On a warm, July day, when a person (and her husband) is unjustly required to spend the shining hours of the afternoon working, teaching, holding office hours, what better treat could there be than to come home and indulge in a little gourmet dinner?
As I’ve divulged previously, I like cannibalizing from restaurant menus. Usually it’s not the dish I order, but another that was second or third on the list… or just barely missed the final, nervous, rushed decision as the server hovers above me… and I jot down the description on a slip of paper somewhere and try not to lose it in the subsequent weeks.
This time it was that Americanized, fancified Italian food-of-the-common-man: pizza.
Several weeks ago N. and I celebrated Friday by meeting some friends to drinks and dinner. We’d already eaten, so we swore to each other we would only drink one pint (for him), and one glass of wine (for me). Then we went to Agate Alley with our friends and ordered a huge, gluttonously greasy, spicy, salty, decadent basket of onion rings. I ate so many…
While we patted our fingertips on napkins to try and assuage our greasy shame, our friend S. ordered a personal size pizza topped with prosciutto, gorgonzola cheese, brandied figs, and a bright salad of fresh raw arugula, piled high right in the middle. I had never thought of putting figs on a pizza before, but it seemed so inspired. Though S. ate hers without the porky delights of prosciutto (one of those vegetarian types, you know), the idea of wafer-thin slices of cured pork-belly lingered in my mind when I recalled the recipe.
So I, so often operating as Dr. Frankenstein in the kitchen, decided a recreation was required. This pizza would be a hybrid – a loving, daring combination of Agate Alley’s delectable pie and the prosciutto and caramelized onion darling Ree of The Pioneer Woman has developed. With a hunk of gorgonzola languishing in my cheese drawer, it was just the right thing to do.
Ingredients (mostly approximated):
1 lump pizza dough (I shamelessly bought mine, pre-made, from Trader Joe’s fridge section)
1 medium to large sweet onion
2 TB brown sugar
4-6 oz. prosciutto
5-8 dried figs, sliced
1-2 oz. gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
1 cup (at least!) shredded mozzarella cheese
Big handful of arugula or basil
While my pizza stone heated in the oven, I caramelized my onions per the Pioneer Woman’s directions. Then, while I prepped all my other ingredients (grating cheese, slicing figs, playing with the dough), I forgot about the onions for a little bit too long and the brown sugar started to burn. But I decided to just call that “extra-caramelized” and be happy with it.
With the dough stretched, plunked onto the hot, cornmeal sprinkled stone and already starting to shrink back in on itself (it never wants to stay in a 12-inch circle; why not?), I quickly piled on the toppings: a drizzle of olive oil, evenly spread mounds of mozzarella, trailing slices of salty hammy goodness, cheese crumbles, figs, and dark, dark mahogany clumps of onion.
Into the oven at 450F it went, and about 12 minutes later, gasping, I edged it out and clunked it down on my stovetop. Lacking arugula, I sprinkled baby leaves of basil atop the whole thing.
It looked glorious. The crust was crunchy on the bottom, the cheese was golden and bubbling, the prosciutto had crinkled and crisped, and the figs were these dark, seeded pockets of mystery.
We ate. We ate more. The combination of salty and sweet has been hyped for years now, but that’s because it works. The sweet onions and tangy, sugary figs balanced the rich creamy funk of the gorgonzola and the perfect saltiness of the prosciutto. I would have preferred arugula to basil, because the licorice overtones of basil weren’t the perfect match, but the fresh greenness was definitely welcome.
I would never have thought of figs on pizza, but I would urge you to try them in this combination (or just figs and prosciutto, I won’t tell). Sliced thin, they warmed in the oven and just started to create their own glassy brulée atop their honeyed interiors. With chewy dough, creamy bubbling cheese, crisp-chewy ham, soft sweet onions, the crunch of the little seeds inside each slice of fig, popping between the teeth and tickling the taste buds, was the perfect final flavor of each bite.
This would be perfect enjoyed with a crisp, semi-dry white wine, though the beer we drank with it was just fine. It is supposed to be simple fare, after all.