I love potatoes. In pretty much any form—french fried, tater totted, baked, mashed, home-fried, hash browned, au gratined, etc., etc. I don't think I've ever met a potato dish I didn't like.
And you know I LOVE pizza.
But potato-topped pizzas have always been hit or miss for me.
The mashed potato-bacon pie at Bar in New Haven, Connecticut, is way hyped but didn't really trip my trigger (maybe I wasn't drunk enough?). Various Roman-style pizzas topped as they are with thinly sliced spuds? The potato rounds are always limp and seemingly drained of potato flavor.
But there are two potato pies I've loved. The Baked Potato at Pete Zaaz in Brooklyn and the Patate at recently opened Nicoletta in Manhattan. They both taste like someone hung a pizza on a wall for target practice, loaded a shotgun with bacon, potato, cheese, and what not—and then went all Duck Hunt on that pie. They are blasted with the flavor of a fully loaded baked potato.
Of Steak and Potatoes
I wanted to make the most creamy, rich, crazy-ass mashers, though, so I set about looking for a recipe from a French chef. I had forgotten about this Food Lab recipe, which was actually a good thing, because while Googling around, I hit upon this recipe from Cook's Illustrated (also available here) for aligot (ah-lee-go)—a version of French mashed potatoes with lots of butter and milk and garlic and ... two types of cheese? YES, PLEASE.
It did go well with our steak, although aligot is more elastic than creamy, thanks to the method used (food processor) and the cheese. It's still plenty rich and delicious, and so a good portion of it went missing somewhere between the stove and the table. (That "somewhere" being my stomach.)
While scarfing spoonfuls of the stuff straight from the pot, an idea occurred: This version of aligot has mozzarella in it. It has garlic in it. ... Hello, pizza topping!
Mozzarella? Yup. Pommes purists might look sideways at that because aligot, a dish native to the L'Aubrac region of south central France, is traditionally made with Tomme de Laguiole or Tomme d'Auvergne cheese. But good luck getting either cheese in the U.S. All the recipes I found for it use mozzarella as a substitute, with gruyère added to stand in for the nuttiness of the Laguiole.
The problem with using it on a pizza, though, is this:
Visually, it's dull as dishwater.
Thankfully, the kind of loaded-baked-potato flavor I was going for presented us with some options. Delicious ones at that.
Bacon, that traditional potato go-with, lends a reddish-brown color. Cheddar is yellow. But I wanted something more. Looking at the cutting board, I thought, What a waste all those potato peels are. On a baked potato, I'd eat the skin. ... That gave me une idée.
Could I do something with the potato peels? Turns out, yes. This simple method for fried potato peels is more an idea than a recipe. Simply sauté them in oil or—waste not want not—BACON FAT:
Perfect! Precook the bacon, render the fat, reserve it for frying the potato peels. Four slices of thick-cut bacon should yield plenty of grease to fry your peels in. And four slices is also about enough for two 13-inch pizzas. Crumble or chop it into thumbnail-size pieces, and top the pizza right as it comes out of the oven. The cheese will be molten enough that the bacon will adhere to the pie.
Why precook the bacon? In a standard, unhacked home oven with just a pizza stone, it doesn't quite cook through (and certainly doesn't get crisp enough) if placed on a pizza raw. Just throw it on after the pie comes out of the oven, like you would a baked potato.
You can just throw the peels right in the same pan you cooked the bacon in.
Sauté them until they are just golden-brown.
The fried potato peels go on the pizza post-bake. As do some finely chopped chives. And voilà!
The Aligot-Bacon Pizza with Fried Potato Peels and Chives.
For the aligot:
- Get the recipe here (Cook's Illustrated login required; or here if you don't have one)
- Yukon gold potatoes are the key to creamy mashed potatoes
- When peeling the potatoes, the longer the peels, the better for frying
For the fried peels:
- Get the recipe here
- Slice them thinly—about 1/8" works well
- Scatter them on the pizza after it comes out of the oven
For the cheese:
- Remember, you've already got mozzarella in the potatoes, so you don't need it on top. But you do want a little more cheese, so...
- I used a 2:1 blend of white and yellow cheddar. I wanted just enough yellow cheddar for visual appeal but not too much that the pizza looked crazy day-glo
- Go easy with it. It can get greasy
What Worked, What Didn't
I'm usually not satisfied with my pizzas, but I'm not gonna lie; this one came together pretty well. Being a white pie (no tomato sauce), it was a bit dry, though. Aligot is not so much creamy as it is elastic and stretchy, so to add some moisture to the pie, I think future versions of this will get the one topping that some of you may have noticed is missing—SOUR CREAM. Or maybe since we're being all French here, I'll use crème fraîche.
A little post-bake criss-cross of crème fraîche would pretty much nail it.
Until next Home Slice, folks, hasta la pizza.
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