When you write a food blog, it is easy to wax poetic about ingredients. Exquisite cheese, ripe summer fruit, and fragrant herbs are all high up on my list of culinary excitement factors. That said, I wasn’t surprised when after I assembled this pizza, ate it, and promptly started writing, I realized that the exquisite cheese, ripe summer fruit, and fragrant herbs were precisely what I loved about it–of course, in addition to some melt-in-your-mouth duck pastrami.
Now onto the trickier side of pizza making. I don’t frequently make homemade pizza, probably because I can’t seem to execute the even, thin crust I so desire. Pizza dough is one of those things that many non-cooks seem to whip up all the time, but I seem to struggle with yeast in general and all the variables involved: pizza stone or no stone, one rise or two, cornmeal or flour on the bottom, blah blah blah. This time I decided to buy dough from my favorite North End pizzaria, Ernesto’s, to ensure that it wasn’t my homemade dough but my pathetic rolling/stretching/throwing across the kitchen technique that was the problem in forming a smooth, thin, and crispy crust. For once, the planets seemed to align and the crust AND toppings seemed to unite in flavor and texture.
I let the dough warm to room temperature for a while before I started stretching it into pizza shape, then let it rest on the counter again for several minutes before going back to the final shaping. I skipped the pizza stone and instead placed the pizza on a thin layer of cornmeal on a regular baking sheet.
Before I revisit the toppings, a word about burrata. Richer and more decadent, burrata is essentially normal mozzarella filled with cream. Of the three burratas I’ve recently tried (one imported, the other from Everett’s Mozzarella House), Maplebrook’s is above and beyond the best. Don’t be fooled by the beaucolic Vermont-iness of the company–they have a full-blooded Puglian straight out of the burrata motherland stretching and wrapping that deliciously sweet, creamy, pillowy, briny, oozy cheese into perfection.
Even though you may not have duck pastrami at your local supermarket, I urge you to go to Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge immediately for some (for the pizza and general charcuterie deliciousness). If that is not on your radar, you could certainly substitute with thinly sliced proscuitto or Spanish jamon. This pizza is an example of a simple recipe that uses really exquisite, high-quality ingredients at their peak. Atop the meat, sliver some ripe nectarines, burrata (or other fresh mozzarella), basil leaves, a few drops of balsamic vinegar (balsamic glaze would be even better), and sea salt, and you might create what Dane said was “one of the top five pizzas he’s ever had.” Not bad.