Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pesto Chicken Pizza

It must be something inherent to man not to grow weary of the pizza pie. I could easily eat some form of pizza 4 days a week and for any of the meals- breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper, brunch, blunch, lupper, I could even have pizza for linner. I would eat pizza on a plane and I would eat pizza on a train. How many meals in a row have you eaten pizza?

It's been a while since the last pizza post. And it seems I've been using the same dough recipe for a while? Then it is about time to put a touch more flavor into it with a easy trick- time. Let me be more specific- fermentation time. An overnight 'mother' will give the dough a more complex flavor. Oh, did I mention it only takes about 2 minutes to put together? Try it next time instead of the usual dough!

The pesto recipe will yield about 1 C, you will have a few TBs leftover, and that will be a good thing. Gotta ton of basil on your hands? Perhaps you want to double the batch and make this too? Fresh basil pesto keeps well in the freezer, just cover with a bit of EVOO.

The most condensed way to do this- the mother is the day before or very early morning of, then finish off the dough and while that is proofing you bake the chicken while making the pesto. After you punch down the dough and let rest, the chicken will be cool enough to dice up. Get after it. Alternatively, you could let the dough rest in a ball in the fridge for up to 2 days after proofing and punching down. Get after it later.

Pesto Chicken Pizza

2 C fresh basil, packed
4 cloves garlic, halved
1/4 C walnuts, chopped (or pine nuts, but the $ is like gold lately? WTW?)
2/3 C good EVOO, divided
1/2 C good parmigiano reggiano, grated
1/2 C pecorino, grated

2 medium boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 C mozzarella, grated
1/4 C parmigiano-reggiano
basil leaves

1/2 C lukewarm water
1/2 C AP flour
1/4 ts active dry yeast (from packet)
pinch flour

2 C bread flour
1/2 C water
the rest of the yeast (from packet)
1 ts kosher salt

Some will tell you making pesto in a food pro is not the proper method. Some people have that sort of time of their hands, and the equipment (mezzaluna, anyone?). The time involved vs. the tastes worth the time equation is not balanced to me.

For the pesto-
In a food pro, combine the basil, walnuts, garlic, S&P, and a couple TBs of EVOO. Pulse a few times to combine, then scrape down the bowl with a spatula. With the machine running, drizzle in the rest of the EVOO to incorporate to the consistency you desire, the 2/3C is just a guideline. Add in the cheeses last, pulse a few times to combine. Taste for seasonings and add S&P if necessary.

For the mother-
Add the 1/2 C lukewarm water to the bowl of your stand mixer. Sprinkle the 1/4 ts yeast and a pinch of flour over the water. Let sit until a little foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the rest of the 1/2 C of flour and stir on low to combine. Scrape down the sides of your bowl if necessary. Cover with plastic wrap and then a clean kitchen towel, place in a moderately warm, draft-free area overnight, or for about 8-12 hours. Your mother, sponge, pre-ferment, biga, levain, or whatever your part of the world calls it, should be nice and bubbly, that's CO2 doin some work.

Finishing the dough-
Put your mom back under the mixer fitted with dough hook. Add the water, flour, and salt. Mix on speed 2 for about 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. I like to knead for a couple minutes by hand too, just to feel some dough in my hands and work it a bit more. By hand is always best, you can knead by hand for about 10 minutes too. I like incorporating both so my forearm muscles don't get too big. Once you have a nice tight ball of dough, place into a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat, then cover with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Place in a moderately warm, draft-free area to proof, about 1.5-2 hrs, or until doubled in size.

For the chicky-
Any method you choose, I don't like to grill or pan fry because I don't want to develop too much of a crust. I season with S&P, then bake for about 10 minutes per side at 350F. All depends on the size of your breasts, of course. Boiling/poaching is also a viable option.

For the pie-
Fire up the hotbox to 500°F, place your rack with pizza stone on the lowest position. You want to preheat the oven for at least 30 minutes, ensuring it is blazing hot. Once your dough has proofed, punch down to release the gas and let sit for 10-15 minutes. Place on a lightly floured counter or board and stretch into a 5" disc. I like to use a rolling pin and roll outwards from the center, so you are not killing the thing all over. My stone is square, I roll out an appropriate shape for the stone, about 12x13" or so. If the dough is too springy, just let sit for another 5 minutes or so.

Now that you've got the dough rolled out, place onto a pizza peel that is well-covered in cornmeal. To remind you of that purpose- they will help your dough slide onto your stone easily, otherwise you'll have a very ugly calzone. If you don't have a stone or peel, you can substitute with upside-down sheet pans. But I wouldn't. If you like pie enough, you'll get a stone and peel.

Top the dough with about a TB of EVOO and spread evenly. Top that with about 3/4 C pesto, then with most of the chicken. There is usually a bit leftover to snack on. Add the cheeses and scatter a couple basil leaves on top.

Bake until the cheese is golden, bubbly, and damn delicious, about 8-12 minutes.

Resist the temptation to slice into this for at least 240 seconds. Then please enjoy.

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