Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pizza On A New Level

Good evening everyone! Have you ever gone out to eat at a restaurant, ordered something off the menu and, upon receiving it, looked at it and thought, “I can make that at home”? It’s something Maggie and I do every so often, in fact we’ve tried duplicating local restaurants menu items in the past with reasonable success.

On a related tangent, one of my favorite foods is BBQ chicken pizza. I’m not just talking shredded chicken drenched in BBQ sauce on an otherwise normal pizza. Rather, I prefer the pizza with whole chicken breast chunks served atop a BBQ sauce base, complimented by fresh ingredients (red onion, green peppers, etc.) We’ve had multiple BBQ chicken pizzas from the surrounding Des Moines metro, and we’ve found some that are very good. However, no matter how often we order them, and no matter how go they turn out, I always end up thinking “I can do this at home, and I think I could do it better”. Tonight, I’m trying that theory out.

The Recipe: BBQ Chicken Pizza
An Out Of The Culinary Original Recipe

What You’ll Need:

1 Batch Prepared Pizza Dough*
½ Batch ‘Out of the Culinary’s Savory BBQ Sauce’
2 Medium, Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts (Trimmed)
Ancho Chile Powder
1 Small Red Onion (Diced)
1 Garlic Clove (Thinly sliced)
8 Ounces Smoked Mozzarella Cheese

*You are more than welcome to make up your own fresh pizza dough from scratch, but there are some great, natural, from scratch choices on the market that make this process a little easier. The best in our area is Trader Joe’s pizza dough. It comes in handy premade blobs (that’s really the best description for it…) and it greatly cuts out a lot of extra prep time.

You can prepare the savory BBQ sauce ahead of making the actual pizza and store it in the refrigerator in a jar. We frequently cook up batches of the sauce and use it in or on our dishes and store the rest for later. We’ll be using the sauce in place of a tomato sauce for this pizza, so the exact quantity is strictly up to your personal preference. If you’re making the sauce up fresh, it’s safe to assume about ½ of the batch will be used for the pizza. You can adjust as necessary.

One of my biggest gripes with most BBQ chicken pizzas lies in the chicken. It’s typically added onto the pizza simply as cooked, cubed chicken breast, with the surrounding pizza expected to do most of the heavy lifting in regard to flavor. I wanted to create a flavorful chicken piece that could shine on its own, but that would really burst when surrounded by the rest of the pizza.

To do that, I created an easy marinade for the chicken. Lay a large piece of plastic wrap on your counter and place a chicken breast in the center of it. Lightly season the chicken breast with a pinch of salt and pepper and give it a generous sprinkling of ancho chile seasoning. Flip the breast and give equal treatment to the other side. Tightly wrap the breast in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator. Repeat for each chicken breast you’ll be preparing. Allow this seasoning to marry with the chicken breast overnight or for at least 4 hours.

We used ancho chile powder in a previous recipe (where we attempted to duplicate Chipotle’s famous burritos) and found it to be not at all spicy (much to our surprise) and that it actually held a very smoky flavor. That flavor should combine nicely with the surrounding pizza, adding a much needed element to the chicken.

When you’re ready to begin preparing the pizza, preheat the oven to 450 degrees and cook the chicken breasts for 20 minutes or until they reach 150-160 degrees at their thickest point. They will finish cooking later on. Once they have reached the desired temperature, transfer the breasts to a plate to allow them to cool slightly.

While the chicken is cooking, set your prepared pizza dough out on a lightly floured counter. (Most prepared pizza dough calls for it to rest at room temperature for around 20 minutes before use, but you’ll want to follow the individual package instructions based on the dough you’re using). Once the dough has risen slightly, you can begin to work it out into a 12 to 16 inch circle (depending on the size of your pizza pan) with a lightly floured rolling pin. Make sure to flatten the dough evenly (you don’t want any puffy pockets) and transfer the dough to the pizza pan.

By this time your chicken should be done cooking and have cooled slightly. Once the chicken is out of the oven, reduce the temperature of the oven to 350 degrees.

Use a chef’s knife to slice the chicken breasts into cubes. Next, turn your attention to assembling your pizza. Begin by ladling a couple spoonfuls of BBQ sauce onto the center of the pizza and spread it evenly across the surface. I prepared by pizza as a flatbread style, meaning I didn’t turn up the edges to create a crust. To compensate, I simply left about ½ inch of space around the edge free of sauce.

Lightly sprinkle the diced red onion, thinly cut garlic and chicken cubes across the surface of the pizza. Top this layer with the cheese, making sure it’s evenly distributed across the pizza. Finally, add another few chicken cubes, and some more diced red onion on top of the cheese layer and place the pizza pan into the oven. Allow it to bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the cheese turns lightly golden brown and the crust is crispy to the touch. Sprinkle the top of the pizza with the chopped cilantro and enjoy!

The Results:

This is one delicious pizza. The BBQ sauce base creates a great, new flavor for the dough/cheese and toppings. My favorite aspect of this dish was the marinated chicken breasts. By oven baking the chicken, we created a nice, crispy outer edge that really added great texture to the pizza. The ancho chile powder added an amazing layer of smoky depth to the pizza that most BBQ chicken pizzas seem to lack.

My only gripe was with the crust. While Trader Joe’s whole wheat pizza crust was very good, I found it a little too soft for my liking. I prefer my pizza to have a crispy crust and by following the package instructions we simply did not achieve that. In hindsight, I think I would cook the pizza dough on its own for about 5 minutes prior to placing the pizza into the oven. This would allow the crust to crisp up slightly. Other than that minor gripe, this ended up being one delicious pizza. The best part? The total cost of the dish came in around $8 ($1 pizza dough, $6 organic chicken, $1 cheese – the BBQ sauce was already prepared and could have been made again with everything in our pantry) that’s about ½ price of the same pizza at a local restaurant.

That’s all we have for you this evening. Maggie will take to the kitchen tomorrow night where she puts her favorite style of cooking into a whole new dish. Be sure to stop in then to see what she has cooking. Until then,


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