Sunday, January 15, 2012

Cauliflower Pizza with Cheddar & Bacon

In a recent post I mentioned that I've been on a bit of a pizza making kick. I still am. This week we had a pizza that seemed—to me at least—a bit unusual: Cauliflower with Sharp Cheddar and Bacon. It was delicious. I have always believed that just about any vegetable could be turned into a successful topping for a pizza and it is in the spirit of that belief that I am sharing this recipe.

Since anything that releases water during the cooking process (i.e. most vegetables) needs to be cooked before it can be used to top a pizza, I sliced and sautéed the cauliflower first. If you prefer, you could roast the cauliflower: Cut it into uniform florets, toss it in some olive oil and roast in a hot oven. I would not recommend blanching or steaming since both of these methods would introduce more water...not to mention the fact that sautéed or roasted cauliflower is so much more interesting than cauliflower that has been boiled or steamed. If you have never sautéed cauliflower before, check out my post on Pasta with Sautéed Cauliflower from last winter.

To go with the cauliflower, I simply chose some traditional pizza toppings that taste good with cauliflower. For a cheese, sharp Cheddar was at the top of my list, but Gruyère and Parmesan would also be good. I think cauliflower needs something salty, so I added some bacon. You could go meatless and use capers and/or olives as your salty component—just add them to the cauliflower sauté towards the end (as in the pasta post). Finally, I added some caramelized onions. I like the sweetness they contribute...but if you are short on time, you could probably leave them off.

As I said at the start, this pizza was delicious. I can't think of a better way to get someone who thinks they don't like cauliflower to give it a try. I love cauliflower now, but this hasn't always been the case. I don't remember the moment when I began to enjoy cauliflower, but I'm guessing it involved either caramelization (from roasting or sautéeing) or cheese....and possibly some bacon. This pizza scores on all points.

Cauliflower Pizza with Cheddar & Bacon

3 strips of bacon (about 3 oz.), cut cross-wise in 1/4-inch strips
1 small onion (4 or 5 oz.), trimmed, halved, cored and thinly sliced
Half a medium head of cauliflower, leaves trimmed and tough core removed—you should have about 10 oz. of trimmed weight
1 to 2 T. Olive oil
1 ball of pizza dough (see below), rested
5 oz. Sharp Cheddar, coarsely grated

Place the bacon in a medium sauté pan and cook over medium-low heat until well-rendered and beginning to crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove to a paper towel. Pour off all but a tablespoon of the bacon fat and add the onions to the pan along with a pinch of salt and increase the heat a bit. When the onions begin to sizzle, reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and cook—stirring occasionally—until the onions are soft (20 to 30 minutes). Uncover, increase the heat and cook until the onions are caramelized—about 10 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle.

While the bacon and onions cook, lay the half cauliflower—cut surface down—on the cutting board. Slice in 1/8- to scant 1/4-inch thick slices. You will have slices of varying size cross-sections and small bits of floret when you are done.

Warm a tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan (the pan should be large enough to hold the cauliflower in a shallow layer—if it is piled to high it will steam rather than sauté) over medium to medium-high heat. Add all the slices of cauliflower to the pan, for the moment leaving the smaller bits behind on the cutting board.  The cauliflower should sizzle gently in the pan.

Allow it to cook undisturbed until the edges are beginning to brown—about 3 minutes or so. Add the remaining bits of cauliflower and a light sprinkle of salt and give the contents of the pan a toss or two (or stir and fold) to redistribute the cauliflower in the pan.

If the pan seems dry, drizzle in a bit more oil. Continue to cook, regulating the heat so the cauliflower doesn't burn and tossing or stirring only as the bits and edges of the cauliflower take on color (the amount of stirring will probably less than you are inclined to do).

Continue to cook until the cauliflower is tender and caramelized.

The volume will have shrunk quite a bit.  When you taste some, the flavor should be concentrated and the texture should be tender with occasional crunchy/chewy bits—it should not seem watery or soft and mushy. The total cooking time will be about 15 minutes. Taste and correct the seasoning. Set aside to cool. Combine the bacon, cauliflower and onions. Taste and season with salt & pepper as necessary.

Build the pizza: On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch circle. Transfer the dough to a pizza pan, baking sheet or pizza peel that has been dusted with flour. Using your fingers, push up the edges of the dough to make a slight rim. Scatter half of the cheese over the dough. Spread the cauliflower mixture over the cheese and scatter the remaining cheese over all.

If using a pizza pan or baking sheet, place the pizza in the pan on a pre-heated pizza stone in a pre-heated 450° to 500° oven. Bake until the crust is golden brown on the bottom and the cheese is bubbling, about 12 to 15 minutes. To insure a crisp crust, slide the pizza off of the pan and onto the pizza stone as soon as the crust is set (after 4 or 5 minutes).

If using a peel, slide the pizza directly onto the preheated baking stone. Bake until the crust is golden brown on the bottom and the cheese is bubbling—about 8 to 10 minutes.

When the pizza is done, transfer to a cutting board and cut into wedges and serve.

Pizza Dough:
1 cup warm water (100º-110º)
1 package (2 1/4 t.) active dry yeast
2 1/2 to 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 T. olive oil
1 t. salt

Place the water in a large bowl and add the yeast.  Let soften for a minute or two.  Add 1 1/2 cups of the flour and whisk until smooth.   Add the oil, salt and another cup of the flour. Stir with a wooden spoon to form a soft dough that holds its shape. Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and sprinkle with a bit more flour. Knead the dough, adding just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking, until the dough is smooth and springs back when pressed lightly with a finger—about 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in bulk—about 1 hour. Punch down the dough and turn it onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into two pieces (for 12”-pizzas) and roll into balls. Cover with a towel and let rest for 10 to 20 minutes. The dough is now ready to be shaped, topped and cooked or frozen.

(Crust recipe adapted from The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins)

Variation for a Whole Wheat Crust: Instead of unbleached all-purpose flour, use 1 ½ c. bread flour and 1 to 1 ½ c. whole wheat flour (the new “white” whole wheat flour is a good choice).

Lunch of leftover pizza and Waldorf Salad


Jennifer said...

Ooh I need to try this. I actually have a head of cauliflower in my fridge. Looks like dinner is solved!

Katrina said...

YUM! (I certainly wouldn't have time for the onions. haha) ;)