Thursday, October 16, 2014

The First Pizza Party at Big Switch Farm

Pizza on peel with ingredients

This guest post from my dear friend Lora Smith takes us back to high summer in Southeastern Kentucky, and the first pizza party at Big Switch Farm--the first of many, I expect. Some of our pizzas were summer-seasonal, but pizza is for all seasons. Now from Lora...
"The land belongs to the future, Carl; that's the way it seems to me. How many of the names on the county clerk's plat will be there in fifty years? I might as well try to will the sunset over there to my brother's children. We come and go, but the land is always here. And the people who love it and understand it are the people who own it for a little while."
-- Willa Cather, O Pioneers!
Mobile Wood-fired Pizza Oven at Big Switch Farm

When I met my husband we were both working on sustainable development efforts in Kentucky-- Joe with a farm organization that supports small family farmers and me for a grassroots organization dedicated to social and environmental justice. Both of us were also dealing with the paradox that while we worked on issues of sustainability, our lives were anything but sustainable. As we explored ideas of the future we wanted to create together, we returned again and again to a desire to become landowners, to farm at a small scale, and raise a family near friends and family in the mountains of Southeastern Kentucky.

Bradley prepares drinks at Big Switch Farm

Joe and I found Big Switch Farm the year we were married. Its previous owners were a state-recognized Native American tribe who were using the property as a gathering place to host dances and celebrations four times a year. Before that it had been a hunting property, and many years before that a country road dotted with small homesteads ran through the middle of the acreage. We find remnants of the farm's past everywhere on the land: the foundation of old houses, empty shotgun shells and makeshift targets, sticks tied to fabric in the color of the four directions. Big Switch has always been a gathering place and we intend to keep it that way.

Drizzling oil on homemade pizza on peel with ingredients

A small group of friends joined us for our first camp out and party on the farm this summer. Joe and I recently purchased a small mobile wood-fired oven and couldn't think of a better way to test it out. Many of our friends also happen to be talented chefs, bakers, and home cooks. We even had a pizza ringer in our friend Brett who spent his teenage years slinging dough at Papa John's. It showed in his perfectly round crusts that made our oblong and misshapen ones seem less "rustic" and more, well, amateur. Everyone brought ingredients to pitch in and each person made their own pizza to share with the group with "ooohs!" and "ahhhs!" erupting every time a new one was pulled from the oven. Prosciutto, salami, sausage, green onions, lambsquarters, garlic scapes, sundried tomatoes, brisket, mozzarella, homemade tomato sauce... there were no losers in the bunch. We even used pizza dough to make a blackberry galette for dessert and our friend Anna whipped up a breakfast pizza with leftover ingredients the next morning.

Along with ingredients, everyone arrived with something to offer-- gifts of food and drink, fiddle tunes, laughter-- and pitched in to create our first gathering on the farm. Here's to many more pizza parties to come while Big Switch belongs to us-- for a little while.

Breakfast Pizza with Sausage, Greens, and Fried Eggs aka "The Dwight Yolkum"

Breakfast Pizza with Sausage, Greens, and Fried Eggs aka "The Dwight Yolkum"
Inspiration from Anna Bogle

Makes 2 breakfast pizzas

Peter Reinhart's Napoletana Pizza Dough, halved
1 bunch kale
Small bunch lambsquarters (you can stick to kale if you prefer)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red onion, finely diced in thin rings
8 ounces breakfast sausage (Anna used Murray's smoked sausage + Berea College breakfast links)
8 ounces parmesan, cut into thin slices
8 large eggs
Olive oil for drizzling
Cornmeal for dusting

1. Prepare half of Peter Reinhart's Napoletana Pizza Dough the night before making the pizza. Follow Peter's instructions, though rather than forming into 6 balls, form into 2 large balls of dough. 2 hours before making the pizza, follow the steps for letting the dough rest on a counter dusted with flour and sprayed with olive oil.

2. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, preheat the oven as high as it will go and place a baking stone on either the bottom of the oven (gas or wood-fired oven) or on a rack in the lower third of the oven. If you don't have a stone, you can use the back of a baking pan, but don't preheat it.

3. Meanwhile, prepare the filling. In a medium skillet, cook the sausage until cooked through. Transfer to a plate to drain and let cool, then cut into small chunks.

4. Using the same skillet, sautée garlic and onion in sausage grease until translucent. Add the kale and lambsquarters with a little bit of water and cook until the greens are cooked down and tender.

5. Shape and stretch one of the balls of dough into a pizza of at least a 12-inch diameter and place on a peel or on your baking sheet, dusted with cornmeal. Sprinkle half of the sausage and sautéed greens on the pizza, then arrange parmesan slices on top. Drizzle entire pizza with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt, if desired. If you're using a wood-fired oven or an oven that gets very hot, crack 4 eggs on the pizza and place in the oven. If you're using a conventional oven that can only reach 500-550 degrees F, wait to crack the eggs until the end of the baking time. In a high-heat or wood-fired oven, the pizza should bake in 5-9 minutes. In a conventional oven, this will take about twice as long. If using a conventional oven, check at 10-15 minutes, and when crust is beginning to brown and bubble and cheese is melting, crack 4 eggs on top of pizza, and bake an additional 5 minutes.

6. Once crust is golden brown, cheese is melted, and eggs are cooked through, remove pizza from oven and let cool. Serve slightly warm. Repeat with remaining dough and ingredients. Enjoy!

Wild Blackberry Galette

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Related recipe:
Ham, Gruyère & Caramelized Onion Galette with Fried Egg


katie said...

This looks dreamy- I'd love to know more about the type of pizza oven! Locally built?

Lora said...

We used to live in North Carolina before we moved home to Kentucky. The pizza oven is made by a friend and farmer in North Carolina that my husband worked with at his job with the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI). The farmer makes these to supplement his farm income. He also has a business selling pizzas out of his at the farmer's market and at private parties. His business is called Good Wood Pizza Ovens and you can find it online. There are several companies that make mobile ovens that you can find by searching the internet a bit. Thanks, Lora

katie said...

Cool, thanks for the explanation Lora! I have been doing tons of research online, there are so many options out there- hard to know which to choose. I live in Berea and would love to talk pizza ovens sometime if you're game. I built a cob oven in my yard, but I love the possibilities of a mobile oven. Katie

Lora said...

Sure- you can reach me at

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