Last Sunday night I was in a bit of a crunch for dinnerâwe had hockey practice until 7 o’clock and truth be told, I hadn’t really thought about what we were going to eat until we were basically in the car on the way home (the pro-move would have been to prepare a pot of turkey chili ahead of time and had it simmering on the stove waiting for us, but unfortunately half of my head is still in summer mode, when I could still toss a salad, throw burgers on the grill, and call it a night). When we arrived homeâtired, sweaty, crankyâI had a few minutes to figure something out before my family began a rebellion. That’s when I remembered the dozen bagels I had bought that morning for breakfast. A-ha! Like a flash it hit me: I would make pizza bagels for dinner. Fresh, hot, pizza bagels on a Sunday night after a sporting practice inside of an ice dome, what could be better?
At first, my brilliant idea was met with skepticism (note: just because you’ve written and published a cookbook, doesn’t meant your family will buy into every food whimsy you throw at them). Their response went something like this:
Conor: “What’s a pizza bagel?”
Me: “It’s pizza. On a bagel.”
Conor: “I’ve never heard of it.”
Me: “It’s basically your two favorite things, combined.”
Conor: “I don’t like it.”
Me: “You’ve never had one before!”
Conor: “Bagels are supposed to have jam and butter on them, not pizza.”
Belle was more enthusiastic about the pizza bagel because she’s game for anything covered in melted cheese, but there remained some grumbling in the background:
“Pizza bagel? For dinner?”
At this point I was now determined to prove the worth of a pizza bagel. I decided to not only create the most delicious pizza bagel that ever existed, but to make it dinner-worthy. Luckily there were a few necessary elements that I happened to have on hand:
A batch of homemade tomato sauce that I had made earlier in the week with enough leftover for a second meal. Shredded mozzarella. Fresh basil. Pecorino. These were the basic building-blocks. From there it helps to have a few other ingredients to begin your “elevation plan”: Mushrooms and onions (caramelized over low heat in a pan with some olive oil), pancetta (chopped and crisped in a pan), prosciutto (slices layered on top), black olives (sliced and sprinkled on top), pesto (one of my favorite pizza toppings, along with big dollops of ricotta)…any of these can be used as a topping or placed on the table for everyone to help themselves. In my case, I had a bunch of rainbow chard in the crisper, leftover from my CSA. I was able to prepare the chard in the same time that it took to bake the bagels: Remove the leaves from the stems and roughly chop, slice the ribs about a 1/4 inch. Cook the sliced garlic and red pepper flakes over medium heat in olive oil until fragrant, then add the sliced ribs and saute until softened. Add the chopped leaves and cook until wilted. Season with salt and pepper. I wish this photo was better but just so you get the idea:
As for preparing the bagel: I find that it’s best to use a good-quality bagel (so not the doughy, supermarket variety; try and get a bagel shop bagel if you can). I used a combination of everything-bagel and plain bagels (onion, garlic, salt, poppy seed, or sesame would all be good): Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Slice the bagels in half and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or tin foil (to help with clean-up). If you have a cooling rack then I recommend placing that on the baking sheet and the bagels on top, which will prevent the bottom from getting soggy. Top each bagel with some tomato sauce then a liberal sprinkling of cheese (I used mozzarella and goat cheese the other night, but if you’re using goat then allow it to soften at room temperature and then add on top of the sauce after baking the bagel, same with ricotta). If you want to add cooked toppings like mushrooms, onion, or crisp pancetta, then I’d recommend nestling them between the sauce and cheese layers; raw ingredients like prosciutto and black olives can go on after baking. Top the cheese with a drizzle of olive oil and then bake for about 10 minutes (you want to the bagel to get a little crisp and the cheese to melt). Tear your basil leaves and sprinkle on top; serve with your selected toppings so everyone can help themselves.
P.S:I love this idea not only for the weeknight meal but if you’re ever having a posse of kids over, say for a sleepover, it’s a fun way to get them fed without dialing in for pizza…again. It also saves time when making dough from scratch is just not an option.