt to recreate those memorable dishes at home.

As we did to celebrate New Year’s Eve this year, building our own version of the Hot Temper Pizza from Rocky’s in Battle Ground, Washington.

Battle Ground is one of the many small Northwest towns caught midstride between its farm/timber/mining past and its organic/recreation/retiree future. Rocky’s bridges the gap. A squat, two-story log building on the main drag just outside of downtown, this pizza parlor has been a major hangout for the rural communities north of Portland, Oregon, for more than 30 years.

It has survived Battle Ground’s cultural revolution for a reason: great pizza. I used to think nothing of driving an hour round-trip to get Rocky’s takeout. Once a friend and I got a flat tire on the way, and the journey dragged on close to two hours. The pizza was cold when we got home. Still worth it.

Of all of Rocky’s offerings, the Hot Temper was a favorite of ours and many of our then co-workers. Ingredient-wise, it’s nothing special, but all rolled up, it’s one great pie. At home, I made the facsimile simple by buying a dough ball from our favorite pizzeria in our current locale, Flying Pie; why try to mimic the masters?

My sister was visiting from Seattle for New Year’s, and we introduced her to our version of the Hot Temper. Back at home this week, she found a make-your-own pizza parlor in her neighborhood and made one of her own. Good food, it seems, is a communicable disease.

Rocky’s Hot Temper

12 ounces crushed or diced canned tomatoes
2 or 3 cloves fresh garlic
Pizza spices (whatever you like, but probably oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, crushed red pepper, salt)
1 round of pizza dough
Olive oil
8 ounces good quality sliced pepperoni (Boar’s Head, for instance)
12 ounces ground hot Italian sausage, browned and drained
8 ounces whole milk mozzarella
1 medium white or yellow onion, sliced or diced
At least a dozen pickled peperoncinis, or maybe two dozen
Chunk of parmesan, romano, or asiago cheese

In a saucepan, bring the tomatoes to a boil. Crush the garlic cloves and add them along with your choice of spices. Mush it all up with a hand blender or other implement, and let it simmer for 10 to 20 minutes or however long your hunger will bear.

Roll out the dough into something at least as round as the state of Wisconsin. Brush with olive oil; schmeer with tomato sauce; layer with pepperoni, sausage, onion, mozzarella, and peperoncinis in that order; cover with grated cheese and maybe some more pizza spices. Drizzle with olive oil if you have any left or just want to imitate one of those TV chefs.

Slide (preferably with a peel) into a 500 degree oven (preferably on a pizza stone) for eight to 12 minutes or until the crust is brown and the cheese is bubbly.

Not hot enough? Rocky’s makes a version with jalapenos instead of peperoncinis. But that’s just crazy talk.

2 thoughts on “Watch Your Temper”

  1. Holy smoke, Michael! That’s right up there with the best pizza I’ve ever had. I followed your recipe except for the dough, which I made from my usual formula, Added some jalapeno slices to the mix too. Our new favorite pizza. Thanks for the recipe.

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