It was a week or so before Christmas 2017, and I was serving a seven-year sentence in Missouri’s Fairington Correctional Center. In the day room of building 25 Delta wing, I was playing pinochle with some of the guys when Carl said, “What are we eating for Christmas spread?”
We spit balled for a while and decided on a prison pizza. And since it was the holidays, we decided to make it big enough for everyone in the dorm. Then came the question of what to put on the pizza. Well, all eyes were on me at that point. Being the “chef” of our group was my burden to bear. So I suggested a pulled pork pizza.
There was only one problem: we couldn’t get pulled pork in the canteen.
Being a chef has its advantages. A working knowledge of food and the creative skills to execute ideas is a solid life skill. And the whole reason I had suggested the pulled pork was to show off my newest creation, tuna that tasted and looked and even smelled like pulled pork. Shocked? Stunned? Can’t believe your ears? It’s okay, even my friends were skeptical.
The process is actually quite easy. All you need is tuna, pepperoni, pickle juice, BBQ sauces, a whole lot of patience, and a microwave oven. What you get is a slightly healthier version of the real deal. The recipe that follows includes the method. This way you can blow your friends’ and families’ minds!
It should also be noted that a pizza to feed 60 people is a rather large undertaking, especially when in prison with limited resources. But we made a pizza that was 8 feet long and 3 feet wide, the same size as one of those fold out banquet tables.
The list of ingredients for that eight-footer would leave anyone speechless: 60 ramen soups, 5 boxes of Ritz crackers, 6 bags of cheese puffs, 8 bags of egg noodles, six bottles of squeeze cheese, 10 dill pickles, 12 pouches of tuna, 4 bottles of BBQ sauce, 2 bags of Fritos honey BBQ twists, and a bottle of ranch dressing. That came to a total of about $100, which we split it four ways.
By now, I’m sure you’re dying to know how to make this pizza, or at least the pulled “pork” with tuna. The recipe that follows has been reduced for twelve servings. All ingredients can be obtained at your hometown supermarket!
Spicy Pulled “Pork” Prison Pizza Recipe
4 Ramen soups (flavor of your choice), crushed to rice-like texture
2 sleeves of Ritz crackers, crushed
1 bag of cheese puffs, crushed to fine powder
1 cup creamy chipotle sauce
1 12-oz. bag egg noodles, cooked to al dente
1 12-oz. bottle of sharp cheddar cheese squeeze
2 dill pickles, cubed (approx ¼ inch)
¼ cup pickle juice
2 6-oz. packages sliced pepperoni, 1 pkg minced, 1 pkg diced
2 cans white Albacore tuna in water, drained well, or 2 pouches Albacore tuna
¼ cup of your favorite BBQ sauce (Carolina BBQ sauce is fantastic!)
½ cup blue cheese or ranch dressing
¼ 10-oz. bag BBQ flavored chips, slightly crushed
8 oz. pepper jack cheese, grated
4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- Mix ramen, two season packets, Ritz crackers and cheese puffs in a one-gallon Ziploc bag. Carefully pour in boiling water, just enough to cover the ingredients. Protect your hands with gloves, and squeeze the bag to mix thoroughly. Wrap in a kitchen towel and set aside for 20 minutes.
- Mix squeeze cheese, cooked pasta, diced pepperoni, and grated sharp cheddar. Set aside.
- Add pickle juice to tuna. Cook on high power for three to five minutes in the microwave. Remove and add the minced pepperoni. Stir to combine. Continue cooking two minutes at a time, stirring occasionally until the tuna begins to clump into small balls. Add the BBQ sauce and caramelize by continuing to microwave for two minutes at a time. Once done, set aside.
- Check your crust for crunchy bits or to see if it’s sticky. If there are dry and crunchy bits, add about a ¼ cup hot water, mix well and let sit for about five minutes. If the dough is sticky, add about half of a sleeve of crackers and knead into the dough. Once done, coat a 13×9 glass baking dish with cooking spray or oil. Press the crust into the prepared baking dish. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Spread the creamy chipotle sauce over the crust to the edge. Add the mac ‘n cheese and spread it to the edge.
- Sprinkle the pepper jack cheese over the top. Spoon the pulled “pork” tuna evenly over the cheese.
- Add the pickle cubes.
- Cover with foil tightly and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cheese sauce is bubbly and the pepper jack is melted.
- Uncover, reserve foil, and continue baking for 5 to 10 minutes or until the cheese browns. Remove from the oven, cover with saved foil, and let stand 10 to 15 minutes.
- After standing, remove foil and top with blue cheese, ranch dressing and BBQ flavored corn chips.
- Cut into 8 to 12 pieces and enjoy.
*Carolina BBQ sauce has a tangier flavor because it’s mostly vinegar
**Microwaves vary, so for higher wattage you may want to reduce the times
I would recommend a nice side salad, maybe an arugula and strawberry salad with a raspberry vinaigrette. Or an endive salad with lemon juice and olive oil.
Note: We had no oven or stove, and no 13×9 pans. We made our pizza in a clean, cut-open trash bag and spread the crust out on the bag. All we had was a microwave to cook with.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.