Pizza with Dry-Cured Smoked Ham (Speck)
I stopped in down the street at Browne Trading the other day to pick up some housegifts (I chose 4-ounce cryopacs of the cold-smoked Scottish salmon Browne produces in partnership with Daniel Boulud -- a perfect gift, in my view) and of course spent a few minutes browsing in their cases and shelves for interesting ingredients for my own kitchen. A healthy chunk of Speck Alto Adige -- a product that until recently wasn't authorized for import into the U.S. -- caught my eye and subsequently left with me. This pizza is the first chance I've had to use it.
Speck production is an 800-year-old tradition in Bolzono, the German-speaking Italian town in the Süd Tirol region (Alto Adige in Italian) in the southern Alps, and a glorious product it is. The website Italianmade.com says "the
term speck became part of popular parlance only in the eighteenth
century and replaced the older term bachen, a relative of bacon.
Speck is a pork product made from a boned ham that is moderately salted
and seasoned, cold-smoked and then well aged according to local
practices and traditions. The exterior of a slab of speck is brown,
while the inside is red with whitish-pink areas. Speck has a strong
smoky and zesty scent. During the salting process, the meat is
flavoured with black pepper, pimento, garlic
and juniper berry which lend it a distinctive and savoury taste." More information about speck is found at www.speck.it, the site of the Süditiroler Consortium which protects and controls the production and marketing of genuine speck.
All that history and marketing talk aside, speck is a wonderful addition to all sorts of dishes, bringing a more refined taste than pancetta, a little more robust flavor than proscuitto, and a slightly firmer and finer-grained texture than Virginia ham, so having this chunk in my refrigerator (wrapped in a cloth) makes me very happy. This pizza, for example -- ordinary in all other respects, with its tomato, garlic, olive oil, basil, mozzarella and parm -- becomes special with the addition of the speck.
Dry-Cured Smoked Ham (Speck) Pizza
1/2 recipe pizza dough
5 roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cut vertically in crescents
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T olive oil
12 leaves fresh basil, chopped or torn
10 or 12 paper thin sliced speck, cut in 1 to 1-1/2" pieces*
1/2 medium red onion, sliced thin
3 oz smoked mozzarella, shredded
2 oz Parmigiano Reggiano, shredded
hot sauce to taste
Mix the tomatoes, garlic and olive oil with about two-thirds of the basil. Season to taste with hot sauce (the speck and parmesan bring a good bit of salt to the finished pizza so if you want to use some be cautious).
When the pizza shell has completed the second rising, spread the tomato mixture over it, leaving a 2" border of uncovered crust around the edge if you like. Scatter on the red onion rings and bake in on a well-preheated stone in a 450º oven for 10 minutes.
Spread on the cheeses, leaving a border of tomatoes visible around the edges, and then the ham. Lower the oven temperature to 400º and bake another 10 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Scatter on the remaining basil, brush edges with a little olive oil, slice and serve.
*Paper thin slices -- if you don't have a meat slicer (as I don't) you can achieve a nice thin slice by using a long, straight knife with a flexible blade, well-sharpened, and doing your slicing when the meat is very cold.