October 11, 2010

Taco Pizza

If you think we eat a lot of pizza at our house, you'd be right.

When I left home at eighteen, I made leftovers into soup. In my twenties, I learned that I could make pizza out of almost any kind of leftover imaginable, and I did; my rampage through leftover chile con carne, curry, flank steak and mushrooms, baked bean and cheese, and whatever-was-in-the-crisper eventually led to the now-legendary Lapin Dijon Pizza of 1996 (sadly, no photo).

In my thirties, I relegated leftovers to quesadillas (including the surprisingly tasty Aloo Gobi quesadilla), and pursued more classic (ahem) forms of the pizza, that is, if you can include "cheeseburger" as a classic pizza option.

Nowadays, I just make pizza whenever I want pizza, and I still make it sometimes to use up ingredients. Sometimes, it takes on strange new territory (there was a mushroom-sauced roast beef pizza a couple of weeks ago that I completely forgot to take pictures of), the trendy (buffalo wing pizza with blue cheese sauce) or the time-honoured traditional (pepperoni from the deli counter, maybe mushrooms, maybe peppers, tomato sauce, cheese).

Pizza is a go-to dinner for a few of reasons:
1) It can be on the plate in an hour, even making the crust from scratch.
2) I almost always have the ingredients for making crust, some manner of sauce, and cheese
3) It can help me use up whatever is lurking in the fridge.

The leftover factor might be subtle, it needs to be said. The Taco pizza above was constructed out of a need to use up some black olives and a red pepper that wasn't going to put up with much more fridge time. Since I had some ground buffalo in the freezer (and I usually do), it was pretty easy to fry up the meat, season it up as if I were making tacos (chiles, onions, garlic, cumin - loads of cumin!) and spread it over the pressed-out crust.

For the crust, I substituted about a quarter of a cup of the flour with yellow cornmeal, just to give it a complementary flavour, a slight corniness, you might say. I also use cornmeal for dusting the pizza pan, to make sure the crust comes away nicely, so I already had the cornmeal out. (Expired link removed, please see comments below for recipe).

In this, somewhat rare incidence, I didn't use any sort of sauce at all, but made sure that the taco meat was fairly "saucy" or wet before spreading it in an even layer on the unbaked crust. Top with olives, confetti of red pepper, and cheddar cheese, and you have yourself a taco-flavoured pizza. Serve with a little drizzle of sour cream, if you like, or a side of guacamole.

1 comment:

Dawna said...

Welp, the recipe link above has expired, so here is the recipe:

Total prep and cooking time: 45 minutes if you're quick and organized, and the dough is co-operative, 1 hour if not. The lengthy write up here makes it seem like it would take longer, but it doesn't. Well, maybe the first time...

Pizza Crust

3/4 cup warm water
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast or one envelope
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 - 2 cups plain flour, as needed
1 teaspoon salt I use kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried, crumbled oregano optional
1 teaspoon dried basil optional

Test the water by sticking your impeccably clean finger in it. If it's pleasantly warm, but not hot, you're good to go. If not, adjust as needed. Pour warm water into a medium sized mixing bowl. Sprinkle sugar and yeast over the water and let stand for about five minutes while you get the sauce ready (see below). The yeast will soften, and gradually start to foam up to the top of the water. This usually only takes a few minutes, but if your water is quite cool it might take a little longer. Once the yeast has gotten foamy, stir in the olive oil (or canola, if you don't have olive oil) and 1/2 cup of the flour.

Stir until combined into a sort of paste, and then beat vigorously for 100 strokes all in the same direction. It sounds silly, but this is the basis for a very smooth dough, and it doesn't actually take very long at all. A wooden spoon is ideal for the job. Once your mixture is smooth and silky-looking, add the salt and 1 cup of flour. If you are adding herbs, now is the time to do so. Stir until the flour is mostly incorporated - it gets very stiff very quickly - and then turn out onto a clean counter to knead. Add more flour if the dough seems sticky - add it a little at a time as you go along.

Knead the dough briskly for about five minutes, or until it comes together in a satiny ball and is no longer sticky. Let the dough rest on the counter while you wash out the bowl that you started it in. Wash and dry the bowl, and spritz with a little oil. Place your dough into the bowl (turn it over once so that a little oil gets on the top) and cover with a towel while you slice toppings and grate cheese. The dough doesn't need to rise double in size (although it's fine if it does) but it should show some signs of life when you get back to it - be softer and a little risen.

Prepare your toppings and turn the oven on to 450 F, with the rack placed in the middle. Prepare a pizza pan by sprinkling a generous amount of cornmeal in a thin layer over it.

Press the dough out into a flat circle. If the dough is still a bit tense, it might take a little longer, but this amount of dough will fit a full sized pizza pan. Just be patient and keep pressing it out, even if it tries to spring back, or let it rest for 5 minutes and try again. Once the dough is stretched to the full size of the pan, spread your pizza sauce over it, top judiciously, and bake for 12 - 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and delicious. Slide pizza onto cutting board and pretend you're going to share. Don't burn your mouth.