My favorite unexpected pizza* topping is potato. Unlike the carb-fest of pasta on pizza, the earthy flavor of the potato and its soft bite can add another dimension to a suitably thin-crusted pie. My favorite unexpected pizza is the #4 at local spot Emma's: crispy bacon, chunks of yukon gold potatoes, mozzarella, fresh cilantro, and dried cranberries. Pure genius. Before you balk at the cranberries, a cautionary tale: the first time we ordered this, we hemmed and hawed and eventually ordered it sans berries, to the great dismay of the waiter. After much cajoling on his part, we accepted a dish of cranberries on the side - one bite, and we were sold: the sweet tartness partnered perfectly with the cilantro in playing counterpoint to the rich gooiness of the bacon, cheese and potatoes. We spent the rest of the meal lamenting our failure to order them baked on to the pizza.
Perhaps the only thing more genius than this pizza, in fact, is the version I made at home. Inspired by this potato torte over at Smitten Kitchen, I ditched the dough and made the base entirely of partially pre-baked sliced yukons, brushed with olive oil and generously sprinkled with fresh-cracked pepper and kosher salt. A thick layer of grated smoked gouda followed, then several sliced cloves of garlic. The star player was my homemade guanciale, sliced thin and fried until crispy. Providing that sweet counterpoint was a handful of fresh blueberries. Finally, when it was pulled bubbling from the oven, a sprinkling of fresh cilantro. On the side, a restrained dish of wilted Swiss chard.
For comparison, here is the real deal, from Emma's - it looks a little different with crust under it! The #4 is second in the lineup:
Cheese from Smith's Farmstead in Winchendon, MA
Cilantro and kale from Red Fire Farms, Granby, MA
Potatoes from Parker Farm, Lunenberg, MA
Blueberries from Kimball Fruit Farm, Pepperell, MA
Guanciale homemade with pork jowls from Houde Family Farm, St. Johnsbury, VT
*As an aside, may I state how incredibly hard it is to even type the word "pizza" without falling down the rabbit hole of compare and contrast: Neapolitan, New York, New Haven, California, thick, thin, doughy, crackery, saucy, cheesy, oily, et cetera, ad infinitum! I carry a 6-dimensional chart around in my head to categorize them all... maybe some day I will share it.