Just before my brother finished law school and left New York to work with Bay Area start-ups, we spent an evening tinkering with how to make pizza on a hot steel slab. Our first attempt, a simple margherita, we burnt to a blackened crisp. Still, it was somehow delicious. By the third or fourth miniature pie, we were getting the hang of how thick to roll the dough, how hot to keep the oven, how long to cook each pizza–and getting creative with toppings from the odds and ends in my fridge. A favorite was heaped with olive-oil drizzled arugula that wilted in the oven, then finished with slices of avocados and a sprinkle of lemon zest. Perhaps that’s not authentically a pizza, but it was really good.
That’s the thing: pizza is as versatile a vehicle for just about anything as is a sandwich or a burrito. Once you have dough (if you don’t have the desire or time to make it, you can walk into about any pizza joint and ask to buy some, and many grocery stores carry it), and a hot oven, pizza is a very quick thing to make, and a great way to use up bits of this and that–last nights steamed vegetables, a forgotten sprig of herbs, the end of bit of cheese. Often, my best cooking happens when I try to use things from what seems like an empty pantry.
My favorite pizza right now, and one I always have the ingredients for, is a breakfast pizza. I believe it was inspired by an article I tore from the New York Times Magazine years ago, about Big Sur Bakery. It made perfect sense to me the moment I saw the recipe, and stuck in my imagination until it became my own. Maybe my brother and I can take a trip to try the original when I visit him in California. And I hope he continues our pizza experiment, just as I will.
If you want to get serious about pizza, head over to The Pizza Lab at Serious Eats.
- fist-sized piece of dough*
- spoonful cornmeal
- generous drizzle extra virging olive oil
- handful shredded sharp cheddar
- 2 scallions
- sprinkling of cooked sausage or bacon (optional)
- 2-3 eggs
- small handful pasley or cilantro
- pinch red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper to taste
Heat a steel slab in a 500 degree oven, ideally for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, trim and oil the scallions, and put them on the hot steel or under a broiler until they wilt. Cut them into two-inch sections.
On a floured surface, roll the dough as thin as you can without it tearing. Sprinkle cornmeal on a pizza peel or cutting board. Lay the dough on it. Drizzle olive oil generously over the dough. Scatter the cheese and scallions on it, and meat if you're using it. Make little nests in the toppings to hold the eggs.
Slide the pizza off the board onto the steel with one swift shake. Crack each egg into a teacup, then pour it into its nest on the pizza. Cook for a few minutes, then check to see if the bottom of the dough is browned. Watch out, it cooks quickly! You want it quite brown, but if the crust cooks before the eggs, slip the whole thing onto a pan under the broiler just until the eggs set.
Sprinkle a handful of fresh herbs and a pinch of chili flakes on the pizza. Season it with freshly ground pepper, and a sprinkle of salt on each egg. Eat right away.
*I'm talking about my fist, which is pretty small.