Friday Night Pizza

I think you can tell a lot about a person by the way they spend their Friday nights.  Some people are the work hard, play hard type who go directly from the office to the bar to the club, briefly stopping for a nap and a shower before their Saturday brunch.  I have never been that girl.  My Friday nights?  They absolutely SCREAM "homebody."  Even senior year of college, when our entire class had a designated bar for each night of the week, Fridays remained somewhat low key.  In law school, there were often kegs in the cafeteria on Friday afternoons, but the big nights out were reserved for Saturdays.  Then once I started working, Friday nights became sort of a sacred down time.  I would go home, drained by the week, change into some pjs, fix a nice dinner, and catch up with my DVR over a glass of wine.  It's miraculous I even managed to meet Mark, seeing as we met in a bar on a Friday night, but that's a story for another time.

Anyway, for at least as long as we've lived together, and maybe longer, our Friday night tradition has been pizza night.  We used to order in or bake a frozen pizza, but one of Mark's aunts bought us a pizza stone as a shower gift, and since then, it's been homemade all the way.  I was really skeptical of the pizza stone at first, having heard mixed reviews, including tales of cracked stones, but I absolutely LOVE ours.  It is beyond easy to use.  It's heavy, so I store it on the bottom shelf of the oven and just leave it there, regardless of whatever else I am baking.  When making pizza, I heat the oven to 525, and once the oven has preheated, the stone is ready to go.  I prepare the pizza on a sheet of parchment paper and use the parchment and a cutting board to transfer the pizza to and from the stone.  That's it!  If something bubbles over badly (like the peach crisp I really need to tell you about), I run a self cleaning cycle with the stone in and it basically burns off.  Easy!

Last night's pizza, while a little fussier than our usual, was spectacular.  I used a white dough for the crust (one half of a package of Wegmans frozen pizza dough) and topped it with fontina cheese, caramelized onions, sauteed broccoli rabe, sausage, and a layer of mozzarella.  SO GOOD!

Sausage & Broccoli Rabe Pizza
pizza dough (at room temperature)
2 mild italian sausages, cooked (I grilled them) and thinly sliced
1 head of broccoli rabe, cleaned and prepared 
1 sweet and 1 red onion, sliced and caramelized
sliced fontina cheese
grated mozzarella cheese (I like using a block that I grate rather than the bagged stuff -- melts better)

1.)  Prepare the onions by sauteing them in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and/or butter, seasoning with salt, pepper, and herbs of your choice (I like thyme).  Let them cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden.  Use a lid to keep moisture in if they are browning too quickly.  Set aside to cool.
2.)  Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Prepare the broccoli rabe by trimming the stems and chopping (I slice horizontally across the head in 1" sections).  Salt the boiling water well and add in the greens, stirring until it is fully submerged.  Cook the greens for about 3-4 minutes; this helps to remove some of the bitterness.  While the greens are cooking, heat garlic and olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  Strain the greens and add them directly to the garlic and oil.  Season well with salt and pepper, and toss occasionally until the greens have softened, approximately 5 minutes or so.  Finish them with a sprinkling of a sharp cheese, like pecorino romano or parmesan.  (They are insanely good just like this.  I would eat them every night if Mark didn't claim to hate them.  I am trying to break him in by smothering them in sausage and cheese.)
3.)  Prepare the sausages or brown some well seasoned ground pork.
4.)  Roll out the dough on a floured surface and transfer dough to a sheet of parchment paper roughly the size of your pizza stone.  Dough may need additional rolling out if it shrinks back during the transfer.
5.)  Begin layering the toppings however you choose.  (I started with the thin slices of fontina.  Fontina melts well, so I did not cover the dough fully; I figured it would spread sufficiently.  Next up was the onion.  It's messy, but I found it easiest to just grab by the handful and scatter it evenly across the dough -- same with the broccoli rabe.  Finally, I scattered the slices of sausage and topped the whole thing with a layer of shredded mozzarella.)
6.)  Transfer the parchment paper to a peel or cutting board and gently slide the paper and pizza onto the hot stone.  Bake for approximately 10 minute, until the cheese is fully melted and bubbly and beginning to brown. 

Serves 3-4.  (Mark and I can usually split a pizza of this size, but this was way more intense than our standard pesto/diced tomato/mozzarella fare.  We were both stuffed, and still had nearly half a pizza leftover.)



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