Like everyone else in the universe, I love pizza. We don't all mean the same thing when we say that, of course. I don't mean the same thing every time myself. In my youth, I liked a Sicilian style pizza with a hearty crust; over time I grew to prefer a thin, crisp crust. I have always been wary of over-weighty cheeses, oiliness and kitchen-sink toppings, and fond of the classic smear of spicy tomato sauce with a sprinkling of cheese and fresh basil.
This is not to say that I am a strict classicist, however. Quite a few years ago, I had a pizza that knocked my socks off, in a small restaurant in Montreal, where I was vacationing with my then middle school aged daughter. It was shortly after my husband had died, after a long illness, and we were having a much needed mutual break from work, school,and life in general. Planning the little trip, I thought it would be fun for the kiddo to try out her schoolgirl French.
I had, of course, totally failed to consider the fact that anything which could possibly attract attention was anathema to a 12 year old. It was fun anyway. Everything did not go smoothly to begin with- our trip was nearly curtailed by an airline rule-not revealed until we were at the airport- that I needed the "other parent's written and notarized permission" to take a minor out of the US. My assurance that the other parent was permanently unavailable did not cut it. I did something very sneaky in the way of well, forgery, and got us on the plane- and after that everything-especially eating and shopping, went swimmingly.
The Montreal restaurant was our first exposure to a wood-fired oven, and this was no doubt a major factor in my euphoria. A specialty of the house was an individual pizza with a choice of interesting toppings. This was before the day of the ubiquitious fast food personal pan pizza. I had a hot, crisp smoky little number, all for me, topped with a pale, garlicky sauce and a scattering of chopped escargot. Sound a little gimicky or cute? I liked it so much that my overt happiness was deeply embarassing to my usually tolerant child. She liked hers, too.
I haven't been making pizza at home for all that long- maybe 10 years, max. The first successful venture into home pizza was the Sullivan Street Bakery's Rosemary Potato Pizza from Maggie Glezar's Artisan Baking Across America. This is a delicious one, with a magical morphing dough. I am also fond of the Peter Reihart via Heidi dough, which has the handy feature of residing happily divided up and ready to stretch in the refrigerator for a few days. (It must rest at least 24 hours there, so if you are going to have a whim, you will need to be prescient.)
The one you see here (I prefer to think of the free form style as "rustic", though "messy" would not be inaccurate) is an onion pizza I made to have with the corn and wild mushroom chowder the other night. Normally, the Reinhart dough cooks at a higher temperature, more speedily, but I slowed this one down in honor of the onions and bacon, which don't do too well at incendiary temperatures.
I like the idea of making pizzas to have with a particular soup or salad, and picking toppings that mesh nicely, or making them up, accordingly. It is very pleasant to nibble away at them simultaneously, which makes the pizza into a bit of a side, or at least, co-equal dish.You can have as little or as much as you like of either, which makes a good meal for people who are not equally hungry. Depending on how much you nibble, you have either a hearty meal or a light lunch or supper.
I am not giving exact amounts here, as I didn't measure anything, and the method I used is adaptable to all sizes. I did use about 1/9th of the entire Reinhart recipe for this individual but non-puny size, a smallish onion, and one slice of bacon. You can make it without the onion marmelade, and it will still be good.
Individual Onion Pizza, on the side
Reinhart recipe pizza dough, refrigerated for at least 24 hours
thinly sliced onion in half moons
salt and pepper
fresh sage (optional)
bacon in thin slices
lobstersquad's incredibly wonderful multi-purpose onion jam
Take dough out of fridge two hours before cooking. Preheat oven to 450F. When ready to bake, you will stretch the dough out thinly on a scattering of cornmeal or semolina flour. If you have a baking stone and peel you can use them. If not you can do this on the back of a turned-over cookie sheet, and bake it on the sheet, too. I do love the baking stone effect, and keep mine in the oven always, so there is less chance of breaking it, the one I have is 7 years old, and deeply darkened.
Top pizza with sliced onions, drizzle with cream-lightly. Scatter bacon and sage, and blop on some onion jam. Slide into oven and bake 25 minutes or so, until it looks like the picture, only maybe tidier.