Pie games: Global ingredients combine to make a perfect wintertime pizza
Nowadays, pizza is more than just an Italian specialty. You'll find people enjoying it wherever you travel around the world, from America to England to Japan to Qatar and beyond.
I'm happy to have played some part in spreading that popularity, since I first began giving pizzas a new contemporary California spin at the first location of Spago I opened in Hollywood back in early 1982. Before then, not many people could have imagined pizzas topped with such gourmet and internationally influenced ingredients as duck sausage, smoked salmon with caviar, chicken with Mexican jalapeno peppers, or even something as far removed from most pizza lovers' thinking as Peking duck! But we decided from the beginning to be inventive and have as much fun making pizza as people have eating it. The results definitely caught on.
To me, pizza is a food to enjoy year round, whatever the occasion. And the wide range of topping ingredients available now makes it possible to adapt pizzas to any time of year and any occasion. The following recipe is a fine example of that approach. It traces back to the early days of Spago, combining ingredients from Italy, Asia, France and Germany to make a hearty yet refined tasting dish I find perfect for wintertime.
Black Forest ham is a high-quality deli meat produced in the mountainous Black Forest region of southwestern Germany. I've always enjoyed its hearty yet refined, sweet and slightly spicy flavor, which results from curing, aging, cold-smoking and air-curing the meat over several weeks. Being prepared at cool temperatures, true Black Forest ham looks like a raw food rather than a cooked product, and it's generally eaten like the similarly appearing Italian prosciutto, cut into thin, almost translucent slices. Those are the sort of slices you should start with for the pizza, either cut for you to order at a deli counter or purchased pre-sliced in a vacuum-sealed package at most well-stocked supermarkets.
To complement this featured ingredient, my pizza also includes silky, earthy slices of pan-grilled or sauteed slender Japanese or Asian-style eggplants, which have a milder flavor and fewer seeds than the larger globe varieties. Along with the mixture of Italian fontina and mozzarella cheeses I enjoy on just about all my pizzas, I also add some fresh, creamy goat cheese like French chevre or one of the excellent varieties now produced in America.
This eclectic combination of toppings adds up to a worldly pizza that feels at once both sophisticated and down-to-earth, refined and heartily comforting -- a perfect casual main dish for you to warm up with when the weather outside feels cold and blustery.
BLACK FOREST HAM AND GOAT CHEESE PIZZA
Makes 4 individual pizzas
1 batch Wolfgang's Pizza Dough (recipe follows), divided into 4 balls
All-purpose flour or semolina, for dusting