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Country Ham & Fig Pizza

Updated February 23, 2016
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This image courtesy of Christopher Hirsheimer

Country ham is a mainstay of the southern table and is sometimes referred to as America’s prosciutto. The salty, meaty ham is best sliced thin and frequently served on biscuits—and in Elizabeth’s home with fig jam. Add dollops of creamy ricotta and mascarpone and you’ve got a pizza that beats a biscuit any day, any time.

If you don’t have access to country ham in your part of the United States substitute thick-sliced prosciutto or order it by mail (www.countryham.org).

Adventure Club: Sauté the figs in butter with a sprinkling of sugar or poach in red wine.

Drink This: This uncommon pizza balances sweet, savory, and salty flavors-and pairs perfectly with the slightly effervescent Moscato d’Asti from Italy.

How to Toast Nuts:

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake until golden brown, 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the nut variety. Turn once during cooking. Let cool before using.

Master Instructions: The Gas Grill Method

Preheat the grill by setting all the burners on high. After lighting, close the lid and leave on high for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat of all the burners to medium.

Meanwhile, sprinkle your work surface with the grits or polenta. Place the dough in the middle of the surface. You can either roll out the dough with a rolling pin, stretch it out with your hands, or press it out from the center against the work surface. Ideally, you want a 12-inch, organically shaped piece of dough-round, square, or rectangular-1/8 to 14 inch thick (err on the thinner side for thin-crust pizza and on the thicker side for thick-crust pizza). Drizzle or brush both sides generously with oil. Our recipes call for 2 tablespoons, but we tend to use more oil when making our own pizzas, which results in a thinner and crispier crust.

Pick up the dough by the two corners closest to you. In one motion, lay it down flat on the cooking grate from back to front (as you would set a tablecloth down on a table). Close the lid and grill for 3 minutes (no peeking!), then check the crust and, if necessary, continue grilling a few more minutes until the bottom is well marked and nicely browned.

Use tongs to transfer the crust from the grill to a peel or rimless baking sheet. Close the lid of the grill. Flip the crust to reveal the grilled side. Follow the specific recipe directions for adding any sauce, toppings, and/or cheese.

Switch the grill to indirect heat by turning off the center burner(s) if you have a three- or four-burner grill. For a two-burner grill, turn off one burner. Set the pizza back on the grate over indirect heat (the unlit section) and grill, with the lid down, until the bottom is well browned and the cheese is melted, 7 to 10 minutes. For two-burner grills, rotate the pizza halfway through the cooking time.

Remove from the grill, garnish, and season as directed. Slice and serve immediately.

Master Instructions: The Charcoal Grill Method

Build a fire by lighting 50 to 60 charcoal briquettes in either a chimney starter or in a pyramid-shaped mound on the bottom grate of your grill. Once the briquettes have become gray-ashed (20 to 30 minutes), move them all to one side of the grill.

Meanwhile, sprinkle your work surface with the grits or polenta. Place the dough in the middle of the surface. You can either roll out the dough with a rolling pin, stretch it out with your hands, or press it out from the center against the work surface. Ideally, you want a 12-inch by 6-inch, organically shaped piece of dough-a rectangle-1/8 to ¼ inch thick (err on the thinner side for thin-crust pizza and on the thicker side for thick-crust pizza). Drizzle or brush both sides generously with oil. Our recipes call for 2 tablespoons, but we tend to use more oil when making our own pizzas, which results in a thinner and crispier crust.

Pick up the dough by the two corners closest to you. In one motion, lay it down flat-over the side without briquettes-on the cooking grate from back to front (as you would set a tablecloth down on a table). Close the lid and grill for 3 minutes (no peeking!), then rotate the crust 180 degrees and continue grilling until the bottom is well marked and evenly browned, another 2 to 3 minutes.

Use tongs to transfer the crust from the grill to a peel or rimless baking sheet. Close the lid of the grill. Flip the crust to reveal the grilled side. Follow the specific recipe directions for adding any sauce, toppings, and/or cheese.

Set the pizza back on the grate over the side without briquettes and grill, with the lid down, for 4 to 5 minutes. Rotate the pizza 180 degrees and continue to grill with the lid down until the bottom is well browned and cheese is melted, another 4 to 5 minutes.

Remove from the grill, garnish, and season as directed. Slice and serve immediately.

Serves2 to 4

Cooking Methodgrilling

CostModerate

Moderate

Total Timeunder 1 hour

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Courseappetizer, main course

Dietary Considerationpeanut free, soy free

Equipmentgrill

Mealdinner

Taste and Texturecreamy, crisp, meaty, salty, sweet

Type of Dishpizza

Ingredients

  • ½ cup ricotta cheese
  • ¼ cup mascarpone
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ¼ cup uncooked grits or polenta, for rolling the dough
  • 1 ball prepared pizza dough, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup fig jam
  • 8 fresh figs, cut in half, or 6 dried figs, sliced on an angle as thinly as possible (try to get 4 slices per fig)
  • 6 ounces country ham, thinly sliced (about 5 biscuit-size slices) and broken into pieces or diced
  • ¼ cup walnuts halves, toasted (see Notes) and roughly chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper black pepper to taste

Instructions

In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, mascarpone, and the honey until smooth. Reserve for topping.

Preheat the grill, roll out and shape the dough, and grill the first side of the crust per the Master Instructions on for gas or for charcoal (see Notes). Use tongs to transfer it to a peel or rimless baking sheet. Flip the crust to reveal the grilled side.

Spread the entire surface with the jam. Artfully arrange the fig slices on top and sprinkle with the ham and walnuts. Spoon small dollops of the ricotta-mascarpone mixture over the top.

Finish grilling the pizza per the Master Instructions (see Notes). Remove from the grill and season with pepper. Since the ham is salty, taste first, then salt only if necessary. Slice and serve immediately.

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A big hit at our Labor Day barbeque! I used the pre-formed cornmeal crusts from Whole Foods, fresh figs, prosciutto instead of country ham, and a bit of grated quattro formaggi (parmesan, mozzarella, provolone, asiago) on the bottom instead of the fig jam, cooked on the grill. The ricotta-mascarpone-honey mix is heavenly and could be used in other ways, sweet or savory. This will be my go-to when fresh figs come my way.

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