I’ve eaten brussels sprouts raw and cooked, but I hadn’t considered them a pizza topping until I came across this recipe for Brussels Sprouts Pizza with Robiola, Bacon and Red Onion from Portland, Ore-based chef, Cathy Whims.
Whims, who describes herself as “born-again Italian,” helms two popular restaurants — Nostrana and Oven and Shaker — and recently contributed this memorable pizza and recipes for three other dishes to the Wall Street Journal’s Slow Food Fast column.
Each time I’ve made this pizza I’ve marveled at the flavors. The earthy brussels and spicy red onions crisp up ever so slightly in the oven. The bacon lends a smoky, satisfying crunch. The robiola cheese — rich like a triple-creme brie — tastes a little funky raw, but mellows in the oven and melts into creamy puddles. Pecorino adds nutty sharpness.
While I didn’t change an ingredient — Whims created a perfect combo of flavors, and she’s a pizza expert — I included a few home-cook hints below.
Since her pizza is part of a series that focuses on getting a flavorful, fresh dish on the table in under an hour, Whims recommends store-bought dough. In a pinch, I’ll pick up a ball from one of the grocery stores in our area, but if I plan ahead by just a day, then I can make Jim Lahey’s dead simple, no-knead pizza dough. I’ve tried a number of pizza dough recipes and Lahey’s tops them all in flavor and texture. (I wrote about my experience and his technique here.)
Once you’ve shaped your dough into a circle (or oval, if you’re shape-challenged like I am), and are ready to assemble, may I make two suggestions: Brush olive oil on the outer rim of the circle of dough — just 1/2-inch — and then very lightly salt the rim and the rest of the dough before adding any ingredients onto your pie. From the get-go, you’ll be layering flavor into your pizza.
I find smaller brussels sprouts are sweeter. If you only can find the larger-sized sprouts, peel the dark green leaves until you get to the light green leaves below. Slice the brussels as thin as you can.
The bacon cooks twice — once in a saute pan and then on the pizza with the other ingredients. If you cook it on the stove until it’s crisp and then bake it on the pizza, it’s likely to burn in the oven. Scoop the pieces out of your sauté pan at the first signs of browning, and let them drain well on a paper-towel-lined plate before assembling your pie. They’ll cook beautifully on the pizza and exit the oven with the perfect crunch.
There are a few types of Robiola cheese. I bought Robiola Bosina, which is very creamy and has a soft, edible rind. Don’t be afraid to ask the folks who work at your cheese or grocery store to steer you in the right direction, or help you find a good substitute if they don’t have Robiola in stock.
Whims’ calls for Pecorino to be be grated on top of the pizza as soon as it’s out of the oven. I wanted the milder flavor of melted Pecorino, so I grated it on top of the pie before baking. Like Robiola, there are a few varieties of Pecorino. My current favorite is Pecorino Il Filiano, which is more nutty than sharp, but taste a few — such as Pecorino Romano or Pecorino Stagionato — and see which you prefer.
In addition to a good swirl of olive oil before serving. I give the pie a few turns of the pepper mill, too. I like the added bite.
Here again is the link to Chef Whims’ Brussels Sprouts Pizza with Robiola, Bacon and Red Onion. Wishing you and yours a happy Thanksgiving!