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.
My family used to make pizza at home from time to time when I was growing up, but it generally involved one of those Boboli pre-cooked crusts, and pizza sauce from a jar. Making one’s own crust and sauce seemed incredibly intimidating then, but I am here today to tell you that it is really not. A homemade pizza that is made literally from scratch (starting with just flour, yeast, and water) will make you feel deservedly proud of yourself. Pizza is one of those things (like quiche, for me at least) that looks truly impressive when it comes out of the oven – the finished product looks just that, finished, and nothing like the pile of raw ingredients you started with.
I’ve broken the process down into several steps, and one good thing is that the dough and sauce recipe make enough for several pizzas. So once you get around to making the second pizza, it will feel almost as easy as starting with pre-made crust and sauce, because they will already be made – by you, and not by some food factory that adds lots of weird, unpronounceable ingredients.
The recipes follow below the fold. Got any delicious topping ideas of your own? Feel free to share in the comments! Sometime soon I want to try a white pizza with goat cheese, caramelized onions, and possibly some prosciutto slivers myself…
Here’s another recipe using summer squash, since it’s the time of year when markets are overflowing with the stuff. I’m a huge fan of baked goat cheese, so when I saw this recipe awhile ago on SmittenKitchen, I knew I’d be trying it as soon as summer squash were in season.
My love affair with baked goat cheese began in a far away and much cooler clime, when I took a visiting friend to Hall at my Cambridge college, and the starter for the evening was a round of goat cheese on an oat biscuit (the British kind of biscuit), baked. Hall at Cambridge is pretty much like the dining hall in Harry Potter, minus the magical ceiling and floating candles – everyone wears black robes, servers bring out 3-course meals on silver trays, there are stained glass windows and an ornate vaulted ceiling. The food was of good, solid quality most of the time, with the exception of a certain dreaded “assorted crab” risotto, which seemed to go away halfway through my second year there, only to be reincarnated into crab cakes that suspiciously contained all of the same ingredients (minus the rice). Occasionally, the food was truly excellent, as it was the night I had the baked goat cheese (followed by duck with some sort of prune sauce, if I remember correctly). The goat cheese was tangy, creamy, warm and gooey, a revelatory eating experience. At my sad local grocery store, I can only get chèvre, a soft, young goat cheese, not the firmer kinds with rinds, which is what I had in Hall. It is still delicious, especially once it is made warm and creamy through baking. Note the creamy, lightly-browned cheese poking out at the edges of the pizza: