Southern Spanakopizza with Hot Honey

Despite my nerve injury, this pandemic, and the overall state of the world, I am thankful for love and support from friends and family during this time. My friend and I have been able to enjoy weekly park chats in the sun, which have been so helpful for my sanity and so much fun for my extroverted personality. A few weeks ago, we were discussing what our four words to live by are (because we are the #middleclassfancy meme IRL), and I immediately replied, “Never follow a recipe.” I am fully supportive of Samin Nosrat and others’ cooking philosophy that celebrates the five senses and inspires aspiring chefs to unlearn the absolutist nature of recipes. Instead of relying on instructions that involve specific temperatures, amounts, etc., learn to trust your instincts and taste the food along the way because these metrics are not as precise as you might think.

For example, different brands of salt vary in their salinity, so a pinch of kosher salt will not produce the same taste as a pinch of table salt. Additionally, oven temperatures vary while cooking, so a recipe may tell you to preheat your oven to 350 and bake a pan of brownies for 35 minutes when, in fact, they may only need 25 minutes. The internal temperature actually is fluctuating between 325° and 400° degrees, not held constant at 350°. An internal oven thermometer can help, but why not check just to be sure. Trust your sense of smell, too. Please read Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat if you are interested in leaving recipes in the dust to produce better dishes and have more fun in the kitchen.

Why did I just devote space to express my skepticism of recipes prior to offering you a recipe of my own? I want to emphasize that this method of cooking worked for me given my particular set of appliances, cookware, the brands of salt, flour, etc. However, this set of ingredients is definitely worth combining while keeping in mind that you may have to do several steps differently depending on what you have on hand and what sort of kitchen you have. Essentially, this pizza is a bastardized version of spanakopita but instead of spinach, I used kale and cooked it like I’d cook collard greens. I’d like to think this pizza represents my Greek and southern roots, with the caveat that we owe the roots of “southern food” to BIPOC.

Ingredients

Your favorite pizza dough (I used this recipe, and I made it with Sierra Nevada’s Fantastic Haze Double IPA, despite the recipe calling for a light beer. I like hops. I am unashamed. I also let mine rest on the counter covered in plastic wrap for 2 hours prior to shaping)
Bread flour, for dusting
12 oz Kale, chopped
2 strips bacon
1 yellow onion, half diced, half sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
32 oz Chicken or vegetable stock
10 oz honey
1 Thai hot chili pepper, sliced
1-2 tablespoons chili oil
Feta cheese, to taste
Mozzarella cheese, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions for Pizza

  1. Read the recipe all the way through. Thanks for that reminder, Ina!
  2. First, make the pizza dough, or take your prepared dough and set out on the counter to come to room temperature. I let mine sit out on the counter for 2 hours.
  3. After an hour passes, preheat an oven to 500 degrees, and place a pizza stone in the oven as it preheats. Skip this step if you do not have a pizza stone.
  4. Cook two slices of bacon in a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat for about 4 minutes each side.
  5. While the bacon is cooking, heat a small saucepan over medium heat.
  6. Place the honey and Thai chili in the saucepan, seeds and all.
  7. Whisk for 2-3 minutes, then reduce to a simmer.
  8. Remove the bacon from the pan, set aside on a paper towel to dry.
  9. Add the diced half of the onion and garlic to the pan without removing the bacon fat, and sauté for 2-3 min until fragrant.
  10. Add a few cups of the kale to the pan along with a cup of stock.
  11. Monitor the hot honey as you prepare the kale.
  12. Increase the heat to medium high.
  13. Continue to add kale and stock as the kale wilts down, and continue to cook until the kale has absorbed the entirety of the stock.
  14. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  15. Place the two pieces of bacon on a cutting board, and finely dice.
  16. Check on the hot honey. I simmered mine for about an hour.
  17. If you are not using a pizza stone, preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
  18. Scatter a handful of flour on a clean surface, then roll out your pizza dough to your desired shape and thickness.
  19. Remove the pizza stone from the oven, or select your favorite pan, and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  20. Shape the dough on the stone or your pan, and parbake for 10 minutes in a 450 degree oven.
  21. Remove the pizza dough from the oven, then brush with one to two tablespoons of chili oil. I used one, but feel free to use two if you want more of a “sauce effect” from the oil.
  22. Top the pizza with kale, then the diced onion, then the cheeses. I noted in the ingredients section that you should use as much or as little cheese as you want. In my experience, I find that using too much cheese prevents the crust from crisping properly, but if you don’t mind that, then pile it on!
  23. Scatter the bacon pieces on the pizza, then bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the crust achieves a golden color.
  24. Every oven is different, so please don’t use this time as an exact instruction. Keep checking to see when your pie is done.
  25. Remove pizza when done, and place on a counter to cool for at least 5 minutes.
  26. When cooled, drizzle hot honey over the entire pie, and enjoy! Opa, y’all!

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