Friday, July 26, 2013

Summertime Strawberry and Candied Bacon Pizza

I stood in fruit section of whole foods inspecting quarts of organic strawberries yesterday, searching out the container with the freshest berries, not entirely sure what I was going to do with them, but certain I had to have them because they were so beautiful and plump and red, they had called to me from their display of berry boxes. They were too lovely, juicy and sweet, and sun-ripened looking, I couldn't resist. 

So then I set off, listlessly pushing my cart through the produce section. What would I make with these lovely, perfect berries? A strawberry, mint, mozzarella salad perhaps? S made that salad for our anniversary this year, a recreation of one we had enjoyed on my birthday a few years ago at Traif, but it seemed too fancy for a thursday night dinner where it was likely to be accompanied by Coca Colas and a few episodes of Orange is the New Black. 

But then my eyes landed upon the bin of shallots, and I thought of my favorite shallot-bacon pizza, and how wouldn't a lovely seasonal spin on that pizza be strawberries?

And then I decided to candy the bacon because why not. Growing up my father always rubbed our bacon with some brown sugar before cooking it on weekend mornings. Bacon is just better that way.

And thus this pizza was born. And it is a beauty. A Ricotta and Chevre base and a creaminess to the sweet-savory flavors of the toppings- sliced strawberries, candied bacon, caramelized shallots, slivers of lemon basil from my fire escape garden, and a balsamic reduction drizzled over top. The chevre, strawberries, and lemon basil all smack of summer freshness, making this a great seasonal pizza.

Summertime Strawberry and Candied Bacon Pizza

1 batch of dough (I cheat and buy it premade at Whole Foods, but I recommend Jim Laheys no knead dough if you're going the homemade route- it takes overnight though)
1 Cup Strawberries
1/3 Cup Fresh Ricotta (the soft stuff)
1/4 Cup Chevre or goat cheese crumbles
2 Medium Shallots
2 Tbsp Olive oil
1 Small handful Basil
1 egg yolk
2 Tbsp water
1/3 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
2-3 Bacon Strips
1/4 Cup plus 1 Tbsp Brown Sugar, divided

Preheat oven to 325 Degrees Fahrenheit.
First, candy your bacon. Rub each of your bacon strips down with the brown sugar, on both sides, until thoroughly coated. Place on a parchment paper (if you have it) lined jelly roll pan and bake 15-20 minutes, until bacon is thoroughly cooked and sugar has caramelized. Place on plate or wire rack to cool- the sugar will harden as it cools, making the bacon crisper. 

After removing the candied bacon, raise your oven temperature to 450 degrees fahrenheit.

Chop the shallots into fairly small pieces, add to a frying pan along with 1 tbsp olive oil, and cook over medium low heat until lightly browned, about 8-10 minutes. Set aside.
Remove the tops of the strawberries and slice them into thick round slices. Set aside. Thinly slice basil and set aside. 

Stretch your dough out on your pan, I don't own a pizza pan, so I used a lightly oiled jelly oil pan. Brush the stretched dough with the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil, then coat lightly and evenly with the ricotta cheese. Crumble the chevre over the ricotta, it doesn't have to be a perfectly even coating. Place sliced strawberries all over the pizza, sprinkle crumble bacon, caramelized shallots, and sliced basil all over the top of everything, and place in preheated oven. Cook for 8-10 minutes, checking on it occasionally.

While the pizza cooks, pour the balsamic vinegar (I used an apple balsamic) and the brown sugar into a heavy frying pan and turn stove to medium high. Cook, stirring frequently, until vinegar reduces slightly. It will thicken more when cool, so stop a bit before it gets too syrupy. 

When the crust is brown and the cheese is melty, remove pizza from oven, allow to cool about 4 minutes, then drizzle the balsamic reduction over top of the pizza. I like to get some on the crust, it's especially delicious. Serve warm and enjoy!

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