This weekend my wife had a work event that kept her busy during the daytime hours, so I was left to my own devices. I realized it had been a while since I’d sat down and watched some MST3K, so I decided to do that. In particular it had been a while since I’d seen Space Mutiny, one of the funniest episodes ever. Naturally it required the appropriate snacks.
First, I bought Phish Food. This is my favorite flavor of Ben & Jerry’s, but I don’t eat nearly as much ice cream as I used to. I hardly ever buy it anymore, but I used to enjoy it quite a bit while watching some of the old classics.
Second, cheese sticks. My favorite brand is Giorgio, but for several years now they’ve been completely absent from every grocery store I can find. Completely. Wegmans stopped carrying them. Walmart doesn’t have them. Is it a conspiracy against the best mass-market cheese sticks on the planet? No other brand I’ve found has come close, but I did find that Alexia makes something pretty decent. Their cheese sticks are really garlicky, but hey, I like garlic.
Then, I needed pizza skins. This is a classic appetizer at Pizzeria Uno, a restaurant I no longer eat at because they’ve been mismanaged to death; it’s torture going there these days, especially the one in Destiny USA where I first fell in love with the things. But here’s what they are, if you don’t already know: Pizza crust in a deep dish, topped with mashed potatoes, cheddar, and bacon. I set out to make this for myself, and the result was super easy.
Copycat pizza skins
- ½ Pillsbury thin crust pizza dough, unrolled
- 1 package Betty Crocker instant mashed potatoes (will use about 1-1½ cups)
- Shredded sharp cheddar, about 8 oz.
- Bacon bits
- Butter or margarine
- Olive oil
Preheat oven to 450°. Grease the bottom, but not sides, of a cake pan or deep dish pizza pan (6″ to 9″) with a small amount of oil. Open dough and cut in half, then unroll. Place dough in pan and press against edges; trim excess, if any. Bake for about 8-10 minutes. While crust bakes, prepare potatoes using butter/margarine and milk. Remove baked crust from oven, and cover the center with mashed potatoes; you will only use about half of the potatoes if using a package, so save some for leftovers or you can make two batches using the other half of the dough. Cover liberally with cheese in a thick layer. Cover liberally with bacon bits. Continue baking (the temperature can be turned down if you want to make something else, like cheese sticks) for about 5-10 minutes until cheese is fully melted and you can’t stand the waiting anymore.
I specify Betty Crocker potatoes because they’re the best instant I know of, and also they come in pouches for easy measuring. I used the garlic cheddar kind; I also like their butter variety.
The bacon I used was Oscar Mayer, which came prepackaged as bits. If you use prepackaged bacon like I did, this recipe comes together in no time. You can also grate your own cheese, but unless you want something that doesn’t already come in a shredded package (like extra sharp cheddar, pepper jack, or whatever else you fancy), don’t bother.
Of course this recipe is open to lots of variation, so any kind of potatoes will do—including your favorite home recipe, which would probably be way better. If you have leftovers from another meal, they’ll work great here. Use the kind you like best. Want to add chives? I think that’s sick and twisted, but go for it. Mushrooms? Why not? Uno, by the way, serves their pizza skins with sour cream.
When I made this myself I was obliged to use a 9″ cake pan. I didn’t have any other pans handy, and Wegmans had a set of two for just a few bucks. I think 9″ is actually kind of big for this recipe—though it still came out awesome—so I would recommend using a pan with a smaller diameter if you have one, but don’t sweat it. If you try anything past 9″ though, you’re gonna have a hard time getting the crust to hold up under the weight of those potatoes.
Bottom line: If you have all the packaged ingredients on hand, you can throw this together in just over half an hour. If you have the potatoes already made—whether leftover or maybe there’s just a ready-to-heat store brand you like—you can attend to other things while it cooks. It’s a great game day snack, especially if you pair it with something like chicken Parm meatballs—which you can cook while the cheese is melting.