The Finished Pizza
Jim Lahey's "Bird's Nest" pizza is a sauceless pizza topped with Parmesan and tomme de savoie cheeses, shaved asparagus, quail eggs, a few dots of jarred black truffles, and extra virgin olive oil.
But Let's Start at the Beginning
Break off and discard any of the tough ends of the asparagus stems and peel any of the rough stalk at the bottoms.
Place stalk on cutting board, hold bottom end firmly, and draw vegetable peeler from bottom to top. Do this about 4 times, then flip it over and repeat.
Thick and Thin
You're going for thin slices, but if your slices aren't consistent, it's no detriment to the finished product — you'll just have a nice mixture of tender asparagus shavings and thin ones that have crisped up in the oven. In fact, I'd say inconsistency is desirable to some extent!
Mr. Lahey showed me an alternate method of shaving the asparagus, which he says gives you better control over the slice thickness because you can use your thumb to vary the pressure. I found this method to be a little more difficult to master, but you've got plenty of asparagus to practice on, I suppose.
The Ideal Peel
It doesn't matter if you don't quite catch the tip of the spear in your peel, but it's more aesthetically pleasing.
One Bunch, Shaved
This is about what 1 bunch of medium asparagus looks like shaved. This will top about 1.5 small (10-inch or so) pies — maybe 2 if you don't mind your pizzas a little more asparagus-sparse.
Build the Pie
Stretch out your favorite dough into a small round — Neapolitan-pizza size, or about 10 inches. Top first with good-quality Parmesan and then with about 12 nugget-size chunks of tomme de savoie.
Use about 1/2 to 3/4 of the shaved asparagus per pie. It looks like a lot, but like many things green and thin, it cooks down when exposed to heat.
Let the pizza cook. If you're using a high-heat oven (wood-fired or what have you), when it's about a minute or so from being done, remove it and, using a sharp paring knife, cut open the top of a quail egg. Empty the egg onto a quadrant of the pizza. Repeat with remaining 3 eggs.
Back in the Oven
If you can't find quail eggs, don't worry, Lahey says. You can use chicken eggs. In that event, just use 2 of them. Then put the pizza back in to firm up the egg whites. Timing will depend on what type of oven you're using. If wood oven, about 30 more seconds. For a home oven, maybe more like a minute or two.
Truffling and Oiling
When done, dot a little bit of black truffle on it. Totally optional, given black truffle expense, but it really helps the pie. Then drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on it.
Remember that, if cooked the way Lahey does it, the egg yolk is still runny! Don't be like me.