Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Pizza with Kale, Pancetta & Goat Cheese

I mentioned last month how much I was enjoying cooking and eating kale this spring. My enjoyment has not abated...I have purchased a bag of the early crop kale every week at the farmers' market. More than once I have served it on a pizza. If this sounds like a strange way to eat it, let me assure you that it is delicious. Almost every time I have posted a recipe that includes kale I have pointed out that kale is an excellent partner for bland, starchy foods....potatoes, shell beans...or bread. A couple of years ago I posted a recipe for a Kale, Potato & Black Olive Pizza. This spring I have been making a variation that I described in that post—one with Pancetta and Goat Cheese.

I should point out that the kale that I use for this pizza (and the previous one) is a mix of Red Russian and Siberian Kales. The grower that I purchase them from harvests the leaves when they are still young. As kale goes, they are tender and cook relatively quickly. If you don't have access to this type of kale, you can still make these pizzas...but instead of just wilting it directly in the pancetta and spring onion mixture, I would recommend blanching it first. Simply drop the leaves (after stripping out the stems) into a large pot of boiling salted water. Cook until tender. Drain and spread on a baking sheet to cool. When cool, squeeze out the excess water and chop coarsely. Add these cooked leaves to the pan just after the garlic and pepper flakes (as directed in the recipe), but only cook for a few moments—until any remaining water has cooked away, some of the leaves are beginning to shrivel a bit and have been infused with the flavor of the spring onions and pancetta.

Wilted kale, pancetta and spring onions

I have made this pizza with both pancetta and bacon. I prefer pancetta...but I would make it again with bacon if that was all I had around. American bacon is usually fattier than pancetta, so additional fat in the form of olive oil isn't necessary. The pancetta that I use is the packaged, pre-sliced kind. It comes fairly thinly sliced and laid out in a shingled strip of slices. Since I don't use large quantities of pancetta at one time, I freeze the whole package and when I want to use a bit, I just pull the package out of the freezer and cut off what I want while it is still frozen and return the rest to the freezer. For the 1/2-inch pieces called for in the recipe, I just cut 1/2-inch strips and then cut these strips crosswise at 1/2-inch intervals. I'm cutting across stacks of slices when I do this, but as the pancetta thaws (which happens very quickly), the slices separate. The resulting pieces of pancetta are fairly uniform—at least enough so that they cook at the same rate.

I think almost any cheese would be good on this pizza, but I'm particularly fond of the tang that a nice goat cheese adds. I used a soft Montrachet style...but an aged Bûcheron would be good too. Additionally, I always like to put a nice melting cheese on a pizza—something like Fontina or low-moisture Mozzarella. I used Dubliner on this pizza. If you read my blog regularly you will have noticed that I use Dubliner quite a bit. It's one of my favorite all-purpose snacking cheeses, so I almost always have it on hand. It happens to be very good on pizza.

If you are looking for a new way to use kale (maybe some nice young leaves that have appeared in your CSA box), pizza would be a great place to start...particularly if you are trying to convince a dubious family that they would really like kale if they would just try it.  Pizzas are a great place to improvise, so don't feel like you can't turn your kale into a pizza if you don't have all of the ingredients in your pantry that I have used on my pizzas.  If you cook the kale as directed here (or in the other post), use a light hand with the toppings (pizzas with too much topping tend to come out a bit soggy) and consider that kale really shines when combined with tangy and salty foods, you should end up with a delicious pizza that you will want to make again and again.

Pizza with Kale, Pancetta & Goat Cheese

1 T. olive oil
2 1/2 oz. pancetta, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 large spring onions—white part and a few inches of green—trimmed and thinly sliced
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
a pinch pepper flakes
1 bunch Kale (about 1/2 lb.), ribs removed and very coarsely chopped
Pizza dough (see below), rested
1 T. olive oil
3 1/2 oz. coarsely shredded Dubliner—or any nice melting cheese (Fontina, White Cheddar, low-moisture mozzarella, etc.)
2 1/2 oz. crumbled goat cheese

Warm the olive oil in a wide sauté pan over moderate heat. Add the pancetta and cook until rendered and just beginning to brown and crisp. Pour off all but about a tablespoon of the fat. Reduce the heat slightly and add the spring onions to the pan along with a pinch of salt (be careful, pancetta is salty). Cook the onions until wilted and tender. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant...a minute or two.

Begin to add the kale to the pan a handful at a time, turning it as you do to coat in the hot oil and adding another handful as the previous one begins to collapse. When all of the kale has been added and it has all collapsed. If there was still some water clinging to the kale after washing it, simply cover the pan and reduce the heat. If the kale was dry, add a splash of water to the pan before covering. Cook until tender—about 20 to 30 minutes. Check the kale occasionally as it cooks, adding water if the pan seems very dry. When the kale is tender, remove the lid and increase the heat. Continue to cook until all of the liquid has evaporated and some of the kale has begun to look shriveled. Set aside to cool.

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 lightly dusted with semolina, fine cornmeal, or flour. Using your fingers, push up the edges of the dough to make a slight rim. Spread a thin layer of olive oil over the crust. Scatter 2 to 2 1/2 ounces of the Dubliner over the crust. Scatter the cooled kale mixture over the cheese. Top with the remaining Dubliner and crumble the goat 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 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 12 minutes.

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

Pizza Dough (adapted from The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins):

1/2 cup warm water (100º-110º)
1 1/8 t. active dry yeast
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 T. olive oil
1/2 t. salt

Place the water in a large bowl and add the yeast.  Let soften for a minute or two.  Add 3/4 cup of the flour and whisk until smooth.  Add the oil, salt and another half cup of the flour. Stir with a wooden spoon to form a soft dough that holds its shape. Sprinkle some of the remaining quarter cup of flour on a smooth surface. Scrape the dough out of the bowl 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 the dough rise until it has doubled in size—about 1 hour. Punch down the dough and turn it onto a lightly floured surface and roll it into a tight ball. Cover with a towel and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes. The dough is now ready to be shaped and topped.


Cherry's Prairie Primitives said...

Looks delicious!! I'll have to try this recipe!!

Jennifer said...

So, I made your pancetta, kale and goat cheese pizza. I am in heaven. It is, by far, the best pizza I have ever eaten. I'm just going to lie down and think about my taste buds now...

Paige said...

Thank you!! I'm so pleased you liked it!