Friday, November 11, 2011
A Great Homemade Chicken Pizza
A couple of the things that happen when the weather turns cold are basketball season starts (this is my son's last year in high school, sob!) and I start to do more cooking. I guess it is either that or go dormant, like our gardens.
Since the economic downturn, I have started to cook more and more from scratch. Spending time with my sister-in-law because of all the gluten issues that face her, I have also spent a lot more time thinking about what is in our food.
Also at the beginning of the Great Recession, my son's and my favorite pizza place closed. So faced with Pizza Hut or just places that "also serve" pizza (something frozen), I started to explore making my own crust.
The first pizza crust I came up with was simply a modification of my biscuit recipe, and not a true yeast crust. I took my biscuit recipe and cut it by 2/3 and switched shortening for butter. Acceptable, quick and tasty, but not "pizza".
One of my caveat for a good crust is being able to turn around from menu idea to eating in one hour. For that, this is what I came up with:
Mix in a medium-sized bowl:
5/8 cup of warm milk (microwaved in a 1100 watt microwave oven for 35 seconds)
1/2 package of dry yeast
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon of salt
Grease another medium bowl. (I wipe it with canola oil.)
To the yeast and milk, etc mixture, add 1 1/2 cup flour. This is approximate. Dust your counter and hands with flour and knead the flour mixture into a ball. Place it in the greased bowl. Cover with a dish towel and place in a warm spot.
About a half an hour later I generally begin assembling my toppings. I slice a chicken breast into 1/4" slices and cut them into approximately 1" squares. I also used sun-dried Opalka tomatoes in olive oil, 1/2 a sauteed onion, two chopped sausage patties and about 1/3 of a pound of shredded white cheddar cheese. I was looking for some sliced mushrooms to saute, but I didn't have any. Black olives might be fun with this pizza, too.
You could also do bacon, pineapple, Canadian bacon; just like any pizza the toppings can be almost endless, however when I make a chicken pizza I tend to fore go tomato sauce.
It takes me about a half hour to assemble my toppings. At that point the crust has had an hour to rise. I pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. The pizza dough is kneaded. At this point I have been using my rolling pin to get it evenly flat. You can stretch it out in the traditional manner, if you prefer. The consistency and taste of the crust is very similar to California Kitchen Pizza.
After I have placed the toppings on the pizza with the exception of the cheese, I always add the cheese last; I add spices. I generally salt it, pepper it, take my garlic salt and crushed red pepper shakers to it. Then I sprinkle on about 1/2 teaspoon of basil, 1/4 teaspoon of bruchetta seasoning. As the basil I have added is dried, I also like to add some sort of green leafy topping that is still very green. Sometimes this is fresh basil, other times parsley which enhanced the other spices. Sometimes fresh, chopped spinach is one of my additions. I have noticed that celery tops dry very green and are a nice addition, as well. A great use for the tasty celery foliage that was not accompanied by great stalks of celery this year.
It cooks about 15 minutes at 350 degrees.
The pictured pizza has chicken, sausage, dried celery tops, sundried tomatoes, sauteed onions, and the aforementioned spices. My son drizzles ranch dressing on this pizza. I go with a homemade BBQ sauce. Your choice!