This potato pizza is simple to make, decadent, and awesomely addictive. The potatoes are braised in chicken stock, lemon juice, and olive oil until creamy, fragrant, and oh-so lemony. Sautéed onions add a subtle sweetness. The bechamel serves to both moisten the crust while helping to crisp the edges. Grana Padano covers the salty, cheesy requirement, while a squeeze of lemon juice, fresh thyme and a sprinkling of sea salt at the last moment adds a bright contrast to the decadent richness of the pizza.
[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]
The crust, or base, of this pizza is store-bought pizza bianca from Grandaisy Bakery in Soho (Sullivan Street Bakery in Hell's Kitchen also sells the same Pizza Bianca.) Pizza Bianca is a lightly leavened, airy, hand-formed flatbread. It is accented with extra virgin olive oil, course sea salt, and rosemary. Though pizza bianca is delicious on its own, it coincidentally makes the perfect pizza crust!
Build the Foundation
Cut the pizza bianca in half by slicing down the middle of the flatbread, keeping your knife parallel to the cutting board for an even cut. Unfold, then place the bottom half of the pizza bianca on a sheet tray, with the porous side facing upwards. And don't—I repeat—DO NOT forget to eat the leftovers.
Sweat Baby Sweat
Peel onions and slice them into 1/4 inch slices. Heat a pan over medium heat until hot, and then add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onions to the pan with a pinch of salt. Sauté until the onions are softened and translucent, about 5 to 10 minutes. You don't want the onions to brown, so remove any overly browned onions from the pan. Now time to braise the taters!
Makin' the Potato Braising Liquid
Heat 2 cups chicken stock in a small saucepan. Add 1 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 sprigs fresh thyme and dried Sicilian oregano, 3 to 4 tablespoons lemon juice, and a good pinch of salt. Heat on low while you prepare the potatoes.
Peel the potatoes. Get out your handy dandy Japanese mandolin (if you don't have one, invest in one, because it WILL come in handy) and open the blade all the way to achieve the correct potato thickness. Slice the potatoes on the mandolin, then rinse the slices in cold water.
Arrange the potatoes in one layer in a small hotel pan (or baking dish). Pour the braising liquid over the potatoes. Place parchment paper directly on top of the potatoes to prevent quick evaporation and to hold moisture so the tops of the potatoes are always covered with liquid. Cover the pan with foil and place it into a 425 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
Bechamel and Cheese (aka "Potato Glue")
While the potatoes are braising in the oven, warm your bechamel in a small saucepan. Using a spoon, drizzle the bechamel evenly over the flatbread surface. The purpose of the bechamel is to moisten the flatbread and act as a glue for the potatoes, so don't overdo it. It is important to give all the corners and edges of the flatbread some bechamel lovin' so that they crisp up in the oven. And who doesn't like crispy edges!? Spread the bechamel into the porous flatbread surface with the back of your spoon.
Next, sprinkle half of the grated Grana Padano cheese over the bechamel-covered flatbread. Remember to hit the edges and corners with the cheese!
Like Making a Potato Mosaic
Take your perfectly tender, lemony potatoes out of the braising liquid and immediately arrange them on top of the flatbread while the potatoes are still warm. The potatoes adhere better to the flatbread when they are hot, but this means you might want to use gloves (like Chef Nicholas is doing here).
Arrange the potatoes in rows of three, with no space in between. Some of the potatoes will inevitably break in the oven, which is perfect because you can use these broken pieces to fill in the gaps, so that the entire surface is covered with potato.
How Do You Like Them Onions?
Arrange the sautéed onions over the potatoes. The onions are similarly useful to fill in the gaps between potatoes.
Bechamel (Round II)
Liberally drizzle more of the bechamel over the potatoes and onions. Get the edges, guys, the edges! You will thank yourself in the end. Now top everything with another sprinkling of Grana Padano cheese.
The Final Touches
Hit the pizza with freshly ground pepper, fresh thyme, a pinch of sea salt, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Send this baby straight into a 530 degree oven (or as high a temp as your oven can go) in direct contact with a cooking surface. If you have a pizza stone, use it! The pizza will cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the edges are crispy. Mind you, the dough is already cooked so all we are looking for is cheese melting, bechamel bubbling, and amalgamation of topping flavors. Whatever you do, don't cook the pizza for more than 7 minutes, because it will dry out.
Once it's out of the oven, finish the pizza off with a squeeze of lemon juice, a sprinkling of sea salt, and a final drizzle of olive oil.
Flat Top, or Not?
If you are not going to serve your pizza right away, or if it doesn’t get as crispy as you want it to in the oven, throw the finished pizza on a flat top or into a super hot cast-iron pan. This will make the crust nice and crispy and give your pizza that mmm-good char.
I solemnly swear you (and your guests) will ooh and aah over this rich, lemony, creamy, potatolicious pizza.