Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Pizza (or, Allison Loses it at the Farmers Market)

Because I've only been here for a little over a month, I've been getting a lot of, "So, how do you like Ann Arbor?" lately. I love it, and there are a lot of reasons why. But I can't stop gushing about the farmers markets. There is at least one every day except Monday and Tuesday! And these are no puny affairs, either. I visited the Ann Arbor Farmers Market, which is held twice a week during the warmer months and continues once a week during the winter, on Saturday. This market is essentially a weekly community event, with a semi-permanent market space (it's covered, so you can happily browse the tables in most weather conditions), and at least 20 tables, probably closer to 25 or 30. I wish I had brought my camera, but as it turns out, I needed every inch of space I had in my bag (and then some). I had absolutely no fresh produce aside from a few potatoes, so I was prepared to stock up. However, the sight of all of the tables overflowing (literally) with late summer produce was so overwhelming that I did a lap of most of the tables, just admiring, before I even bought anything. I wanted all of it, but I:
  1. Don't have infinite money,
  2. Couldn't possibly carry everything back on the bus, and
  3. Would have to consume several tens of pounds of produce each day to eat it all before it started to rot.

In the end, I more or less stuck to my list. However, I couldn't pass up the 11.5 pounds of tomatoes I ended up with, rather than purchasing the 5 pounds I had planned to buy for sauce (11.5 lb for $8! Could anyone pass up a deal like that?). These tomatoes were "seconds", or produce deemed too ugly to be displayed on the table. For a big batch of sauce, though, they were just perfect. I had been planning to make a large batch of sauce to freeze for the sad, long winter full of nothing but underripe tomatoes, anyway, so I took this as a sign.

Finally, with a full bag out of which poked a bunch of scallions, plus an enormous carton of tomatoes, I headed back to the bus to bring home my treasures. Among these was a bag of Brussels sprouts, not terribly aesthetically pleasing, but very fresh. I absolutely adore Brussels sprouts. I recently read that there is a gene that dictates whether Brussels sprouts taste unpleasantly bitter, and I know that I must have the favorable version of that gene. In fact, one of my favorite ways to eat Brussels sprouts is simply roasted with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper, letting their flavor shine through. One day, looking to change things up a bit, I shaved the sprouts and added them to a pizza with cheese and bacon, and I knew I'd found a winner. Everyone knows Brussels sprouts and bacon are a great combination, so how could combining that with cheese and bread be anything but perfect? And a perfect tribute to the end of summer it was, seated out on my balcony in the (admittedly humid) summer evening air.
Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Pizza
Yield: 2 12-inch-diameter pizzas, 3-4 servings
Dough adapted from Jim Lahey via smitten kitchen

For the no-knead pizza dough
3 cups flour (all-purpose or bread), spooned and leveled
Heaping 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1.5 tsp coarse (e.g., sea or kosher) salt
1.25 cups water
Cornmeal, for dusting
For the toppings
6 oz Brussels sprouts
A few tsp olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
Two handfuls shredded Parmesan cheese
4 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled

  1. Start the dough: dump all dough ingredients into a large bowl and mix together. The dough will look like a total mess, which is just fine. If the dough seems very dry, add another tablespoon or two of water.
  2. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for about 12 hours (the dough is pretty forgiving, so don't get crazy about this. Leaving it for another few hours won't hurt).
  3. About a half hour or so before the dough is done rising, place a pizza stone (if you've got one) in the oven and preheat to its highest (non-broiler) temperature. If you don't have a stone, preheat your oven anyway and throw a baking sheet in there for the last 10 minutes of preheating (you should let your oven heat for at least 20 minutes or so to get the best crust).
  4. Halve the Brussels sprouts lengthwise, leaving the root end intact. Cut the sprouts crosswise (parallel to the root end) into thin ribbons. Place in a bowl and drizzle very lightly with olive oil, so the ribbons are coated but there is little (if any) oil in the bottom of the bowl. Season generously with sea salt (or kosher or table salt) and pepper. Now is also a good time to cook your bacon.
  5. Film a pizza peel, an unrimmed baking sheet, or the bottom of a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil, and dust very generously with cornmeal. Seriously, don't be stingy with the cornmeal or you'll be kicking yourself in a few minutes (not that I'd know from personal experience, or anything).
  6. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured counter and separate into two balls. Grab one of the balls and let it stretch down from your hand to the counter a few times (or a several times, if you're strangely mesmerized by the look and feel of this process).
  7. Place the dough on your prepared pizza peel or baking sheet and gently stretch into a round. The dough should be a little more substantial than it was when you first mixed it, but it will still be soft and somewhat sticky. Just do the best you can to stretch it out and repair any tears in the dough.
  8. Brush with a small drizzle of olive oil, and cover with the mozzarella, leaving a small rim for the crust.
  9. Layer on the Brussels sprouts and finish with a healthy sprinkle of Parmesan. Shimmy the pizza as, uh, gracefully as you can onto your stone or baking sheet 2 , and bake for 8-10 minutes, until cheese and tips of Brussels sprouts are browned, and the crust is golden brown.
  10. Sprinkle with bacon, let cool for as long as you possibly can (this was approximately 30 seconds for me, the roof of my mouth be damned), slice, and serve. Repeat from step 5 with the remaining ball of dough.
  1. Because it's just me here, I only made one pizza and refrigerated the other ball of dough. The dough should keep for a few days in the fridge, or you can freeze it and thaw in the refrigerator before using. Because I essentially halved the recipe, don't be alarmed if my ingredient piles look much smaller than yours.
  2. A little kitchen wisdom: brush off as much excess cornmeal as you can from around the uncooked pizza; this will quickly burn if it gets shimmied onto the stone and cause you to panic a few minutes into baking that your pizza is burning. However, if this happens, it won't affect the quality of your pizza.

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