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A NEW YEAR'S PIZZA PARTY

By Wolfgang Puck on

Published in Wolfgang Puck

Although I love it when guests fill my restaurants for New Year's Eve, I know that many people would rather hold parties at home. That way, they don't have to worry about making reservations or driving late at night. And they can feel free to enjoy a glass or more of Champagne or sparkling wine without having to designate a driver.

But what do you cook at home to serve with the bubbly? I think pizza is a perfect answer, especially pizza with a topping designed to complement that festive drink.

As you probably know, pizza is one of my favorite things to make. We serve it in most of our restaurants, from the Spagos in Beverly Hills, Las Vegas, and Maui to my Wolfgang Puck Expresses.

Pizzas are so easy to prepare that they make New Year's Eve entertaining incredibly simple. You can mix the dough well ahead and keep it in your refrigerator. In fact, the yeasty flavor of homemade dough will only improve if you leave it there for a day or two.

Toppings are an opportunity for you to satisfy your own personal tastes and get as creative as you like. The version I share here, a mixture of three different cheeses, caramelized onions, and crispy bacon, tastes delicious with Champagne, but you could also enjoy it with beer or wine.

Let me offer a few tips for success with the recipe. Be sure to stir the onions frequently while you sauté them, so they'll turn an even golden brown and develop a sweet flavor; if they scorch, they'll be bitter. Use any kind of bacon you like; or substitute chopped smoked ham, which doesn't require sauteing, and cook the onions in olive oil instead of the bacon fat. For the best quality and flavor, always shred the mozzarella yourself rather than using pre-shredded cheese. If you like, replace some of the mozzarella with fontina; or use fresh, creamy goat cheese.

If you're making pizzas for a crowd, you can also partially cook them up to several days in advance and freeze them. Bake the pizzas for three quarters of the total oven time in my recipe. Then, let them cool completely before wrapping them airtight in plastic wrap and putting them in the freezer.

When you're ready to enjoy the pizzas for your party, just preheat the oven to the same temperature in the recipe, without the pizza stone. Unwrap a frozen pizza, slide it directly onto the middle oven rack, and bake it until the cheese is hot and bubbly and the crust is a deep golden brown.

Then cut the pizza into serving pieces, pour the Champagne, and toast the New Year in style. Cheers!

PIZZA WITH CARAMELIZED ONIONS AND CRISPY BACON

Makes 1 pizza, 8 to 12 slices

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

3 strips bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces

1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup farmer's cheese

2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese

Freshly ground black pepper

Ground nutmeg

1 ball (6 ounces) Pizza Dough (recipe follows)

4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded

2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

Put a pizza stone on the oven's middle rack and preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.

In a medium saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the bacon and saute, stirring occasionally, until very crispy, about 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

Carefully pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pan. Place the pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute, stirring frequently, until well browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to another paper towel-lined plate.

In a small bowl, stir together the farmer's cheese and mascarpone. Season to taste with pepper and a hint of nutmeg. Set aside.

On a floured pizza paddle or rimless baking sheet, stretch or roll the dough as thinly as possible, forming a circle 14 to 15 inches in diameter. Evenly spread the cheese mixture over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch rim. Sprinkle with the mozzarella and Parmesan, then evenly distribute the bacon, onions, and thyme.

Carefully slide the pizza from the paddle or baking sheet onto the pizza stone. Bake until the crust is nicely browned, 8 to 10 minutes.

Slide the paddle or baking sheet under the pizza and remove it from the oven. Slide onto a cutting board and, with a pizza wheel or a large, sharp knife, cut into slices. Serve immediately.

PIZZA DOUGH

Makes enough for 4 pizzas

1 packet dried yeast

1 teaspoon honey

1 cup warm water, 105 to 115 degrees F.

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and honey in 1/4 cup of the warm water.

In a food processor fitted with the stainless-steel blade, combine the flour and salt. Add the yeast mixture, oil, and remaining warm water; process until a ball forms.

Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead by hand until smooth and firm, 2 to 3 minutes. Cover with a clean, damp towel and leave at cool room temperature to rise until it stretches when lightly pulled, about 2 hours.

Divide the dough into 4 balls, each weighing about 6 ounces. With your hands, work each ball into a snug, even shape by pulling down its sides all around and tucking them under, repeating 4 or 5 complete rotations. Then, on a smooth, unfloured surface, roll the ball under your palm until the top feels smooth and firm, about 1 minute.

Put the dough balls on a tray, cover with a clean, damp towel, and leave to rest at cool room temperature for 1 hour. At this point, you can use them or wrap in plastic and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

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