Sunday, November 6, 2011

Bacon Jam Pizza

Of the 20-some pizza recipes we have posted so far, I am by far the most proud of this one. It feels like a milestone, a turning point in our pizza-making from which we can grow to new great pizza heights.

Either that or this is the absolute best pizza we're ever going to make and it's all downhill from here.

Many of our pizzas begin with already established flavor combinations, which we then finagle onto a crust. The creativity lies more in figuring out how to make it work on a pizza, rather than in coming up with brand new topping pairings. This recipe, however, began with the mysterious and tantalizing words "bacon jam," followed by "what the heck goes with bacon jam?" And the most delicious discoveries emerged.

The bacon jam recipe is courtesy of my friend Tasty April. At her Labor Day party this year, she brought out a small jar of chunky brown paste, assuring us it we would want to put this condiment on everything. She was right.

Unfortunately, my first effort at making bacon jam failed miserably, as the combination of my gas stove with no legitimate "low" setting and my over-zealous cast iron skillet completely scorched it. So I made a few minor modifications, including the use of a slow cooker, and attempt #2 was a rousing success. As April suggests, the uses of this miraculous substance are endless, so if you come up with any other exciting applications, we'd love to know.

  1. Chop 1 pound of thick-cut smoked bacon into 1-inch pieces and cook in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove the bacon from the skillet with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  2. Allow the bacon fat to cool for a few minutes. Then add 1 large onion, sliced thin, and 5 minced garlic cloves and saute over medium-low heat until the onion is translucent.
  3. Meanwhile, get out your slow cooker and put in the crisped bacon, 3/4 cup coffee, 1/2 cup water, 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/3 cup maple syrup, 1 teaspoon allspice, 1 teaspoon chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne. When the onions and garlic are done, add them as well, along with all of that bacon fat.
  4. Simmer everything in the slow cooker on high, with the lid on, for 1 hour. Then turn it down to low and simmer for another 30 minutes. The bacon should be very soft and soggy, and there will be a lot of liquid left.
  5. Turn off the slow cooker and allow the mixture to cool for 20-30 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chunky parts to the food processor and discard the excess liquids. 
  6. Pulse the mixture in the food processor until finely chopped, about 5 pulses, or until it's a consistency you like.
  7. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months.

The pizza magic happens when you add just the right toppings to the bacon jam base. Layer the toppings in this order:
  1. Whole wheat crust, par-baked
  2. Thin spread of bacon jam. You don't need much to have a very rich flavor. (Or to have super high cholesterol...)
  3. Grated mozzarella, just enough to help the toppings stick
  4. Crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  5. Thinly sliced pears
  6. Sliced shallots
Bake at 450 degrees F for 7 minutes. Eat and eat and eat some more.

We ended up making this pizza twice in one weekend because we couldn't believe how delicious it was!