There are very few things that I enjoy more than going to a good farmers' market. Thankfully, Raleigh has one of the best, the North Carolina State Farmers Market.
When I go, I like to challenge myself to come up with recipes that are based, if not entirely, almost entirely on what I can find there that is in season. Pizza is a fun challenge to base that on because it more often than not pushes you into directions that you've not gone before.
My last trip there was in the dead of winter. I mean super cold. So it was root vegetable time, onions, potatoes, etc. Not a tomato in sight. Of course, you could buy canned tomatoes, and I had some at home. But that's not the point.
First up was cheese. North Carolina has a number of great dairy farms, and there is certainly an artisan cheese community that's gaining some great traction. I decided to go with a cheese I've never heard of before, Butter Cheese, from Ashe County Cheeses. It's super soft, like a semi-dry mozzarella but it has way more depth of flavor, a bit more savory, um... buttery?
This would pair perfectly with the tiny red and gold potatoes that I grabbed just a few stalls over along with the rosemary that I was lucky enough to find.
All of that sounded great, but I wanted some sort of meat. I grabbed some hot breakfast sausage from a local butcher and was going down that route... then I stumbled upon gold in the form of Smoked Jowl from a farm not even 45 minutes away that raises Ossabaw Island heritage pork. Jowl is the cheek of the pig, and is most commonly seen in its salt-cured Italian form, guanciale. I've never seen one that was smoke-cured before and having the Ossadaw Island heritage meant that this was going to be an absolute flavor bomb.
Spoiler alert, it was. And I think this might actually be my favorite pizza yet.
Potatoes & Smoked Jowl - Winter Farmers Market Pizza
Ingredients below are for 2, 14" pizzas
2 Dough Balls for 13" Pizza Base
1 Golf Ball Sized Red Potato
1 Golf Ball Sized Gold Potato
1/2 C Ashe County Butter Cheese, Diced
2 Full Sprigs of Rosemary
1 Clove of Garlic, Minced
Salt & Pepper
Note on Substitutions
This pizza needs about a 5-minute cook for the potatoes to get to the right texture. so go with a dough that can handle that at around 500-550 F for 5-6 minutes. My Beer Dough will work well for this, but I have a sourdough recipe coming soon that I prefer. I don't recommend substituting the cheese for mozzarella if you can't find butter cheese. Just wait until you can find it, or order online. You could theoretically substitute the Smoked Jowl with very smoky bacon like the recipe I have linked in related posts. Benton is also a great substitute if you don't want to make your own bacon. Go with guanciale or pancetta if you hate smoky food.
Slice the potatoes as thin as you can get. The thinnest setting on your mandoline, or with a super sharp knife. Set aside in cold water and rinse until most of the starch comes out. You need about a total of 1/2 of these sliced potatoes for 2 pizzas.
Slice 2-3 oz of smoke jowl into 1/8 inch pieces. Sautee over medium heat until the fat turns translucent and remove from stove.
Drain and dry your potato slices.
Drain 1 Tbs of the rendered fat from the jowl into the potatoes and combine. Discard remaining rendered fat.
Open your pizza to 12-14 inches.
Spread 1/4 C of your diced butter cheese onto the pizza
Next, layer on 1/4 C potatoes as though they were pepperonis. Scatter the two types of potatoes to get a decent distribution. But be very careful to not stack two of them as it will result in undercooked potatoes. Reference the picture in the gallery above for clarity. Sprinkle just a few flakes of salt onto each potato.
Add the par-cooked smoked jowl.
Lastly, add a decent amount of rosemary leaves, a few pinches of minced garlic, and a few turns of black pepper.
Cook in a hot oven using a pizza stone, or in a wood fire oven tuned to 550 F, for 4-6 minutes, until potatoes are cooked through. If you find the crust is burning before the potatoes are cooked through, turn down the heat a bit.
Let it cool for at least a minute and a half before you try to eat it. The roof of your mouth will thank you.
Slice and devour, y'all!