A near and dear Smokehaus tradition: the Pancetta and Egg Pizza
First off, the method in which you cook it is everything for this pizza, we’ll get to the recipe later… We cook this pizza at our staff parties in a wood-fired oven at our boss’ house, and if you’re not familiar with those, they reach a much hotter temp than a conventional oven. The intense heat and the fact that you’re cooking the pizza right on the ‘deck’ of the oven, which is lined with firebricks and gets really hot, is the way that we can put this pizza together from all raw ingredients and still have it cook uniformly. If you have a wood fired pizza oven, this is the optimum way.
A Weber grill with lump charcoal and a ceramic tile or firebricks is probably the second best way to achieve these results. If using that method, I would light up a chimney of lump (don’t use briquettes, they don’t get hot enough) and once they’re ready, make a rim around the perimeter of the grill with them (if you have an extra firebrick or two that will fit in the center on the bottom between the coals, that will help retain even more heat). Then place your grate as you would to grill normally and place firebricks or tile on top and in the center. Try to leave the lid on with the vents slightly open to keep the heat in and oxygen flowing until it’s time to cook. If you use a laser thermometer, you would want the cooking surface to be around 700 degrees F give or take 50 degrees.
With two of the methods I describe here you will need to build your pizza directly on a pizza peel or an inverted sheet pan. You will want there to be quite a bit of cornmeal under the dough in order to let it slide off easily onto the cooking surface, and try to build it close to the edge of the pan or peel for optimum sliding. In the wood fired oven our pizzas are cooked in less than 3 minutes, so figure a few more minutes on the weber. You could also build your pizza directly on a sheet pan and just cook it on that, but it is not optimum.
If you’re using your kitchen oven, you will want to crank it up as high as it goes and hopefully use a pizza stone or ceramic tile in it and again ease the pizza from the peel or pan onto the stone. Quick vibration while simultaneously sliding the pizza off is the best method. It’s a little tricky, but you can figure it out with a little practice. If you’re using your home oven, it definitely won’t approach 700 degrees, so the cooking time will be hard to determine. You just have to look at it and decide. I would guess at least 10-15 minutes at 500 degrees.
Also, if you’re using the oven, it probably would work better to at least par-cook the pancetta on a sheet pan before topping the pizza with it. You want it to be a little rendered but floppy enough that you can make a nice little nest for the eggs. I would not recommend par cooking the crust, because actually the egg is the last part of the pizza to cook. Hopefully you like a runny egg (recommended by me!) because it would take a long time to cook the pizza so that the eggs are cooked through. Nothing is impossible, though!
So, here’s the basic recipe:
The dough (about one pizza, or a softball sized ball of dough) can be any you choose… They’re all pretty similar, but I would recommend using 00 flour if you can. Otherwise AP flour will work just fine. Here’s a basic recipe if you don’t have one:
—10 ounces flour (two cups)
—6 ounces water (if it’s warm the yeast will work faster, if it’s really really hot you can kill the yeast)
—Big pinch of yeast (1/2 teaspoon)
—2 big pinches salt (1 teaspoon )
Well before you want your pizza (at least two hours and up to a week), combine the flour, water, yeast, salt. Mix and kneed the dough till it’s smooth and elastic, about ten mintues (this is easiest to do by hand because there’s so little of it). A standing mixer works, too.
Put it in a bowl, cover it and leave it alone for at least 2 or 3 hours or up to a week (a finger indentation should not bounce back but nor should the dough be slack with air, but for pizza this isn’t really critical).
Once you have your dough ready, I recommend hand stretching it rather than rolling it out (but either way works). Hand stretching preserves the gasses in the dough better, I think, so you get big chewy air bubbles. To hand stretch, just basically take the dough, flatten it a little and then grab it by an edge and let gravity stretch it while you turn it.
Once your dough is stretched thin enough, place it on the corn meal coated peel or pan.
We use a mixture of minced garlic and olive oil on the crust. Not too much, just a couple of spoonfuls drizzled on it. Then top with mozzarella or provolone SPARINGLY (as with all pizzas, you can’t put large amounts of toppings on it or it makes it soggy). Finally, curve your pancetta into four little nests atop the pizza, then carefully crack an egg into each of the nests. This should contain them pretty well, but some may spill out and that’s ok.
Another party favorite of ours is a pizza topped with the olive oil mixture, some thin slices of our smoked pork loin, and pepperoncini. Our dry cured salamis are also killer on any pizza, if you haven’t tried them. Our staff pizza parties are pretty epic with just the range of potential toppings that we produce here.
Also, when I’m doing this, I always make extra pizzas (not the one with the egg, I don’t think it would work too well) and wrap them up and freeze them. They are the best frozen pizzas you will ever have, especially when kissed with fire!
Written by Greg Conley.