It’s no secret that I love pizza. I like trying unusual sauces and toppings, and adding to my stock of pizza ideas is an unending goal. The idea for this pizza came about as I imagined combining roasted chicken leftovers with a few favorite Mexican flavors. For the first version of the pizza, I used a store-bought Mexican salsa for the pizza sauce, and took my cue for toppings from “Classic Tortilla Soup with All The Trimmings” in the cookbook Mexican Every Day by Rick Bayless. For the second version of the pizza, I adapted Rick’s recipe for the tortilla soup’s tomato-chile base so it was a little thicker and not too watery for using as a sauce on the pizza. If you don’t want to make your own sauce, a thicker Mexican-style salsa works surprisingly well.
Lately I’ve been trying a new approach with my pizza crusts. I form them with a stretching technique to create a more rustic texture, and also pre-bake the crusts. I got the idea for this approach from David Lebovitz’s blog and his excellent “Potato and Blue Cheese Pizza” post (along with more great ideas for toppings). I also liked the rustic look of the crusts on his post, and the stretching technique definitely creates a more interesting texture. Pre-baking the crust gives you more flexibility with timing if you are making more than one pizza. It also delivers a consistent texture to the crust and gives ample support for the pizza toppings. Though the idea of tortilla soup pizza may seem strange initially, the combination of ingredients really do create a flavor reminiscent of classic tortilla soup. Margaritas, anyone?
Tortilla Soup Pizza
(adapted from the cookbook Mexican Every Day by Rick Bayless)
One 14-1/2 ounce can of tomatoes, fire-roasted if possible
1-1/2 tablespoons New Mexico or other ground chile powder
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-1/2 cups of white onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon chicken bullion paste concentrate or 1 chicken bullion cube, crushed
4 ounces roasted chicken, white or dark or mixed, chopped into 1/2″ pieces
1/2 medium avocado, sliced lengthwise and cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 cup cilantro leaves
3 ounces asadero or monterey jack cheese, grated
3 ounces whole milk mozzarella cheese, grated
1/4 cup cotija cheese, grated
(adapted from the cookbook Pizza, California Style and the blog Life, In Recipes)
1/2 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon honey
3/4 cup warm water (between 110ºF to 115ºF degrees-use a thermometer for best results)
1-1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
In a medium bowl, dissolve the yeast and honey in the 3/4 cup of warm water. Let it sit until it begins to foam, about 5 minutes. Measure out the white whole wheat flour, mix in the salt, blend in the the olive oil, and stir into the yeast and honey mixture until well-blended. Dough will be thick and sticky. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm area for at least an hour, or up to 8 hours. As time passes, mixture should begin to bubble and expand slightly, creating the “sponge” starter.
Once the sponge has fermented and you’re ready to use it (after 1 to 8 hours), adjust oven rack to the second lowest position in the oven, and place pizza stone on rack in cool oven. Preheat to 500ºF.
To make the red sauce, put the tomatoes and chile powder in a high-powered blender and blend for a minute or two until tomatoes are smooth. Sauté the chopped onions and garlic in the olive oil over medium-high heat until the onions are a golden color, around 6 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Once cooled, add onions and garlic, along with the chicken bullion concentrate, to the tomato-chile mixture in the blender, and blend for a minute or two until smooth. Pour into a separate container and set aside.
Prep most of the toppings. Chop the chicken and avocado into 1/2″ pieces. Wash and dry cilantro, remove leaves from stems, measure out 1 cup, then set aside. Grate cheeses and set aside. Measure out about 1/2 cup red sauce and set aside.
To finish the crust, sprinkle a flat work surface with flour. Scrape the dough from the bowl onto floured surface, then sprinkle more flour over the dough and knead until smooth, adding more flour if dough is too sticky, and roll dough into a small ball. Measure out a large piece of parchment paper, about 15″x15″, and place dough on it. Cover and let rest for 10-15 minutes. After 15 minutes, flatten dough into a small circle. To form crust, use a stretching technique, placing knuckles of both hands underneath the middle of the dough and begin to stretch the dough outwards. You can also hold the dough by its edge and turn it as it hangs, letting its weight do some of the stretching. Once the dough has stretched out a bit and its size becomes difficult to handle, place it on the parchment paper and continue to lift and stretch the thicker edges, making sure to stretch the dough as evenly as possible. Stretch to a 14″ circle. Slide a large pizza peel underneath parchment paper and dough, and slide onto pizza stone. Cook dough for three minutes. The texture of this crust will be more rustic and bubbly once it cooks. Remove to a cooling rack that will keep the crust elevated so it doesn’t get soggy.
To finish the pizza, spread red sauce over the pre-baked crust, leaving about a 1/4″ rim uncovered. Place chicken and avocado pieces evenly over pizza. Mix the asadero and mozzarella cheeses together and sprinkle evenly over the pizza. Spread cilantro leaves over entire pizza. The cilantro will shrink down as it cooks in the oven. Sprinkle cotija cheese evenly over the pizza. Open oven door and carefully slide pizza onto pizza stone. Turn oven setting to broil, and cook until cheese looks bubbly and is starting to brown slightly. Slide pizza peel underneath pizza and remove from oven onto a large cutting board or protected surface. Cut into eight slices.
Makes one 14″ pizza