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Kale & Chorizo Focaccia

Focaccia is a canvas for anything you are inspired to eat. I especially love focaccia topped with greens, finding the lengthy cooking time mellows the vegetables into sweet submission. Last week, we had a bunch of Tuscan kale in the refrigerator and a knob of Spanish chorizo; here is the delectable result. Any type of kale, or other greens such as broccoli raab, spinach, beet greens, or even cabbage will work instead. For a vegetarian version, omit the chorizo and add 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano when topping the dough.

Makes one 14-inch focaccia (serves 2 as a main course, 4 as an appetizer)

For the dough:

  • 1 and 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for the counter
  • 1/3 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 2/3 teaspoon sea salt, plus 1/8 teaspoon for sprinkling
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons room temperature water, plus extra if needed
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing the bowl

For the topping:

  • 1/2 pound (2 average bunches) Tuscan kale, stems removed, washed and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon plus ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 ounces Spanish (dried) chorizo, casings removed, cut into 1/8-inch pieces
  • cool water as needed
  • 1/4 pound fresh Mozzarella, diced (optional)

Make the dough: Place the flour, yeast, and 2/3 teaspoon of the salt in a large bowl. Mix well with a wooden spoon.

Add the water, and stir well. If the dough is too dry to gather around the spoon, add a bit more water by the teaspoon until the dough gathers into a soft mass around the spoon. If the dough is sticky, add a bit of flour by the teaspoon until it forms a cohesive, soft mass.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead vigorously for 10 minutes, or until it is very smooth and elastic. Try to add as little flour as possible to the dough as you knead it; the more flour you add, the denser the focaccia will be. It is all right if the dough sticks to your hands a little; knead it faster and it will tend to stick less. The dough is kneaded sufficiently when it is smooth and even in texture all the way through, and when it springs back when poked with a finger; it will also stretch about 6 inches without tearing when pulled apart with two hands.

Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough in it.

Turn it to coat with the oil and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature for 1 hour, or until starting to increase in volume. Refrigerate 12 to 24 hours (a 24-hour rise yields a tastier dough). Return to room temperature when you are ready to shape the dough and bake the focaccia.

One hour before you are ready to bake the focaccia, and after it has returned to room temperature, preheat the oven with a baking stone on the bottom rack to 425 degrees (preferably set on convection bake).

Lightly oil a 14-inch shallow pizza pan. Turn the risen dough out onto the oiled pan and using your fingers, push and flatten gently so it stretches out a bit. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 15 minutes (if you try to stretch the dough too far at this point, it will simply spring back, as the gluten needs to relax).

Uncover and flatten again so the dough extends and covers the entire base of the pan. Try to stretch it evenly so it does not tear anywhere or have thin patches. Brush with the tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with the remaining 1/8 teaspoon of salt. Let rest 15 minutes, uncovered.

Meanwhile, make the topping: Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Add the kale and 1 tablespoon of the salt. Boil the kale 5 minutes, or until it is bright green and tender, and drain. Cool under running water, drain again, and squeeze almost (but not completely) dry.

Chop the kale a few times.

In a nonstick 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat, place 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the onion, chili, and garlic. Cook 5 minutes, or until the onion is soft. Stir in the chorizo and cook 2 more minutes, or until fragrant. Stir in the boiled and chopped kale. Season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and mix well. Cook 10 minutes, adding a bit of cool water if the kale is sticking to the skillet. Taste for salt and adjust as needed. Cool to room temperature.

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Top the dough with the cooled kale mixture. Spread it out evenly. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 15 minutes (this allows the gluten to relax). Remove the plastic wrap.

Bake on the baking stone in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown all over and crispy around the edges, spraying the oven floor with ¼ cup of water 3 times during the first 10 minutes of baking. Brush with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and cut into wedges. Serve hot, topped with the Mozzarella if desired.

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