Friday, January 15, 2010

Potato Pizza and Michael Pollan's Sun Food Agenda Talk

This has to be one of the best weeks of my life. I got to see my food writer hero Michael Pollan give his Sun Food Agenda speech at Washington State University on Wednesday for free! It’s only the second time he’s given it, and the talk was incredible and surprisingly well balanced. Pollan excels at storytelling, combining multiple complex situations and tying them together into simple forms that we can take and use.

I wish I could have taken you to The Sun Food Agenda with me, but here's a small 15 minute clip to give you a taste.

PopTech 2009: Michael Pollan.

I learned some astonishing facts. Did you know that it takes 26 ounces of oil to produce and ship the meat from a McDonald’s Double Quarter Pounder to us? And that one Midwestern farmer in the 1950s could feed 20 people and his family, and today one Midwestern farmer can feed 150 people? Or how about in 1910 24% of our income went to food, in 1960 18% of our income went to feeding ourselves, and now only about 9.5% of our income does? Less than any other nation, less than at any time in history.

Our farmers have gotten very good at producing food, but at a cost. In the 50s for every calorie of oil used, we produced two calories of food. Now, for every ten calories of oil spent, we get only one calorie of food. This can’t go on forever, but there are all kinds of things that can be done. Pollan stated the Farm Bill needs to be changed into a Food Bill. One that supports farmers growing all kinds of crops, not just soy and corn.

Pollan also gave examples of what's going right. There are a few organic high tech farmers doing remarkable things right now, and mentions Polyface Farms as one example. You won’t believe the incredible production they have without waste. Basically one animal’s manure is another’s lunch. It sounds terrible, but is fascinating.

I’ll keep this short, but if you ever get the chance to sit in on this talk, you must! Do whatever it takes to get there. It’s our food future, and we need to know what’s going on.

Now on to the pizza! Linda from Ciao Chow Linda inspires this pizza. Her version is the Italian original, mine is more of an American adaption from stuff I had in my refrigerator. This pizza is so good I wanted to eat it all by myself, but we had friends over. So I was nice and shared a little of it. A very little.

Mmmmm carby potatoey pizza.

Potato Pizza

A heads up, the potatoes must be soaked overnight before assembling the pizza. Please read all the instructions before beginning.


2 pounds Yukon Gold or Russet Potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced


1 Tablespoon salt

1 recipe pizza dough, below

1 recipe garlic cream sauce, below
Extra virgin olive oil

About 2 to 3 cups shredded Italian Fontina

Fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped

Freshly grated or zested Parmesan Reggiano

Freshly ground black pepper

Coarse salt


1. Place the potato slices in a bowl and cover with water. Stir in 1 Tablespoons of salt. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.

2. Make the pizza dough about an hour and a half in advance. Make the sauce as well and set aside.

3. When ready to assemble, place a pizza stone in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 500 degrees.

4. Divide the dough in half and roll out each piece pretty thin pieces about the size and shape of your pizza stone. Place the doughs on parchment paper cut to size.

5. Strain the water from the potatoes. Squeeze out as much water as possible or blot dry. Set aside.

6. Brush the dough with olive oil. Spoon on as much garlic cream sauce as desired. Then top with fontina, then potatoes, parmesan, and sprinkle with rosemary, coarse salt, and pepper.

7. Use a pizza peel or cookie sheet and slide under the parchment. Slide the parchment with the pizza into the oven. Bake one pizza at a time for anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Watch it carefully, it can turn from done to burnt in a minute.

8. Carefully remove the pizza and wait about 5 minutes before cutting. Meanwhile cook the other pizza and repeat.

Pizza Dough


1 cup warm (110 degrees F) water
1 (1/4-ounce) envelope active dry yeast
1 teaspoon honey
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour or bread flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt


1. In a stand mixer bowl add the water, yeast, and honey and let sit for 5 minutes until foamy. Add the flour, olive oil, and salt and mix with the dough hook until well kneaded.

2. Olive oil a large bowl. Remove the dough from the stand mixer and knead on a clean surface for two more minutes. Place the dough in the oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm place for at least an hour before using.

Notes: I use part whole wheat flour in my pizza dough sometimes, when doing this add a little extra water if needed until the dough is lightly tacky.

Garlic Cream Sauce


1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 clove of garlic

1/2 cup heavy cream
1/8th teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/8th teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
1/4th cup Parmesan Reggiano

In a saucepan melt the butter and olive oil together over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Turn the heat to medium low and add the rest of the ingredients, but add the cheese last so it doesn’t hit the hot pan and seize up. Stir constantly until it coats the back of a spoon. Turn off the heat and move the sauce to a bowl.

Sauce will thicken quite a bit as it cools.

Recipe & picture by Laura Flowers with total inspiration from Linda @ Ciao Chow Linda.


Fresh Local and Best said...

I am an admirer and follower of Michael Pollan's work. Thanks for sharing the clip! This looks like a fab pizza!

Jeanne said...

I would love to see Michael Pollan speak! I'm a big fan of his work.

