I need to cook. It's almost primal. Sometimes it wakes me up at four in the morning, just like the need I have to occasionally walk in the drenching Spring rain, without an umbrella, just to feel the cold water lash against my face. Cleansing. The need to cut, dice, slice, bake, it's methodical... therapeutic.
Mario Batali makes a Lardo Pizza, it's called 'Otto Lardo' and it's 13 dollars. You don't even need to get a table, you can order it right at the bar. You can smell the grassiness of the olive oil as it's placed promptly in front of you. The lardo is salty, buttery, porky. Each pizza at Otto is cooked at a different length of time depending on what the topping is. The lardo pizza is cooked less, I have no idea how long (I didn't ask) but it's very pale. The rosemary and olive oil permeate. I suppose it's like if you unpeel, carefully, the fat from around the edge of a slice of prosciutto and laid it, sliver by sliver on a pale dough pizza, except he uses squares.
Mario's the king; It's ballsy to put immaculate square pieces of lardo on a pizza dough, it's sort of like seeing a small square house on a large, wide expanse of suburban land, you keep wondering, they have all that land, are they going to put in a swimming pool? The lardo looks marooned, but it works. I decide to offset the fattiness of the pizza by ordering a side dish. Dennis, the bartender, mutters under his breath something that I don't quite catch. (Sometimes the mutterings under the breath... like the pencil scratchings in the margins of a cheap paperback, are more interesting and relevant than the overly considered, brain-processed word) This time he merely nods and brings me a dish of 'Artichoke and Fregula' which emerges in a small dense pot. It's delicious, like comfort food for cherubic Italian babies. Yummy, Mama, Sie.
I leave Otto. I need to go home and cook, I need to emulate my own lardo pizza dish. I want my slices to be crispy, as well as translucent, (2 kinds of textures) and I want my dish served with something raw, acidic, to cut through the fattiness and add crunch, but not as a side dish, I want the acidity put right there on top.
It's raining now. I let the fat drops splash hard against my face. Methodical, therapeutic. It's finally Springtime in New York.
INDIVIDUAL LARDO PIZZA WITH CRISPY RAW PICKLED PEPPERS:
This is a great chance to use store-bought pizza dough. My local pizza joint lets me to pick up dough for as little as a dollar on my way home. Easy. I got my lardo from Eatily. 8 thin slices came to just $1.98. Delicious and cheap!
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place some parchment paper on a baking sheet. Smear it with a little olive oil. Roll out a 8 or 9 inch disc of pizza dough and place it on the sheet. Ask your butcher to cut you 8 thin strips of lardo. Drape 4 of these strips over the pizza dough. Place it in the oven. Meanwhile make the vinegar mixture. Put 2/3rds of a cup of vinegar, 1/3rd cup of water and 3 tablespoons of sugar in a saucepan on low and heat until the sugar melts. Place 2 bell peppers (one yellow, one red) that have been chopped roughly into 1 inch chunks into the vinegar mixture. Turn the heat off and set it aside. Meanwhile check the pizza. When the dough is browning and the lardo looks golden, shriveled up and crispy, like bacon (roughly 14 minutes) take the pizza out of the oven and rest. Drape the remaining 4 strips of lardo over the pizza and let it sit until the 4 pieces of lardo have melted and are translucent and glossy. (5 or 6 minutes). Place the crunchy raw 'pickled' bell peppers in the middle of the pizza, cut into slices and serve at once. Serves 1.
NOTE: If you want to shortcut this recipe even further pick up a jar of Hot Vinegar Cherry Peppers to use instead of pickling your own Bell Peppers.