At the beginning of the summer the idea of doing a series of meals inspired by episodes from the second season of Mad Men as a way to gear up for the premiere in August popped into my head, though it was quickly deflated by Michael’s erstwhile pragmatism: “They don’t really eat much on that show.”
This, unfortunately, I had to acknowledge as true. Aside from Betty’s “around the world” dinner party and a hapless roasted chicken flung off of a canopy courtesy of Pete Campbell, most of the visible consumption on that show revolves around cocktails, with a perfect example of it being Jane Sterling’s stumbling during a Derby party because she simply didn’t eat anything all day. Even when the Drapers go to the park and picnic, we’re subjected to their after-lunch activities and Betty’s effortless “disposal” of their detritus with a flick of her wrists.
It turned out, however, that our dinner this particular night would be nicely tied into the eighth episode of the season, as well as conjure up memories of our trip to Italy a year ago.
Sunday marked our first wedding anniversary, and to mark it we went to Pastis for brunch followed by a leisurely jaunt around Chelsea Market. Knowing that we wouldn’t want a big dinner that night following dishes of rich French bistro fare I decided to make some pizza dough in the morning, figuring we’d make it whenever we finally felt hungry enough. I was in the mood for fig, prosciutto and Fontina pizza as it was finally feeling like autumn outside, and naturally we wanted to make more pizza bianca as it’s delicious and so easy to make.
The results were, of course, delicious (figs are rapidly becoming one of my new favorite fruits) and satisfying, but the best surprise was watching Don and Betty flirt with each other in a café during their Roman holiday on that night’s episode. While I doubt very much that a slice of pizza bianca—much less a cheesy combination of ham, figs and cheese—would ever be consumed by either of them, it was a pleasant, if unexpected, coincidence that we had enjoyed our own take on Roman street food. It also brought me back to the Piazza San Carlo in Turin where Michael and I enjoyed a late lunch before setting off to explore the city around us, relatively carefree (we were a bit concerned that we parked our car in Asti in the wrong spot) and enjoying an idyllic escape completely on our own.
While I won’t give away spoilers for those who haven’t caught it yet, I will say this—I completely empathized with Betty’s reaction upon their return a few days later.
Fig, Prosciutto and Fontina Pizza
- Half a recipe for Pizza Dough (use the other for another pizza!)
- ¼ pound Fontina cheese, grated
- ¼ pound prosciutto di Parma
- ½ a basket of figs, quartered
- Honey for drizzling (optional)
- Cornmeal for dusting
Place an upended baking sheet or pizza stone on a rack towards the middle of the oven and carefully dust with cornmeal (Note: if you don’t have a pizza peel, then use the pan in lieu of the peel and simply place it in the oven when ready). Preheat oven (on Bake option) to highest temperature, at least 500 degrees if possible. While oven is heating, dust pizza peel or baking sheet with cornmeal and stretch dough out to cover the surface, erring on the thicker side in order to hold the toppings. When the dough is at the desired size, sprinkle evenly with most of the grated cheese, then add figs and prosciutto, arranging them as desired. Top with remaining cheese.
If using a pizza peel, ensure that the pie can easily move off of it (a quick shimmy will determine this; if it cannot easily move just add more cornmeal) and transfer to the baking sheet or pizza stone in the oven and bake for 8-12 minutes, occasionally checking for doneness. Transfer pizza out of the oven and let cool before slicing into it.