Talk about a wordy title… but key word: Flatbread.
I actually can’t believe I made this. I mean it’s delicious and I’m glad I did, but it’s not that simple.
I lived in the Kingdom of Frank Pepe for four years. Please, if you live anywhere within 100 miles of one of their locations, tell me you’ve been?! The pizza is a dream. Thin crust, crisp exterior, fluffy interior, perfect amount of fresh tasting sauce, and a golden ratio of cheese.
And it is never soggy. That is the most important part. It’s a sore subject. It seems like 95% of the pizza in California sags into a floppy, greasy, mess within a minute of leaving the oven. Just last night this happened to me for I don’t know, the twentieth time. Bad pizza upsets me more than any other poorly cooked restaurant meal. With most other dishes gone wrong, I can leave saying “oh I’ll just make a better version at home.” But for truly killer pizza, you need an oven twice as hot as anything in a home kitchen.
The hunt for a soul-satisfying East Coast style Neapolitan pizza pie in California continues. I’ve found two places that serve up a darn good slice, but sometimes you just want to look a pizza in it’s big round face, you know? …Or maybe that’s just me.
I also can’t ignore the variety of shameful toppings that get thrown on pies out here. Corn? Duck bacon? Cilantro? Blue cheese? Cut it out. I’m not saying those things can’t be good atop a crispy, chewy crust, but it can’t be calling itself “pizza.” That is flatbread. Allow me to differentiate:
- Red sauce or olive oil base
- Italian made cheeses (mozzarella, fontina, parmesan, buratta, pecorino, ricotta)
- Savory toppings and herbs not to include those one would find in a taco
- Exception: Pineapple is acceptable under certain circumstances
- Every other topping covered crust creation that doesn’t meet the above qualifications. (I’m looking at you cauliflower crust, “naan pizza,” etc….)
And that’s where this acorn squash, caramelized onion, bacon, and goat cheese flatbread comes in. Making this was a real turning point for me. I bought a pizza stone early last summer and tried my hand at homemade pizza, always feeling a bit disappointed by the results. But as soon as I shifted my thinking to flatbread instead of pizza, all of a sudden what came out of the oven was exactly what I’d hoped for. Granted, I’ve since picked up some techniques for achieving a really good crust at home (noted in the recipe below), but it’s the flavorful, untraditional topping combination that helped me really appreciate this dish for what it is.
This flatbread is such an awesome treat during the fall and winter months. Sweet roasted squash, robust caramelized red onions, salty bacon, and tangy goat cheese. Each bite is better than the last. I prefer whole wheat crust here, not only for the added nutrients, but also the hearty flavor it provides. Making your own dough can be fun, but it can also be a hassle, so if you’re going with a store-bought variety, I highly recommend Whole Foods’ brand.
The next time I fly back East for a visit, I plan to make a bee-line straight from the airport to Frank Pepe’s. But until then, I’ll for sure be eating this flatbread to hold me over on my crust/cheese/topping cravings.
Flatbread with Acorn Squash, Caramelized Onions, Bacon, & Goat Cheese
Yields 1 large flatbread
- 12 oz. whole wheat pizza dough, store-bought or homemade
- 2 Tbs. olive oil, divided
- 6 oz. acorn squash, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1/2 tsp. maple syrup
- 4 oz. red onions, sliced 1/4″ thick
- 1.5 tsp. butter
- 2-3 cloves roasted garlic, mashed (optional… kind of)
- 3 oz. bacon (about 3 strips raw), cooked and roughly chopped
- 3 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
- 1/2 tsp. rosemary leaves, fresh or dried
- Salt & pepper, to taste
Preheat your oven to 400°F . Toss the squash with 1 tsp. of olive oil, 1/2 tsp. of maple syrup, and season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a sheet pan and roast for ten minutes or so, until it is just able to be pierced with a fork. The squash will continue to cook on the flatbread, so try not to over bake it here. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
Set a pizza stone on the very lowest rack of the oven. Turn up the oven to 500°F , or as hot as it will go. For best results, allow the oven to be fully heated at this temperature for at least 30 minutes before baking your flatbread, with the pizza stone inside. Meanwhile, you can prepare the onions and roll out the crust.
Have the pizza dough ready to go, allowing it to come to room temperature for 30 minutes before rolling and baking.
Heat 1.5 tsp. of olive oil and 1.5 tsp. of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper, and stir to coat. Once fragrant, turn the heat down to medium-low and cover the pan. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden and caramelized, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool before handling.
Dust a large sheet of parchment paper with flour. Roll out the pizza dough to your desired shape.
In a small bowl, combine the remaining olive oil with the mashed roasted garlic, if using. If not, just leave the olive oil as is. Cover the surface of the rolled out crust with the mixture using a pastry brush.
Layer the roasted squash over the crust, followed by the caramelized onions. Evenly distribute the chopped bacon and crumbled goat cheese on top. Sprinkle with rosemary leaves.
Transfer the flatbread to the oven right on the parchment paper. Don’t try to lift the unbaked dough from the counter into the oven… that rarely ends well.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until the crust is puffy and browned. As tempting as it is, try not to open the over until the 15 minute mark! Keeping it at that super hot temperature is essential to a perfectly cooked crust.
Once done, transfer the flatbread from the pizza stone to a cutting board. Allow it to sit for a few minutes, then slice and serve! This is delicious eaten either hot or at room temperature.