St. Louis-Style Pizza and the Weird Processed Cheese That Makes It Great


– Now I’m kinda puttin’
my shoulder into it. – And that’s what
develops the rolled crust. – Right. The Neapolitans would probably be cringing in their Italian villas. – Yeah, like they were
totally fine with the Provel. – Yeah. – It’s the way you were
pressing the dough. That’s the problem. (words whoosh) Chef Justin at Speedy Romeo
in the Lower East Side. One question, what the
(bleep) is St. Louis pizza? – St. Louis pizza, to really
put a definition on it, is Provel cheese. It is a processed cheese. It has liquid smoke mixed into it. They say it’s a mixture of
provolone, cheddar, and swiss, which, to me, seems like an impossibility, but that’s what it says on
the side of the package. – Sounds like American ingenuity to me. – Exactly. – You’re from Missouri originally, right? – I grew up in Kansas City. Come midnight, we would go hit the streets and go to a place called Imo’s Pizza. Once we opened the restaurant in Brooklyn, I selfishly needed to
get these ingredients to create that pizza
that I’d had as a kid, but then also make it as good
as I can possibly make it. – So it starts with this
dough, you were saying, and what goes into this? – So this is water, two
different types of flour, fresh yest, and salt. They’re mixed, then we take
it out, put it into containers and let it sit out
overnight, room temperature. We portion the balls to this size and then let them sit in the
refrigerator overnight as well. So it’s a 48-hour process. – So it’s very simple ingredients, but it’s that time is
what develops the flavor. – Exactly, right, yes. – So you got your dough, and
you just start shaping that. – Right, so you’ve got the dough. I like to put it onto a pile
of flour just to make sure that it’s not going to stick
to the surface of the counter. From here, I’m just putting pressure into the heel of my hand. This is where you’re gonna really start to form your crust structure for the dough. So from here, then, I’m
putting some pressure through the middle to
kind of give the dough a little more structure. I could pick the dough up and basically let gravity stretch it out. – You gonna give us a little? (laughs) – Not so much, no. It’s just a gradual
stretching of the dough to the size of the pizza. From here, what we like to
do is just transfer this to a spot that has a little less flour. Stretch it out to
basically our final shape. Now we can start to top the pizza. – With your tomatoes, you
just San Marzanos and– – Yeah, just San Marzano. We basically puree that with
some salt, and that’s it. It’s a light amount of this because you’ll find
that the cheese itself, once it starts to melt, it
all kinda bleeds together. So always start from the
center and work your way out. Then, from here, we’re putting
a hot soppressata down. – [Jeremy] So you put the
meat down before the cheese. – Exactly. This is also another protective layer in between your sauce and your cheese. You want good coverage. We don’t skimp on the pork here. And then, next is
house-made Italian sausage that we make here. This is fennel seed, lots
of pecorino, parmesan. Then it’s the Provel cheese. A little bit of this goes a long way. – [Jeremy] Is it almost gonna
melt down like a Cheez Whiz? – It’s gonna become that sort
of American cheese consistency once it goes to melted. From here, now, we’re adding
parmesan and pecorino cheese. then after that, we put good
amount of dried oregano, and then a little extra red chili flake. So from there, we’re
ready to go in the oven. We like to make sure it’s nice and hot. You know, we’re at 800 degrees back there. That’s the ideal range, 750 to 800. You can see exactly what’s
happening to the dough. – Yeah. – So you can see your crust
is starting to bubble up. That broiling of the flame is really what’s going to melt the cheese the way we need it to, as well as put the color on the crust. And then, once it starts
to get that color, we know it’s time to move it. It’s all just like a rotisserie. You can see the color,
now I’m just turning it. – [Jeremy] Yeah, just wanna do a little quarter turn, half turn. – So it’s about a 90-second
process, all in all. So you also wanna look
underneath to make sure that you’re getting some
color underneath there so that it will give you that crisp once you’re slicing through it. Once you’ve got color on
all sides here, as you see, what we like to do is basically
give it a little broil. So you can just set it up
near the top of the oven. – [Jeremy] Just to get
that last blast of heat on that delicious Provel. – Right. So now, here we are out of the oven. – [Jeremy] Oh wow. – Voila. So you see what happens
to that Provel cheese? It basically caramelizes
on top and creates a crust. You can feel that there,
it’s nice and crispy. But then you can see underneath that it’s super creamy and moist. In classic St. Louis style,
we cut it into squares. So one cut down the middle, another cut to the left and right, and then same thing in
the other direction. All right, so then we add
pickled chilies to this. So these are chilies that are sliced. Salt, sugar, little bit of sliced garlic, and then white wine vinegar, and those just sit for about two hours, then they’re good to go. We put this on everything, but it really accompanies
this dish very well. – [Jeremy] That acidity of the pickles. – [Justin] The acidity, yeah, you kinda– – [Jeremy] Just cuts
through that creaminess. – Exactly. And that’s it. The St. Louis pizza at Speedy Romeo. (upbeat pop music) For me, this is the definition of umami. You know, you’ve got
your wood-fired dough, San Marzano tomatoes that
has some of that acid in it, hot soppressata, you
have the cured pork fat, you have fresh Italian sausage with that fennel seed in it. – That really comes through,
the Italian sausage. – Yeah, the Provel cheese,
which has liquid smoke in it, that’s glutamic acid
from your cheese process, to the caramelization on top. – It’s like a nice spiciness too, not just the peppers, but from
the Italian sausage as well, and the chili flake that you put on there. – You know, I was very suspect to what the customers
were gonna think of this. This is not a New York
style pizza in any way. It’s not a margherita
pizza in any way either. This pizza is second most
popular to the margherita. – [Jeremy] All the displaced
people from St. Louis are now beating down
your door to get here. – [Justin] Exactly.

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