One-Pot Wonder: Easy Pizza for Two

Cozy up with Le French Oven by Hillary Davis and you'll find yourself loving every delicious bite of the last cold days of winter.
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We’re close to turning the corner from winter to spring, and there’s no better kitchen tool to get you through the last dregs of the cold days and long nights than a Dutch oven. We fell in love with Hillary Davis’ book Le French Oven to keep our kitchens cozy and our winter plates full of stick-to-your-bones dishes.

Davis takes the Dutch oven (or "the French oven," as she calls it) and helps it reach its full potential as a kitchen workhorse. The book features savory and hearty soup and stew recipes, of course, but also dishes you might not associate with a Dutch oven, including the droolworthy Easy Pizza for Two pictured above. "When we think of Dutch/French ovens, we think of stews or soups. But they are superb at baking. I make bread and pizza in mine on a regular basis," Davis told us. Read on below to get the recipe for this pizza.

Hear from Davis below as she shares her do's and don'ts for cooking with a Dutch oven, and find out what she enjoys cooking most in her own Dutch ovens.

Do:
  • Decide whether you would like a traditional heavy enameled cast-iron one or a lighter model made from ceramics or copper. Weight is an important consideration. Are you comfortable lifting one full of food from the stove, putting it into the oven to cook, then back onto the stove or table? If not, the lighter versions perform the same way and are much easier to handle.
  • Keep in mind that French ovens need to be slowly brought up to the desired heat, always with food in them. Start them low, then move them up to medium to medium-high heat to cook your food.
  • Try any kind of cooking in them; be adventurous. They are mini ovens, so they can be used for almost any kind of cooking style.
Don't:
  • When cleaning, do not use abrasives on your French oven. They all clean quite easily with a warm soapy sponge.
  • When cooking, do not use metal utensils. Use wooden or heat-resistant utensils.
  • If you have a convection stovetop, don’t slide your French oven across it, but rather lift the French oven so as not to scratch the pan.

What are your absolute favorite ingredients to cook in Dutch ovens?

Hillary Davis: I have been most amazed at working with roasts in French ovens. While we normally reach for a roasting pan with a rack to make a roast, when you cook one in a French oven it turns out so much better, because the high sides are in such close proximity to the roast that it results in an even crispy and beautifully colored exterior. I love to add all the vegetables for the meal into the bottom of the French oven, then nestle the roast over them so while [the roast] cooks the juices drizzle down to cook them as well.

What are the most unexpected and delightful recipes you discovered in writing this book?

HD: I learned a new technique for cooking at super-low temperatures for a very short amount of time in a French oven that proved a huge success. My recipe for Super Moist Olive-Oil Poached Salmon and Meyer Lemons is now one of my most-asked-for recipes for the French oven. It’s basically a confit of salmon that melts in your mouth.

An added bonus I never thought of before was learning how to make dessert in a large French oven — big homey desserts to serve a crowd that you can carry to the table and serve warm just-out-of-the-oven sweets with a scoop of ice cream over the top. This has proved to be a huge and unexpected crowd-pleaser.

Are there any ingredients that absolutely don't work in the Dutch oven cooking arena? (Are there any ingredients that should flat out be avoided?)

HD: Absolutely none. If you have inherited a Dutch oven that is not enameled, then you want to avoid acidic ingredients. But the French ovens that I use and love are all either enameled or smooth ceramic on the interior, so they can handle any ingredient.

Order your copy of Le French Oven by Hillary Davis here.

Easy Pizza for Two
Pizza Facile pour Deux

French ovens make the best pizza ever, giving them a marvelous crust. I make this pizza recipe for two, but you can also slice it into six pieces to serve with wine for a snack before dinner.

It couldn’t be easier. First, buy a ball of dough from your local pizza shop and tell them you want one for a small-size pizza. Take it home, cover it, and leave it on the counter until ready to use. Once you see how quick and easy this pizza is to make, you’ll want to make it again and again with whatever toppings you are in the mood for. I often make this with anchovies and oil-cured black olives, and after it comes out of the oven, I grate sharp Parmigiano-Reggiano all over the top. In fact, pulling this together goes so quickly that you can remove the pizza to a cutting board, leave the oven on, fit in another disk of pizza dough, arrange toppings, cook it for 3 minutes on top of the stove, and pop it into the oven for another round that will be ready in 14 minutes

Yield: 2 servings
Special Equipment:
Box grater
5-quart (5-liter) or larger French oven
Ingredients:
8 ounces (225 grams) fresh mozzarella
3 tablespoons (45 milliliters) extra virgin olive oil
1/4 small onion, sliced very thinly
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 ball pizza dough for a small pizza, purchased from your local pizza shop

4 tablespoons (60 milliliters) canned or bottled pizza sauce
1 heaping tablespoon herbes de Provence
8 fresh basil leaves, torn
3 ounces (90 grams) prosciutto
3 ounces (90 grams) Parmesan cheese
Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Grate half the mozzarella on the large holes of a box grater. Slice the rest into big pieces.

Heat the oil in the French oven over medium heat, toss in the onion, garlic and salt, and cook until the onion slices are tender, about 6 minutes.

With a slotted spoon, scoop out the onion mixture to a plate and reserve, leaving the oil at the bottom. The onions and garlic will have flavored the oil and will flavor the underside of the pizza.

When the French oven is cooler and can be touched, place the pizza dough into the bottom over the oil, and stretch it out to fit, bringing up a slight rim around the sides.

Spread the pizza sauce over the dough and spoon on the cooked onions and garlic. Sprinkle with the herbes de Provence and basil, arrange slices of mozzarella and prosciutto all over, distribute the grated mozzarella, then grate the Parmesan to finish.

Place the French oven on the stovetop, cover with its lid, and cook over medium-high heat for 3 minutes.

Remove the lid, place in the oven, and bake for 14 minutes, until crisp and golden.

Remove the pizza from the oven. With a fork, gently coax up the edges. Then, with a spatula, lift the whole pizza to a cutting board. Slice and serve.

Ideas and Suggestions:

Fry pepperoni slices in the oil, remove to a plate, and fit the pizza dough over the pepperoni-flavored oil in the French oven for an incredibly delicious crust. Use the pepperoni slices for the top of the pie.

Reprinted with permission from Le French Oven © 2015 by Hillary Davis, Gibbs Smith. Photograph by Steven Rothfeld from Le French Oven by Hillary Davis, reprinted by permission of Gibbs Smith.

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