Mains, Recipes

Fresh Corn and Quail Egg Pizza

“Let’s make pizza tonight!” always sounds like such a great idea. But it’s a project with several potential pitfalls. You stretch the dough to the thickness you want, and then get a giant hole. The crust burns but the cheese isn’t yet fully melted. Or my personal favorite: The assembled, uncooked pizza refuses to detach from the peel and slide onto the pizza stone, until you give it a good jerk and the whole thing ends up splayed against the back of the oven.

Ingredients, including fresh basil and tomatoes from our garden. Aren’t the little speckled quail eggs (center) adorable?

Don’t let these horror stories deter you, however. Because while you may never replicate your favorite pizzeria’s pizza, you can make delicious, fresh pizza at home — and there are no rules about what you can put on it.

Ted is a pizza purist: Red sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, pepperoni, maybe onions or mushrooms. I go for goat cheese, spinach, fresh tomatoes instead of sauce, lots of vegetables. “That’s not pizza,” he says, “it’s an open faced sandwich on flatbread.” Whatever.

Pizza uncooked

The pizza ready for the oven.

Occasionally, though, he goes off the beaten path to wander in the alternative pizza topping universe. After a recent photo assignment for his longtime client  D’Artagnan, the purveyor of foie gras, game meats and other exotic foodstuffs, he came home with quail eggs and suggested (to my surprise) that we use them on pizza.

Pizza mid cooking

From left: Before adding the quail eggs; topped with the eggs and ready to return to the oven.

You may have seen quail eggs in a gourmet market and wondered what the heck to do with them. Or you may have encountered them at a sushi bar, where they are usually served raw on top of salmon roe sushi, an eating experience that to me recalls the TV show “Fear Factor” after once Ted put me up to it. — and I like sushi. At the elegant home of a renowned wine collector, we were once served hard-boiled quail eggs with Champagne — an inspired pairing — but one we’re not likely to reprise chez nous.

Topping a pizza with the cute little eggs is equally inspired. Think of the following as less of a recipe and more of a guideline for the best-possible pie. To accompany the eggs, we used seasonal ingredients from our garden and the local farmers market: bell peppers, roasted corn kernels, red onion and basil. You can use any vegetables you like.

pizza final

Imperfect perfection!

Fresh Corn and Quail Egg Pizza

Yield: Serves 2 hungry people with leftovers

Special equipment needed: Wooden pizza peel, pizza stone

  • 1 package fresh pizza dough (available at most supermarkets, or your favorite pizzeria may sell you a portion)
  • All-purpose flour
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Pizza sauce - many good ones are available in the store if you don't want to make your own.
  • Fresh mozzarella
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Sliced bell pepper
  • Roasted or steamed corn cut from the cob
  • Sliced red onion
  • Fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 6-8 fresh quail eggs
  • 15-20 minutes before you want to start making your pizza, take the dough out of the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature.
  • Preheat the oven to 500 degrees and place a pizza stone on the middle rack.
  • On a floured surface (we do it right on the pizza peel), stretch and roll the dough into a circle (roughly - ours are never completely round).
  • Drizzle the pizza crust lightly with the olive oil.
  • Top the crust with sauce, cheese, pepper and onion slices, and corn.
  • Transfer the pizza from the peel to the heated stone in the oven. Bake for about 12 minutes - until the crust is nicely browned and the cheese is melted.
  • Carefully remove the pizza from the oven, crack the quail eggs on top and return to oven for a few minutes until eggs are done to the consistency of soft boiled. (Don't overcook them, they will be rubbery!)
  • Take the pizza out of the oven; distribute the basil leaves over the top and let sit for 2-3 minutes before cutting and serving. (We learned not to put the basil on before the pizza goes in the oven. No one wants to eat shriveled, black basil leaves.)
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