One item under the “Breads & Batters” section of Hazel’s seasonally inspired menu jams a multitude of taste sensations — spicy, salty, crunchy — all into one bite.
The $14 “smoked onion ciabatta” turns out to be chef Rob Rubba’s take on pizza, featuring whipped ricotta, spreadable ‘nduja, olive oil jam, and spring green salad slathered on house-made ciabatta.
The aforementioned ingredients were originally tucked inside a buttery brioche donut, but Rubba retooled the offering this spring, producing what he believes to be a lighter and fresher version of the savory composition.
Per, Rubba, the ingredients work more harmoniously when deconstructed and layered atop the griddled ciabatta — both in terms of taste and design — than they did in donut form. Rubba , a nominee for Rising Culinary Star of the Year at this year’s RAMMY awards, broke down the dish for Eater.
Here are six takeaways:
MAKING ALL THE FLAVORS WORK: There’a lot going on in each bite, between the spicy ’nduja and and richness of olive oil “jam” fashioned from egg yolks and sugar. The grassy note from a “really good olive oil” helps cut through the heat, Rubba says. Finally, "the ricotta we make in-house is a creamy component that helps cool everything down.”
BETTER THAN CHICAGO PIZZA: “It’s everything Chicago pizza should be,” Rubba says, adding, “I lived there and could never get into their pizza. It didn’t do it for me.”
CRAZY SMALL FOOTPRINT: With ingredients sourced within 300 miles, this is Hazel’s greenest dish. The flour comes from Doylestown, Pa.; the ‘njuda is provided by sister restaurant Red Apron Butchery; the salt comes from J. Q. Dickinson Salt-Works out of West Virginia; the ricotta is made with local milk (and liquid nigari from Salt-Works); and the greens are plucked nearby from Little Wild Things, the urban farm located beneath The Pub & The People, Rubba says.
START WITH A PRIME BASE: Making ciabatta in-house takes time; including prep work, Rubba calculates each loaf takes 20 hours. Home cooks should go with a good bakery and make sure the outside crust isn’t too hard, because the dish is meant for biting straight into (watch Rubba’s valiant effort at the end).