pizza with pecorino and fried eggPosted: January 28, 2012
This is my attempt to recreate Otto’s exquisite Pane Frattau pizza – pizza with tomato sauce, pecorino cheese, and, the part that elicited an “Ew” from my mother when I described it to her, a fried egg. My mother is wrong, by the way – the combination of the egg yolk and the sharp pecorino is perfect in every way.
Otto is Mario Batali’s most affordable NYC restaurant (great for my limited budget!). The last time I was there, as we were waiting to be seated, I was staring off into space (a habit that made my parents worry about me as a small child), and noticed a pair of orange Crocs on a pair of feet – I thought to myself, “Who can have such bad taste to wear Crocs to this nice restaurtant?” and looked up to see Mario himself, who of course is known for his orange Crocs. I guess Mario can wear whatever shoes he likes. If you ever visit Otto (which you should if you find yourself in the area – every pizza I have tried there has been wonderful), I wouldn’t recommend dining in Crocs yourself.
I did a few runs of this pizza before I managed to get it right – I wasn’t sure exactly how much pecorino I should use, but I finally decided to use a whole lot of it (less vague quantity can be found in the recipe below). Pecorino is a strongly flavored cheese – like the more well-recognized parmigiano, it is a hard cheese with a sharp flavor. It should be made from sheep’s milk.
The first time I ever had cheese made from sheep’s milk was at a cheese and wine tasting shortly after I had moved to Cambridge (similar to the chocolate tasting I described a few posts ago). The tasting was run by my college’s head of the catering department, who was very enthusiastic indeed (though in an understated British way) about his cheeses. When he got to describing the sheep’s cheese (I can’t remember what kind it was exactly), he informed us, with great gusto in his voice, “You can really taste the animal in this one.” I was a little freaked out by both the content of the statement and the excitement with which it was said. Was I ready to taste the animal? My cheese world until then had largely consisted of American cheese singles, and pre-grated yellow-dyed “cheddar” or mozzerella. I ate only a tiny sliver, and decided that was brave enough.
My cheese-appreciation is more advanced these days (thanks partially to that cheese-tasting), and I enjoy all kinds of sheep’s cheese, including the wonderful manchego, and the pecorino on this pizza. The moral of this story is that you want to be able to taste the animal, as it were, on this pizza – the flavor of that pecorino should be loud and clear.
Pizza with pecorino and egg
The only thing I thought wasn’t quite right with my attempt at this pizza was the amount of sauce – I used about 1/4 cup per pizza, and I think next time I would go up to 1/3 cup. I like to have a tiny bit of sauce gush out from beneath the cheese when I take the first bite. I used the same quantity of pizza dough for one pizza from the previous recipe, but since I seem constitutionally unable to stretch the dough into a round shape, decided to divide the dough into two mini pizzas to ensure that every slice would have a bit of the egg. I recommend doing this even if your dough-stretching skills are better than mine – a greater egg-to-pizza ratio is definitely a good thing. Otto’s eggs are perfectly round and don’t bubble up in the middle the way mine did – not sure what magic trick they perform to do this, but in any case, if mine look less pretty, they taste just as delicious. I recommend eggs with set whites and runny yolks – that way you have a puddle of yolk to dip each bite of pizza in. Otto’s crust also has a sourdough taste, so if you have a sourdough starter and recipe for pizza crust, I’d recommend giving that a try instead of the recipe I have below. I find that two of these mini pizzas, plus a salad and glass (or two) of full-bodied red wine, make for a wonderful light dinner for two.
Makes 2 pizzas
1/2 batch pizza dough
2/3 cup pizza sauce
1 cup freshly grated pecorino
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for frying eggs
2 large eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place a pizza stone or baking sheet (turned upside down) on a center oven rack. Preheat oven to 450F. A baking sheet will take about 30 minutes to fully heat, and a pizza stone will take about an hour.
Shortly before you are ready to put the pizza into the oven, divide the ball of pizza dough in half – a bench scraper is especially good for this if you have one. If using a pizza peel to slide the pizzas into the oven, scatter some cornmeal onto it. I like to assemble the pizzas on parchment paper and then put them, paper and all, onto the baking sheet. If you plan to use this method, go ahead and cut two squares of parchment paper.
Stretch the dough as thin as you can – see the previous pizza post for more thorough instructions. Place the stretched dough onto one of the pieces of parchment paper. Once both balls of dough have been stretched, spread 1/3 cup of sauce evenly over each. Sprinkle 1/2 cup pecorino over each pizza. Drizzle each pizza with 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil. Slide the pizzas onto the baking sheet or pizza stone and bake for 12-15 minutes, until the crust is lightly browned and the cheese is browned and bubbling.
While the pizza is baking, crack each egg into a small bowl. Preheat two small frying pans (ideally non-stick) over low heat for about 5 minutes. When the pans are fully heated, pour a little bit of olive oil into each – I used about 1 teaspoon in each pan. Gently pour an egg into each pan, salt the eggs, cover the pans, and cook for 2 1/2-3 minutes, until whites are set and yolks are still runny – no need to flip them. You’ll want to time this so that the pizza comes out of the oven right before the eggs are done.
When the pizzas are done, remove from the oven and slide an egg onto the center of each. Grind black pepper to taste over each pizza, and serve immediately. Enjoy!
Inspired by Otto