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Potato Focaccia

Focaccia is a daily item on our Cantinetta menu at Tra Vigne Restaurant. The focaccia looks pretty with sliced potatoes on top, but the slices slip and fall off and, writes Chiarello, "I hate chasing my food around." The recipe may be doubled.

For the dough:1 envelope dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup lukewarm whole milk
About 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

plus more for dusting work surface
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive

oil, plus more for oiling bowl and baking sheet
3/4 teaspoon gray salt or kosher salt

For the topping:
3/4 cup diced pancetta or bacon
(1/2-inch dice: about 1/4 pound)
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ground pepper
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

Combine the yeast, sugar and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add 1/2 cup of the flour. Stir well, cover with a tea towel, and let rest in a warm place for about 25 minutes.

With the dough hook, mix in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the salt, and 1 cup of the flour. Knead until well incorporated. Add the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough adheres to the hook. It should remain soft and slightly sticky. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 6 minutes.

Shape the dough into a ball, flatten slightly, and put into an oiled bowl. Turn to coat. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and put in a warm place to let the dough rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Heat the pancetta and olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook slowly until crisp. Tilt the pan to collect the fat against the side and scrape the pancetta into the fat. (We used bacon.) Cook for another minute to make sure the pancetta is very crisp. Remove to paper towels to drain. Reserve the pancetta and fat separately.

Put the potatoes in cold salted water to cover and bring to a boil over high heat. cook until tender about 8 minutes. (We used a combination of new potatoes -- yellow fleshed and red skinned -- that we thinly sliced in the food processor). Drain well and put in a bowl.

Pour the pancetta fat (we used about half of the bacon fat) over the warm potatoes, add the crisped pancetta, 1 teaspoon of the rosemary, salt and pepper to taste, and the lemon zest. Toss well and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Oil a baking sheet with olive oil.

Lightly flour the dough and punch it down. turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly until smooth. (The dough may be wrapped well at this point, and frozen for up to 1 month.)

Roll out the dough into a rectangle about 12 by 10 inches. Brush off any excess flour, and transfer to the prepared baking pan. Brush the dough with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and let rise for 30 minutes.

Sprinkle the potato mixture onto the dough and press it in with the flat of your hand. Press your stiff fingers into the dough to make evenly spaced indentations all over the surface, being careful not to puncture or tear the dough. Scatter the remaining teaspoon rosemary over the dough.

Bake until the potatoes are golden brown and the bread is crisp on the bottom, about 25 minutes. Let cool in the pan to room temperature. Cut into squares, "fingers" or triangles to serve.

Makes about 1 1/4 pounds dough. Serves 6.

"The Tra Vigne Cookbook:
Seasons in the California Wine Country"
by Michael Chiarello.

Sunday, July 30, 2000

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