A Duet: Chanterelles and Prosciutto

Operatic is not a word I would often use to describe pizza, but it’s accurate for a recent effort. This is worthy of writing Wolfgang Puck – if he’s still creating pizza. Perhaps it tastes so good because I haven’t had pizza for a while, but I doubt it.

It’s true; I do love a good pizza. When my children were growing up, our idea of a big night out was pizza followed by ice cream. In those days, I considered the crust only a vehicle to carry the toppings. I would often nibble on the toppings and leave the crust behind. When I began making my own crust I had to reconsider this behavior; if I’m going to all the trouble of making my own, I might as well eat it. Plus, it no longer resembled cardboard; it was tasty!

It all began with fresh chanterelle mushrooms given to me by my friend Lee, the great forager. He returned from his favorite patch near the coast with more than he could handle, if that’s possible.
Even though they sat in my fridge overnight before I had time to examine them, they were still firm, golden, and glorious. I took a whiff and caught a hint of their clean, woodsy scent with a lingering whisper of apricot. I was in a rush and the best I could do was give them a light sauté in butter, olive oil, a bit of garlic and finish them with a drizzle of lemon juice, fresh thyme, savory, and chives. Yes, they were meaty and mild, but I’d have to think more on stage two later.

Visions of chanterelles danced in my head all day as I mulled over my dinner prospects.  They are a rare treat, and I wanted them to shine; to pay homage to the chanterelle’s slight fruitiness, I imagined them with pork and a flavorful pepper. Yes, I recalled I had wheat pizza dough in the fridge ready to go. Also, I had my standard stash of Romesco sauce, the one with roasted red peppers, garlic, and smoked Spanish paprika.

On the drive home I was beyond ready for my “mushroom” pizza. But first, I’d make a quick stop at my favorite deli and consider the ham offerings. Once inside, I eyed the imported prosciutto and danced an inward jig over a few lovely paper-thin slices. Oh, yes, just enough. In my head I did a quick inventory: I surely had some type of cheese that would work, but I’d best pick up a few Nicoise olives.  That’s it. This was not the time for a garbage pizza – or the gentle chanterelles would be utterly lost.
At home, as I built my dream pizza, I stayed true to the plan and only further embellished it with thin rounds of poblano peppers – no onions. I was ok with a mild meltable Muenster and an aged Asiago cheese. I even nixed further flavorings; the herbs in the mushrooms were plenty pronounced.

I was absolutely right. The wheat crust offered the slight sweet nuttiness that not only provided the perfect vehicle for the toppings, but elevated it to an integral member of the team. The Romesco was smoky with an earthy sweetness riddled with garlic. The meatiness of the mushrooms was balanced and lightly brightened by the citrus and herbs. The few olives gave a rich accent of winey fruitiness. The Muenster offered the mellow cheesy gooey-ness I was looking for, and the Asiago was the crowning touch with its golden crisp nuttiness.
What can I say without ranging into double superlatives? All of these players blended into one triumphant melody line, a chorus for our stars, the elegant chanterelles and Prosciutto. Together, they soared and hit flavor notes previously unheralded. What a classy pair.

Chanterelle and Prosciutto Pizza
The Mushrooms:
3 cups chanterelle mushrooms, brushed clean, trimmed, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 lemon, juice of
salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 teaspoon savory
1 tablespoon chives

The Pizza:
1 recipe whole wheat pizza dough, prebake pizza dough to set but not brown
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup Romesco Sauce , approx. (see recipe), or favorite pizza sauce
1 poblano pepper, seeded, thin rounds
1/4 cup Nicoise olives, pitted, sliced
1 1/2 cups muenster cheese, shredded
2 ounces Prosciutto, approx.
1/2 cup Asiago Cheese, or Parmesan, grated

Prepare the mushrooms: In a saute pan heat olive oil and butter, add the smashed garlic cloves and add to pan and allow to become aromatic. Add the chanterelles and toss to soften, 4 to 5 minutes; add the lemon juice and toss, add salt and pepper and toss. Add the fresh herbs and heat briefly; allow to cool, and remove the garlic cloves.

Heat oven to 475 degrees. Place pre-baked pizza crust on pan, and brush lightly with olive oil. Spread Romesco or pizza sauce lightly over top. Sprinkle the pepper rings evenly, add a layer of muenster cheese, then top with mushrooms, olives, and the Prosciutto. Finish with remaining muenster and Asiago or Parmesan.

Bake approximately 10-12 minutes or until bubbly. Cut and serve hot. Serve 4 ~~

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