See, I was not all that serious when I mentioned it, thinking he would give me "the look" and tell me to pick again... imagine my surprise when he agreed! The times they are a-changin'.
He was a little overwhelmed when I led him to the mushroom section at the market, a section he wouldn't give a second look to, but he made a good choice opting for a pound of cream-colored crimini buttons (baby portabella's). I think one of the reasons he decided this recipe would be good to try was the fact the mushrooms were not going to be sliced or kept whole - instead, after stemming each, they went into a food processor and were coarsely ground. Not smooth, but pretty close - more of a chunky paste.
The paste is fairly wet as the 'shrooms contain a fair amount of moisture, which we need to take care of to prevent a soggy pizza. Added to a pan of already softened onions and garlic, the mushrooms are left to cook until most of the excess liquid has evaporated. Take your time and have patience here - stir them fairly often for the first few minutes, but after that, try to leave them alone for 3 or 4 minutes at a time. You'll notice that the paste will begin to brown, concentrating their natural woodsy flavor as the volume begins to shrink down. As soon as the mushrooms were done, the heat was turned off and the dark mix was freshened up with a hit of chopped parsley.
We did do our normal routine of stretching out the dough and giving it a quick pre-bake, which I took care of before I started on the topping to get it out of the way. Assembly was a snap - the top of the crust was covered with the condensed criminis, followed by tiny fresh thyme leaves and an almost overflowing amount of nutty, mild and creamy Fontina cheese. Since the dough had spent time in the oven already, it didn't take much time to turn the cheese bubbly and finish the crust with a golden brown (crunchy!) hue. If you opt to use a raw dough instead, you'll need to bump up the bake time needed by 5 to 7 minutes.
I think I could see the look of regret in Jeff's eyes when the pizza came off the stone, but he was a trooper and had a smile (albeit somewhat fake...) on his face as I sliced off wedges. He closed his eyes and gradually brought up a slice and took the smallest bite I've ever seen him take - his tense shoulders relaxed and I could have sworn he mumbled "This is actually not bad". I had to ask if that's what he said... he replied with "Ugh, yeah and I guess I won't be asking for a peanut butter sandwich after all!".
Of course you can use any dough that you fancy, but I do think this notable, earthy topping translated well with the weightier whole-wheat crust, rather than a fluffier version. For a touch of elegance and decadence, drizzle the top, as soon as it comes out from the oven, with a little truffle oil for a special treat.
Mushroom Fontina Pizza