When was the last time you ate an entree, sandwich, pizza, soup, salad or bread that can be traced to the people and places you know? Last week? The week before that? Never perhaps? Our modern world, with all our mega-mart grocers, has made it very hard to complete the cycle of local consumption. We’ve thrown out familiarity and support for our local farmers in our great quest for easy pickins’ with waxy tomatoes picked by slave labor packaged in deceptive red netting and “All Natural” pork from pigs that haven’t stepped more than three paces their whole lives. Most folks don’t really see a problem with this ”from afar” food chain of giant trucks rolling into town all day and night; after all, if you haven’t tasted a real, unsprayed grape or local heirloom pork your whole life, you just wouldn’t know.
Because I sell breads at the Athens Farmers Market, I constantly have “Oh my god!” moments when I bite into some of the best produce and meats in this country. Years ago, I bit into an apple grown by Shews Orchard and blurted, “That’s like no other apple I’ve ever tasted!” This was because I was used to buying produce from my the large grocery store. I just didn’t know. Now I do and constantly try to integrate local, organic ingredients in my pizzas on this blog.
This pizza rocks on so many of those levels because all of the toppings are produced, grown or foraged by people I know. The motivation for curing the pancetta fresca (pork belly, a.k.a. fresh side) on this pizza came from the fabulous new book “Salumi” by a writer and chef I greatly admire: Michael Ruhlman (left) along with chef Brian Polcyn.
The pancetta fresca (fresh pork belly, or “fresh side” they call it here) is from Rich Blazer and Harmony Hollow Farms.
The chardonnay grapes were given to me from Neal Dix of Shade Winery in Shade, Ohio and the arugula was growing in a pot in my backyard near a small and very gnarly cherry pepper.
The paw paws were…a pain in the keester! Check out my almost-unsuccessful paw-paw forage where I was only able to get three.
This is going to be a great pie! The local goat rouqefort is not as salty as the stuff from France so its a perfect match with the salty pancetta. The sweet paw-paw-chardonnay jam is a fantastic counterpoint to the piquant and savory cheese and pancetta. The nuanced spice from the pepper is a great suprise and the arugula is a refreshing and crunchy end to every bite!
Using the Easy Dough Recipe on this blog, make yourself a seven ounce dough ball and reserve in the refrigerator for the next day.
For the pancetta quick cure: Variation of recipe from “Salumi” (Ruhlman, Polcyn)
One large baton (8-12 ounces) of pork belly. This is cut across the belly and is usually sold at Farmers Markets in inch-wide strips for making lardon.
1/4 cup sea salt
20 turns of a pepper mill
Place the pancetta baton in a bag and toss with the salt and pepper. Place in the refrigerator for 20 to 24 hours until stiff.
After the salt has absorbed and the baton is stiff, rinse well with cold water and dry with paper towels. Slice in half (to fit the pan) and sear on high for 10 to 12 minutes until the outer edges brown nicely. Reserve for the pizza topping.
For the paw-paw-chardonnay jam: (be ready to get your hands messy with this!)
Break the paw-paws apart with your hand and let the loose pulp fall into the bowl. The amount of seeds will vary with various paw-paws so take each seed between your thumb and other fingers and roll hard to get the pulp off of the seed. Discard the seeds. Draw you finger against the inner wall of the skin to peel away what pulp you can.
Place 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice (or quarter of a lemon) into the pulp and mix. Take the chardonnay grapes and squish (is that a word?) with your hand. If you are a traditionalist, you can do this with your stinky feet. Place the seeds and skins aside.
Strain the juice and pour into a hot pan. Reduce by half.
Cool the grape juice in the fridge then add to the paw-paw pulp. Refrigerate until topping.
For the Pizza:
1 pancetta baton
bowl of paw-paw, chardonnay grape jam
half of a hot cherry pepper
5 to 8 ounces of roquefort cheese
Handful of arugula
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees and place a pizza stone or upturned and heavy cookie sheet on the middle deck. Chop up the hot pepper and use as much as you can handle. Slice the pancetta on the bias.
Form the pizza dough ball into a disc, place on a pizza screen and top with the cheese, pancetta and diced pepper.
Place in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes until nice, brown and crispy.
And enjoy like crazy.