Dish Hack: Spago’s Smoked Salmon Pizza

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Want to stay in, but eat like you’re out? Here, chef and writer Heather Platt shares recipes inspired by L.A.’s hottest restaurant dishes. We say “inspired by,” as these creations are Platt’s own and have been adapted for the home cook, using easy-to-access ingredients and techniques you can pull off in just about any kitchen—yes, even yours.

The Real Thing: When it comes to iconic Los Angeles restaurants, one name jumps out above the rest: Chef Wolfgang Puck’s legendary Beverly Hills haunt, Spago. We can all thank Puck for pioneering California cuisine in Los Angeles, putting it on the map as a real culinary city and paving the way for the restaurant Utopia we enjoy today. We can also thank Puck for Spago’s smoked salmon pizza. The restaurant’s signature dish, famously served at Oscar after parties, is enjoyed by celebrities, and said to have been a sort of “happy accident” created one night when the kitchen ran out of bread.

Spago serves the decadent pizza slathered with garlic chili oil then smeared with dill crème fraîche, in-house cured smoked salmon and topped with caviar. The combination of the hot crispy crust with cold dill cream, salmon and salty sweet caviar is a revelation that has lasted through the decades.

The Hack: The smoked salmon pizza is one of the few lasting relics of Spago’s opening menu. Created in 1982 at the original Sunset Strip location, it is still on the menu today. So if you’re lucky enough to eat there, order it as a starter to share or eat the whole thing. (The latter is more likely.) But if you’re not headed to Beverly Hills anytime soon, don’t worry. You can eat this crave-worthy pizza at home, for breakfast, lunch or dinner. In this version, I saved time by using store-bought smoked salmon. Yes, you can buy pre-made pizza dough as well, but chances are you already have some flour and water in your house. Also, making good pizza dough is surprisingly easy. I substitute sour cream for crème fraîche and instead of expensive caviar, I drizzled a simple balsamic reduction to give it a little “kick.” It’s also perfectly delicious by itself too.

Feel free to go sans balsamic
Feel free to go sans balsamic

Dish Hack: Spago’s Smoked Salmon Pizza
Inspired by the legendary pizza at Wolfgang Puck’s Beverly Hill’s Spago
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
(Serves 4)

Ingredients:

1 packet active dry yeast (7 grams)
2 cups warm water
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
3 or 4 tablespoons whole wheat flour (or cornmeal)
1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
1/3 cup sour cream
1/2 lemon, juiced
cracked black pepper
1/4 cup minced fresh dill
1/4 cup minced fresh chives
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon honey

Fill a measuring cup with 2 cups of warm water from the faucet. Add the yeast to the warm water, give it a stir and let it dissolve. Put the flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt into a food processor. Process for a minute until just mixed. With the machine running, add the yeast water in a slow steady stream. Turn off the processor and add 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Pulse it a couple of times to mix in the oil. The dough should be only slightly sticky. If it’s too wet and difficult to handle, add more flour, one tablespoon at a time. If it’s too dry, add more water in the same way.

Transfer the finished dough to a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough a couple of times and form it into one round mound. Cut the mound into four equal pieces. Form each piece into a tight, smooth, round ball, kneading to remove any air bubbles. Place the balls on a floured plate, cover with a clean dish cloth and let rise for at least 1 hour. NOTE: If you prefer to make the pizza the next day, wrap it in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator overnight. OR place it in the freezer for up to one month.

While the dough is rising, make the balsamic reduction. Place the vinegar and honey in a small saucepan over high heat. Whisk to combine. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer until reduced by half. While the vinegar is reducing, prepare the dill sour cream by combining the sour cream, lemon juice, black pepper, 1/2 teaspoons salt and fresh dill in a small bowl. Stir well to combine.

Place a baking sheet or sheet pan in the oven and preheat it to 500 degrees.

Flour a work surface with wholewheat flour or cornmeal. Place your fist in the middle of the proofed dough, lift it up and using the force of gravity, let it stretch out into an even round pizza crust. Place the stretched dough on the floured work surface, and using your fingers, gently press the dough towards the outer edges to form a thicker crust. Using a pastry brush brush the olive oil evenly over the center of each pizza, leaving a 1-inch un-oiled crust around the edge. Scatter the red onion slices on the pizza. Using oven mitts, remove the baking sheet from the oven. Using a large spatula, carefully slide the pizzas on to the baking sheet. They will make a nice sizzling sound as the pan will be very hot. Place it in the oven and bake for 9 to 11 minutes. (Set a timer for 9 minutes). When the pizza is golden brown, remove it from the oven. Quickly spread about 1 tablespoon of dill cream evenly over each pizza. Layer the cold smoked salmon over each pizza, sprinkle with chopped chives and drizzle with balsamic reduction.

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