Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sunchoke and Fontina Pizza

If I had to pick one food to eat for the rest of my life, it would most definitely be pizza.  Maybe it's because I was born and raised in New York, or maybe because pizza, that magical combination of bread and cheese, is so satisfying, but, whatever the reason, pizza is my number one.  Be it a classic margherita from Roberta's, potato and rosemary from L'Asso, brussels sprouts and ricotta from Motorino (hold the pancetta), or green pepper and onion from Singa's Famous Pizza, I'll devour it (well, of course, with certain obvious exceptions).  And then there are my two other favorites, Pepe's and Bar in New Haven, the latter of which I ate at about twice a month when I was in college (bet you didn't know that, mom, although if you knew it was always the mashed potato and garlic you might be a little jealous).

Made with 8 oz Trader Joe's pizza dough that I accidentally left uncovered at room temp for an hour -  hence the crackly crust.  It still tasted good, so I guess the moral of the story is that pizza is awesome.

A few days ago, I realized I still had some sunchokes left in the fridge from our last CSA share of 2010 (yes, that last share was a few days before Christmas, but thankfully root vegetables keep reeeeeeeeally well in cold storage).  I had previously cut them into big chunks and roasted them (so easy and so good) and turned them into a puree (equally as good), but I was a little bored of those preparations.  So, being the pizzaholic I am, I decided that these sunchokes would adorn a pizza.

 The concept isn't that far out - one of our favorite pizzas is a simple one - thinly sliced potatoes, mozzarella cheese, garlic, and rosemary.  [Roberta's, purveyors of our absolute favorite pizza in NYC, has a version on their menu right now that is killer.  We love Motorino, too, but Roberta's has most certainly stolen our pizza hearts.]  With that pizza in mind, I came up with this combination.

Consider this a (mostly) seasonal variation on a classic theme - thinly sliced tuber, gooey melty cheese, garlic, and herb.  I sparked this one up by adding capers for an occasional hit of salt and acid and also by combining the garlic and herb (here, it's parsley) and adding lemon zest for a classic Italian gremolata.

The mild, slightly nutty Fontina works wonderfully with the nutty, earthy sunchokes, and the various condiments (bright, acidic, salty) are perfect counterpoints.  Make this with store-bought pizza dough and you've got yourself a killer pizza in under a half hour.  Which, despite my love for certain pizzerias, is a heck of a lot shorter than the requisite 1 1/2 hour wait in line.  I'm all about the instant gratification, and this pizza hits the spot.

Sunchoke and Fontina Pizza
makes one 12" pizza

8 oz pizza dough*
4 ounces fontina cheese
4 ounces sunchokes (2 medium or 3 small)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/8 teaspoon salt
Large handful Italian parsley
1 small garlic clove
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 teaspoon capers
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

* I love this recipe, but if you don't have any on hand (which I rarely do), a quick recipe or even store-bought (Trader Joe's pizza dough is remarkably good for its 99-cent price tag) works just fine.


Place rack on highest rung in oven.  Place pizza stone on rack (if you don't have one, just use a baking sheet) and turn your oven temperature as high as it will go.  Remove the pizza dough from the fridge and bring to room temperature while the stone is heating.

Once the oven reaches temperature, shred the cheese and set aside.  Slice the sunchokes 1/8" thick - you can do this either with a mandoline (my new best friend) or a very sharp knife.  Place the sunchoke slices in a bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/8 teaspoon salt.

Finely chop the parsley and place in a small bowl (you should have about 2 tablespoons).  Finely mince the garlic and add to the bowl.  Zest the lemon and add to the bowl.  Toss with a fork to combine and set aside.

Flour a pizza peel and your hands, then stretch out the dough into a 12" round.  Place the dough on the peel, then top with the cheese.  Arrange the sunchoke slices on top of the cheese (I've found that a spiral pattern works perfectly), then transfer the pizza to the preheated stone or baking sheet.

Bake until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is golden brown and dark in some spots - depending on your oven temperature, this will take anywhere between 8 and 12 minutes [it takes me ~9 at 545 F].

Remove the pizza from the oven and top with the capers and gremolata.  Let it rest for a bit (about 30 seconds), then slice and serve.
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