02.12.11: dinner (duck ham and caramelized onion pizzas)

Duck Ham Pizza with Ricotta, Arugula and Grana Padano

It’s cold, it’s dry, it’s been a little while since you’ve set off the smoke alarms, so you decide to cook up some homemade pizza.

All E had said about the meals that weekend was: I want to make duck ham. Simply making a pair of cured duck breasts and just eating them, while enticing, felt like a bit of a waste. We decided a nice pizza, where our salt-cured duck breast could take the traditional place of prosciutto in a classic Emilia-Romagnan piadina recipe we had read about a few years back would be perfect. I blind-baked the crust for five minutes, then topped it with ricotta,  arugula, grana padano. I waited on adding the delicate duck until the last few minutes to ensure it didn’t cook opr worse still, dry out. [Ed.–we did put a few slices through the broiler, but having some of the fresh-cured and the broiled slices made for a nice flavor and texture combination.]

Caramelized Onion, Mozzarella and Oregano Pizza

The second pie was a take on a pizza they sell at a shop around the corner, employing a little less than half a pound of the mozzarella from Esposito & Sons (bought along with the duck), some caramelized onions (sliced and then cooked over medium heat for 45-60 minutes with some butter) and fresh oregano. Again, blind-baking here was crucial because the cheese was quite damp and if the dough was soft when it was topped, it could have soaked through and wrecked everything.

So avail yourself of favorable weather conditions as well as giving new life to fun food projects. Until next time, cook on!

Duck Ham, Ricotta and Arugula Pizza

  • 1/2 of a batch of pizza dough
  • 1 duck breast of duck ham, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 cup ricotta (best you can find)
  • Large handful of arugula or baby arugula (obviously rinsed and well-dried)
  • 1/4 cup grated Grana Padano
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Cornmeal for dusting

Season the ricotta cheese with salt and pepper to taste. If you’re really feeling adventurous, add some Herbs de Provence for good measure.

Preheat the oven to hottest temperature on bake. Ideally, it’s easier to stretch the dough on a peel but you can use an upturned sheet pan but it might take longer to make as a result. If you have a peel (and if you’re making pizza on a regular basis, you really should) dust it with cornmeal and gently work your fingers in the dough to stretch it out along the size of the peel. Have an upturned sheet pan heating in the oven if you can, and when the oven is ready to go put the stretched dough in and bake for about 5-8 minutes–you’re just trying to give the dough some structure so it won’t fall apart under wet ingredients. When it’s barely golden brown, remove it, let cool for maybe a minute and then smear it with a layer of ricotta cheese. Add on the arugula and some of the duck ham, place it into the still-hot oven and bake for all of five minutes. Remove, let rest and dress with remaining duck ham slices and Grana Padano in the interim.

Slice and serve immediately. Leftovers heat well in a toaster oven.

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