Mushroom Umami Pizza

Several years ago, I dated a guy who hated mushrooms. He ranted about mushrooms the way vegans rant about veal. You could hardly get him to be in the same room as a mushroom. The saddest thing about this relationship (and believe me, there were many sad things about it) is that I stopped eating mushrooms too. Why do we do this? More than one friend of mine has become vegetarian under the influence of a vegetarian partner. While I understand the draw of the ethical foundation of vegetarianism, it’s curious how such conversions end with the relationship. In any case, my ex’s mushroom-rage was hardly philosophical in nature. The only argument he could come up with against mushroom-eating had to do with the fact that mushrooms are fungi. Like yeast. Except that he had no such problem with bread.

I have noticed that all of my friends who change their diets to that of their partners’ have one thing in common: they are people who love food and love sharing the pleasures of the table with the people they love the most. A great meal that can’t be shared somehow misses the point. So I stopped eating mushrooms, because as long as I was with mushroom guy, it didn’t make sense to eat mushrooms alone.

Maybe the moral of the story is that compatibility of palette is as important as all the other things on my already-long checklist. Food is meant to be shared, and this pizza cries out for a great bottle of wine and a table surrounded by people you love. Crunching into the crust is a pure hit of meaty mushroom umami: a puree of mushrooms topped with even more mushrooms. The pizza is creamy with pungent fontina and fragrant with garlic, both sauteed with the mushrooms and minced and sprinkled raw over the dough before topping and baking.

As for the mushroom-hating ex-boyfriend, I was sad when the relationship ended, but it never would have worked anyway. Had I stayed with him, I never would have discovered this pizza, and that would have been a real tragedy.

Mushroom Umami Pizza

While the pizza above was made with American fontina, which was perfectly serviceable, the real, creamy Italian Fontina Val D’aosta elevates the pizza from delicious to transcendent. There are other, cheaper Italian fontinas which are also good, just make sure to avoid Danish fontina, which stinks. (And this is coming from someone who loves stinky cheeses. Danish fontina does not stink in a good way.)

2 cups mushrooms–I usually use a mixture of button, crimini, and if I can get them, wild mushrooms such as wood-ears, chantarelles, or shitakes
1 shallot, finely sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 c. heavy cream
salt and pepper
4 oz. fontina (preferable Val D’aosta)
3 portabello mushroom caps, thinly sliced
2 tbsp. parmaggiano reggiano cheese, grated
1 tbsp. parsley, minced (omitted in the above photo)

2 rounds pizza dough, rolled as thin as possible
1 clove garlic, minced
drizzle of olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven as high as it will go (500-550 degrees).

In a food processor, process the mushrooms until finely chopped. (I do this in batches as I have a small food processor.) Saute shallots and garlic in the olive oil until soft and golden. Add mushrooms. Mushrooms will exude a fair amount of liquid. Cook until this liquid has evaporated. Stir in cream, take of heat, and season with salt and pepper.

Slice fontina. This may be easier if cheese is partially frozen.

Place rounds of pizza dough on a floured peel (if using a baking stone) or a floured cookie sheet. Scatter clove of finely minced garlic onto the dough, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. With the back of a spoon, spread the mushroom puree on the dough. Top with the thin slices of fontina and the sliced portabello caps. Sprinkle pizza with parmesan cheese and slide either directly onto baking stone or place cookie sheet into the oven.

Bake 7-8 minutes if using a baking stone, or 15 minutes with a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with parsley, cut with a pair of scissors and serve.

Source: Todd English, The Figs Table

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5 Comments

Filed under Italian

5 responses to “Mushroom Umami Pizza

  1. Erica

    mushrooms seem to be the number one food people say they don’t like. i have had more than one boyfriend and several casual lovers who have claimed not to like them. what i find most devastating is when a vegetarian won’t eat mushrooms…that is the only possible substitute for that meaty taste.

  2. Looks soo yummy! And I LOVE your sig pic btw. :)

  3. Erica, Yeah, this guy was a vegetarian, too. I think that he just wasn’t sensitive to deep flavors. He liked undercooking vegetables so that everything tasted like grass. As I said, compatibility of palette is really important!

    Katie,
    Thanks. Glad you like the pic too!

  4. Artifex

    My ex-girlfriend was like this, but much, much worse. The list of things she wouldn’t eat was so inclusive it was easier to list the things she WOULD eat. I held out long against that influence, and even expanded that list of hers a good bit, but in the end she left me anyway.

    Ah well.

  5. Yikes! I can’t cope with people like that. As friends, perhaps (though it would be dicey), but as a partner? No way.

    Sounds like you’re better off not waging a daily struggle against someone’s self-imposed, arbitrary dietary restrictions.

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