Top This: Julienned Pepperoni
Though beloved by many, pepperoni may not be the most novel topping out there. And that's probably an understatement, seeing how it's actually the most-ordered topping in the U.S. according to many surveys that I am too lazy to google at the moment. (Oh, wait ... here you go).
So what happens if you want to do something new with it? Aside from switching over to hot soppressata, you could try cutting it differently — and that's exactly what I'm going to show you.... after the jump.
There's a pizzeria in New York City that juliennes its pepperoni. (Though I think most of the pizza guys I've heard talk about this technique just call it "matchstick pepperoni.") That place is Lazzara's Pizza on West 38th Street near Seventh Avenue. I remember when Pinch: Pizza by the Inch was still around, the brothers there were inspired by Lazzara's and cut their pepperoni into matchsticks.
There's really not much to this technique, though you do have to start with an actual whole link of pepperoni.
Once you've got your pepperoni link, chop off the ends and cut the thing in half. Square off the pepperoni stick by slicing the sides as above. (Yes, this seems like you're sort of wasting those sides, but just reserve them — I'll get to this later.)
From there, slice the meatwadian rectangle vertically into 1/8-inch sections. Rotate the sections so that those first cuts are now horizontal and the rectangles of pepperoni are stacked. Now repeat the 1/8-inch cut vertically to produce evenly (or close enough to evenly) sliced matchsticks of meatiness (above).
When I mentioned in the Serious Eats–Slice office that I'd be doing this, Kenji asked, "Are you going to cook the matchsticks first?"
I'd never thought about that because whenever I've done this, I've just always put them on the pizza uncooked. But it had been a while since I've tried this topping, so I lightly sautéed half the matchsticks to see what would happen.
The curly, squiggly ones in the photo are from sticks cut from the otherwise-discarded sides. (Remember I said I'd get to this?) I wanted to see how sticks cut from the sides would cook up compared to the matchsticks from the interior of the pepperoni link. As expected, the contraction of the skin caused them to curl up like little pigtails. Crisp, juicy, spicy little pigtails.
Anyway, long story short, I never ended up using these precooked pepperoni matchsticks. That's because the uncooked matchsticks on the first pie I threw in the oven ended up coming out pretty close to perfect. They cooked pretty quickly and, indeed, the ones with skin on them curled up almost immediately after the pie hit the pizza stone.
The result is a meaty, greasy little stick of salty goodness. Almost like eating slightly skinnier Slim Jims on a pizza. (OK, maybe that's not a good way to sell this as a topping.)
Anyway, I've blabbed too much, and you get the point. Try it if you want. If not, no big deal. I pretty much only do Top This as an excuse to run "Top That" videos as outros: