The minute I saw the Bacon Explosion, I knew I had to try it: bacon, Italian sausage, more bacon, smoke - what's not to like? But the more I thought about it, the stranger it seemed. I like Italian sausage, but I don't usually think of it as something to throw on the smoker. I grill it or saute it or bake it or use it to top pizza. And that's what led me to what I have humbly named the Pizza Explosion - an inside-out, smoked log of oozing pizza goodness.
Is it overkill? Absolutely! But it's also a fantastic treat, and not at all difficult to make, with a little time and patience. Give it a try the next time you fire up the smoker - it'll make a fine appetizer, and the leftovers are outstanding scrambled with eggs or spread over (recursion alert!) pizza.
1 lb bacon (you'll need ten slices)On a baking sheet lined with wax paper, weave the bacon strips into a five by five lattice, making sure that there aren't big gaps between the pieces. It took me a couple of minutes to figure out how to make this work: lay out the horizontal strips, then fold back every other strip, and put down one vertical strip. Reverse the polarity (flip the folded strips back down, flip the unfolded strips in the opposite direction), lay down another vertical strip and repeat until your lattice is finished. (Sorry I don't have pics of this process - didn't want to get bacon on the camera.)
2 lbs bulk Italian sausage (hot or mild)
1/4 lb pepperoni
1 cup pizza sauce, plus more for garnish
2 cups shredded mozzarella or Quatro Formaggio
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, plus more for garnish
2 Tbls Italian seasonings, or to taste
1 tsp crushed red pepper (optional), plus more for garnish
Sprinkle half the Italian seasonings on top of the bacon lattice.
Next, spread the sausage evenly over the lattice, taking care not to stretch out the bacon strips. You may want to pat the sausage out on a separate baking sheet, then transfer it to the lattice. Make sure the sausage is a uniform thickness, so it will cook evenly.
Now, top the sausage with the pepperoni, overlapping slices for good coverage, and spread the sauce atop the pepperoni. Scatter the cheese in the center of the meat, avoiding the outer inch on either side (you don't want the cheese to ooze out during cooking). Sprinkle the remaining Italian seasonings and crushed red pepper on top.
Slowly roll the slab - this is where the wax paper comes in handy - taking care not to trap air inside. Your log will look something like this:
Smoke that log at 225F until the internal temp reaches 165F - about three hours, give or take - then let it rest for a couple of minutes before slicing into 1" portions. Your cooking time will depend on the thickness of the log, the starting temp of the log, and your smoker's temp. You could probably cut the time in half by squishing the log flat and upping the smoke temp to 275F.
Serve with warm pizza sauce, grated parmesan and crushed red peppers (or whatever you like on your pizza).
I suspect that you could construct the log a couple of days in advance, and refrigerate it until you're ready to smoke it. You could also grill or bake it, but what's the fun in that?