Potato pizza is one of my favorite pizzas to make! Just curious about why you soak the potatoes overnight. I've never done it that way, so perhaps I'm missing out on something?

The Cooking Photographer said...

Hi Jeanne,

To soften the potatoes enough so that they aren't crunchy. Linda soaked them until they were floppy and her method worked pretty well.


Lisa said...

Looks sooo delicious. The first time I had potato on pizza was in NY several years ago and I loved it so much. This is a great recipe--lucky for me tonight is pizza night!

Anonymous said...

Laura - hopefully you don't mind but I am steeling your garlic cream sauce - I am making a reuben pizza tonight and I just wasn't in love with my sauce that I wrote out for it.

I'll let you know how it turns out!

Kitchen Butterfly said...

Yep, Jamie and Deeba have started MacTweets....

Love the sound of this....hmmm, some pesto, sundried tomatoes....WOW

Chef E said...

I have been wanting to try making a potato pizza, and now I am going to commit. I love love love Micheal Pollen, and have read all of his books. It took me a while to get through omnivores Dilemma, and then the next two were fast reads. I saw a guy at the movie theater the other night reading a new one about being a locavore, and am going to look at reading being a purist. I seriously got into that this summer, hard to do in the winter though.

Oh and how delish your dish looks! Go over and see some photography I did on my TMI blog! You will laugh...

softhef said...

Here's an article you might be interested in. He wrote this for the NY Times in 2003. I've been hanging on to it because it supports my High Fructose Corn Syrup conspiracy theory :)

Sook said...

Potato pizza looks amazing! I would love to try it sometime!

Patricia @ ButterYum said...

Okay - this is the second Pizza with potatoes I've seen in as many weeks. What going on around here? I've never heard of such a thing before.

I guess I'm just going to have to give it a try sometime.

PS - thanks for the video clip. I'll have to watch it in the middle of the night so I don't exceed my band width. I'm due for a good night of insomnia soon. ;)

Namitha said...

Interesting facts..
The pizza looks so inviting.I haven't tried this potato pizza yet ..Next time I would add honey in the dough instead of sugar..Would love to try this sauce too

Cristie said...

I am such a fan of Michael Pollan. I only wish he would come somewhere that I could hear him. Thanks so much for posting the clip. At my one year point as a food blogger I am making some changes on my blog that will reflect some of the very things Michael stresses. Your pizza looks wonderful. Thank you for this post!

Coleens Recipes said...

The potato pizza looks DELISH!!

Mimi said...

Great post. I am a fan of Michael Pollen.
We too make potato pizza some times we add caramelized onions, or pesto. It’s the best.

sophia said...

I've read Pollan's work, and was very impressed by his simple, practical advice. I'm not sure he might approve of the double carb pizza, but hey, it's food, and it's not too meaty, and we don't eat it all day!

Memória said...

This pizza looks fantastic. Interestingly, I saw a potato pizza on "The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Pizza" on FoodNetwork tonight. Yours looks much lighter and fresher, though.

The garlic cream sauce sounds amazing!!

Donna-FFW said...

I love the idea of a potato pizza with a garlic cream sauce. The photos are so enticing!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Thanks for the shout-out. Your version with that garlic cream sauce looks and sounds terrific.

Anonymous said...

I am definatly going to have to try Potato Pizza!

Mary Bergfeld said...

This must have been fascinating. I've used potatoes for pizza crust but have nothing in my file that matches the garlic sauce. Thanks for sharing this with us.

Federica Simoni said...

ciao Laura!!! come va? spero bene!!

Questa pizza è molto molto invitante!!!! chissà che buona!!!! complimenti!!
un abbraccio!!

Peggasus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peggasus said...

Potato pizza was my favorite when I lived in Rome for a year, many moons ago. It was always made in a sheet pan, like you show it, and was available in what would then have been considered 'fast food' places. It's deceptively simple, and even more deceptively delicious!

Molto grazie anche a Linda!

Deana Sidney said...

Gorgeous pizza and good info about food... makes you think twice about raspberries in January!

indira naidoo said...

Dear Laura,
I too am a huge devotee of Michael Pollan's food sanity. His philosophies and books have inspired me to create an Edible Balcony on my 13th floor apartment in inner Sydney. It's my small way of encouraging city dwellers to reclaim their connection with the food they eat by growing it themselves.


s said...

This looks fab!! and great informative post too...

Renata said...

I've never thought of potato pizza - this garlic cream sounds like the finishing touch to this yummy dish!

Devon said...

Nice pizza/ Pollan combo in this post. I'm a huge fan of homemade pizza and yours looks slammin!

Trissa said...

I thought I had the best pizza recipe until I saw this! Thanks for sharing with us. I love the idea of a garlic cream sauce. Fantastic.

EMC said...

I was there too! I wonder if I saw you and just didn't recognize you.

It was a fantastic talk, eh? I made my students read The Omnivore's Dilemma in a research writing course here at WSU, and I was happy to see a few of them when I entered the coliseum.

Chef Fresco said...

That is awesome you got to see him speak - thanks for the facts from his speech! This potato pizza sure does look amazing!

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