The Hungry Engineer

Miss Piggy Would Not Be Impressed

11 Oct 2008

Miss Piggy would not be impressed with me right now. You remember the Muppets Christmas special where they’re singing “Bring us some figgy pudding” and Miss Piggy hears “piggy pudding” (you can find the quote here)? Well, I made figgy pizza and while Miss Piggy probably would’ve been fine with that, the beautiful prosciutto topping would have likely caused some consternation.

The Fig and Prosciutto Pizza I made yesterday comes from Todd English’s cookbook, The Figs Table: More Than 100 Recipes for Pizzas, Pastas, Salads, and Desserts. It’s sort of funny – I’m pretty sure I purchased this cookbook for that particular pizza recipe. And I can’t remember having cooked anything else from the book, but with my interest in going back through my old cookbooks and trying to be more diligent about using what I already have in the kitchen instead of constantly going out and buying new stuff, I thought I’d revisit it.

Published in 1998, The Figs Table is a little older than some of the others I’ve talked about recently. It begins with a Q and A that’s intended to cover Mr. English’s philosophy toward pizza. Following that are listings of what you’d want to stock your pantry and kitchen with if you were to prepare these recipes (lists which are best taken with a grain of salt, but regardless give you at least some idea of what you’ll be cooking). Next is a section to cover what he calls “Basics”. This includes simple things like roasted garlic and flavored oils, but also shows the reader how to make chicken stock and (more importantly in my case) how to make fig jam. Most of the remainder of the book is segmented into regular sorts of recipe categorizations: starters, soups, pasta, pizza, etc. He ends his text with mail order sources (that at this point are potentially a bit dated), an index, and a brief conversion chart.

The fig and prosciutto pizza in particular is exquisite. It’s one of the few things I cook that my husband routinely requests. The thick savory/sweet fig jam is a marvel of disparate but converging flavors all on its own. Add to it the creamy assertiveness of blue cheese chunks, the paper-thin slices of salty, meaty prosciutto, and slivers of green onion adding their own piquant tang and you have yourself a complexly flavored dish. It bowls you over with its richness, but manages to leave you satisfied without being overfilled. The crust is meant to be very thin and cracker crisp. While my rendition of the Todd English crust is much improved over what it used to be, I still don’t necessarily feel like I have it quite right. That said, there’s a lot of room between tasty and perfection, so the pizza tastes pretty darned good even without having the ideal crust. Like many great pizza chefs, Mr. English implores you not to overload your pizza with toppings. As my now burnt-on-fig-jam-stained pizza stone will attest, this is advice we’d do well to heed. (I’m not looking forward to cleaning that up, by the way.) The one variation I made to the recipe (other than to use more topping material than he recommends) was that while he has you topping the pizza with the prosciutto before you bake it, I elected to instead lay it on the super-hot, fresh from the oven pizza. It seems that the prosciutto can get sort of leathery if cooked under direct heat like that, and that makes the pizza sort of difficult to eat. Spreading the very thinly sliced prosciutto over the very hot fig jam and cheese leaves the texture soft and still allows some of the prosciutto fat to kind of melt into your pizza.

Pizza straight from the oven

Pizza now dressed with prosciutto and green onions

The cookbook, at first glance, might seem like more of a glossy, celebrity-chef-coffee-table kind of cookbook, but I can assuredly tell you that the fig and prosciutto pizza alone is worth price of the book. As with the other reviews I’ve done, over the coming weeks, I’ll prepare a few more recipes from the book in an attempt to provide a more rounded view of the overall quality of the text. (Also, while the fig and prosciutto pizza recipe doesn’t appear to be available, there are some other recipes to be found at the Todd English website. Unfortunately, since the whole #$&%^! site is all flashy, I can’t actually link to anything <grumble>).

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