Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Pear, Bavarian Blue Cheese, Radicchio & Fennel Pizzettes

Years ago I acquired a pizza stone; the exact nature of how it materialized escapes me now but I do remember having grand visions of the crisp, cheesy pies I’d produce. I think I used it twice.

It’s still nestled in its original box with the end flaps conveniently agape should I ever want to pull it out for a quick bake. Like a forlorn toy, it remains ever at-the-ready among my favored baking sheets and muffin tins where it is likely to stay as I discovered two things shortly after its appearance that changed the pizza-making game for me.

One: that you can get GREAT pizza dough from the market or even your neighborhood pizzeria (not necessarily a discovery that impacts the use of a pizza stone but one that easily affirms the whole should we toss a pizza tonight query).  And two (the real epiphany): I like grilling my pies!

Not only do I enjoy the grilled and, sometimes, charred nature of the resulting crust, I love the hands-on, creative process of building the pie as you go. If our weather permits, the outdoor grill is my preferred method. If not, then I’ll pinch hit with a stove-top grill… the smoke fan on full tilt, a window or two popped open and, occasionally, a door held ajar... but it's worth it.

Regardless of where I might be taking our pie(s)... savory, sweet, or somewhere in between... I always start with a little brush of canola oil and a pre-grill of one side. That first grilled side, once flipped, then becomes your “toppings” side… a perfectly crispy base to build whatever pleases your palate… a great canvas that allows you to pile flavors on in stages; a method that works wonders when you have a variety of textures (soft cheese, fresh fruit, etc.)

In this particular pie I was using the last batch of pears I had for a grouping of recipes I was completing for Stemilt Growers. Not wanting to overdo the cheese element (keeping to my no-dairyitty-bit of dairy restriction), I wanted to create a layer of flavor that would serve as a great base for the beautifully ripe pears I planned to use in topping each pizzette (individual-sized pizza). Being on a bit of a fennel kick, I went with a caramelized sauté of fennel, onion and radicchio; after first lightly dotting the crusts with bits of a creamy, subtly pungent brie-bleu cheese blend. Then, hot off the grill, each pizzette gets a generous pop of nutty, fresh arugula. The slight caramel sweetness of the fennel mixture is brilliant with this particular cheese selection; truly tasty and a perfect “pearing” with the fruit… I think any sweet, ripe pear variety will work beautifully.

My old pizza stone still stands at the ready. Perhaps I’ll prop it up against the stove-top grill... pull it out for a baked fruit crostata and keep it in the pie-making business.

Recipe details can be found at Stemilt.

Disclaimer: While I am being compensated by Stemilt Growers as a guest contributor to The Stem, the views and/or opinions expressed are my own.

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