I've always thought that ultra-spicy food is more like a dare than it is a culinary experience. And though part of my conviction comes from wimpy taste buds, I stand by my credo that spiciness should never overpower the flavor of a dish. So last week, when I was asked to develop a fiery meat pizza for an upcoming class, I knew taste had to come first. Cured meat was a must. A minute or two of brainstorming, and this hot soppressata pizza concept came into view.
Balanced with the medium-heat zip and robust flavor of poblano chile (my personal favorite hot pepper) and the sweet, cooling characteristics of fennel, the spiciness of the cured meat is steady and pleasurable—not bracing. Who knew poblano and fennel made such a great pair?! Add Pecorino Romano cheese and some fresh cream to the mix, and this soppressata pizza takes you on quite the flavor journey. My job is done here. *insert mic drop*
Hot Soppressata Pizza with Fennel and Poblano
- 1 (14- to 16-ounce) ball pizza dough
- extra-virgin olive oil
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 ounces hot soppressata very thinly sliced
- 1 medium poblano chile halved, seeded, and very thinly sliced
- ½ medium bulb fennel very thinly sliced
- ½ cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh fennel fronds (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 500°F (if using a baking sheet) or as high as it will go (if using a baking stone/steel; place the stone/steel in the oven before you start preheating).
- Stretch or roll out your dough to a 12-inch circle, then transfer it to an oiled baking sheet or a lightly floured pizza peel (if using a baking stone/steel).
- Brush the dough lightly with olive oil, making sure to get all the way to the edges. Sprinkle the dough with a pinch of salt and a grind or two of black pepper. Add the sliced soppressata in an even pattern, then scatter on the poblano and fennel. Top with the cheese. Pour the cream into a measuring cup with a spout and drizzle it onto the pizza in a slow, thin stream (I'm partial to the zig-zag pattern). Sprinkle with another pinch of salt.
- Transfer the pizza to the oven and bake until the crust is golden and the cheese has browned in spots, 8 to 10 minutes on the baking sheet, 6 to 8 minutes on the baking stone/steel.
- Remove the pizza from the oven and sprinkle with the fennel fronds (if using). Wait about 5 minutes before slicing and serving.