While having dinner with friends recently, the question was posed: if you had to, what one food would you commit to eating everyday for a month. I rather cheatingly said pizza– cheating, in my opinion, because pizza is so versatile and therefore evades the point of the exercise which is what food do you love so much that you wouldn’t mind the mind-numbing boredom of eating it and only it in a solitary form.
And it’s true– I’ve known and mostly loved many a different kind of pizza over my life. When I was little, pizza was on a super thin, cracker like crust and although shaped in a large circle, the pieces were cut into little 2″ x 2″ squares. Admittedly, this was not a favorite of mine. In fact, my preference leaned more towards the crisply seared in oil crust of Pizza Hut’s pan pizzas. As a tween, Wolfgang Puck and his California style pizzas took over. You know what I’m talking about– gourmet ingredients, and not a scrap of tomato sauce to be found, being replaced with olive oil and garlic. I remember being fascinated by the California Pizza Kitchen’s menu and couldn’t get enough of its Peking duck pizza. In college, I fell deeply in love with Chicago style deep dish pizza. Please don’t ask me to decide between the amazing cornmeal crunch of a Gino’s East pizza or the thick, buttery biscuit like crust of Giordano’s. It’s Sophie’s choice really.
Since moving to Seattle, my professionally made pizza preferences tend toward the Neapolitan style, crackery thin, wood-fired pizza that seems to be the focus of most of the pizza joints near me. But I also love making pizza at home. It’s particularly easy since I can buy excellent pizza dough, frozen and super cheap from a local Italian bakery. This has given me the freedom to play around with topping ideas of my own, and as I’m writing this, I’m realizing how the pizzas I make at home revisit the various pizza stages of my life. Sometimes I use toppings from the pizza of my childhood– crumbles of sausage and mushrooms. Other times I skew towards the gourmet toppings of local pizza places here, playing around with Italian cured meats and arugula. And sometimes, I revisit the California pizzas of my tween and teen years, like with this Thai Chicken Pizza.
This pizza was inspired by an effort to use up leftovers in my fridge. We’d had Thai takeout the weekend before which included a big order of pan-fried, wide rice noodles, mixed with lightly sautéed, garlicky spinach which you then liberally douse with peanut sauce. Believe me– we drowned those noodles in lovely peanutty goodness, but we still had about a cup left of peanut sauce. I also had a small jar of Thai red curry sitting in the fridge, forgotten over the months since I’d used a tiny teaspoon of it in a curry. We also had half a red pepper and a handful of shiitake mushrooms in the produce drawer, leftover from a stir fry.
I slathered two boneless, skinless chicken breast halves with the red curry and broiled them so that they had a nice crust on the outside while still juicy on the inside. I spread the leftover peanut sauce on the pizza crust and added a layer of squeeze-dried, thawed frozen spinach thinking the color would go nicely with the bright red of the bell pepper. The whole thing was topped with shredded mozzarella cheese and when I took the pizza out of the oven, I showered it with a mixture of fresh mint and cilantro for a crisp, verdant flavor. A squeeze of lime would probably be beneficial too for a touch of tangy acid, but otherwise, this pizza was great for the contrast of flavors– the heat and gingery spice from the curry paste on the chicken, the earthy mushrooms, and the bright, refreshing herbs. Reminiscent of those California pizzas– it kind of made me want to roll my jeans into peg legs and tie my hair into a side ponytail… well, no, not really, but it’s still good!
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
- 1 tbsp Thai red curry paste
- 2 tsp Montreal steak seasoning
- Canola oil
- 1 ball of store bought pizza dough
- olive oil
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 3/4 cup peanut sauce (if you don’t have leftovers from Thai takeout, you can buy some in the Asian grocery aisle of your grocery store)
- 10 oz package frozen spinach, thawed
- 1.5 cups shredded mozzarella
- 1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced lengthwise
- 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
- 1 tbsp each: green onion, fresh mint, cilantro, chopped
Preheat your oven broiler (or grill these lovelies if the you prefer.) Lightly coat the chicken breast halves with canola oil. Smear each chicken breast half with the curry paste then sprinkle both sides with the steak seasoning. Broil for 5 minutes on one side, then flip them over and broil for an additional 3-4 minutes. Remove to a plate and let it rest for at least 5 minutes before cutting into bite sized pieces.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. (If you have a pizza stone, place the pizza stone in the oven so it warms up while the oven heats.) Using a clean kitchen towel or paper towel, squeeze the spinach to release the water and set it aside. Roll out the pizza crust to 1/4 inch thickness. At this point, I put the crust on the hot pizza stone then quickly add the toppings; otherwise, prep pizza on a baking sheet. Brush crust with about 1 tbsp olive oil and lightly sprinkle the garlic powder over the entire surface of the pizza. Spread the peanut sauce on the crust leaving a half-inch border at the edges. Using your fingers to break apart the spinach, cover the pizza surface with the spinach then scatter the pieces of chicken, red pepper slices, and mushrooms. Sprinkle with cheese then bake for 15 minutes. As soon as you remove the pizza from the oven, sprinkle with the mixture of green onions, mint, and cilantro. Slice it up and serve.