Friday, August 5, 2011

Chicken Pesto Pizza

When my sister visited, we wanted to do a lot of eating at home and why not?! Even though there are endless restaurants in Manhattan, we simply wanted to enjoy sitting around the table and eating at our also helps that it's the height of summer and fresh produce is in full bloom. Equipped with a fragrant bushel of basil from the Union Square farmers market and lovely free range chicken, I decided to have a pizza night. We did have the traditional tomato sauce pizza and all the fixings under the sun (although my favourites are the classic margarita and napoletana) but I thought we'd make things a bit more interesting with a chicken pesto pizza...delish..
I like making my own dough and found another recipe that rivals the other pizza recipe I featured several months back! My darling nephew Thomas is allergic to nuts so I omitted the pine nuts from the pesto. Oh, I can hear the collective "gasp" from my fellow food purists- but I actually preferred it this way. So it was indeed a happy omission! I found that the pesto sans pine nuts is less heavy and dense, making it brighter and allowing the fresh summer notes of sun kissed basil and garlic to shine through.

Of all the pizza we made that night (about 6 large ones!) this was by far our favourite!

Dough Ingredients:
1 (.25 ounce) package of dry active yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water (about 105-115 degrees F)
4 cups bread flour
1.5 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cold water
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil plus more to coat the bowl

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the yeast, lukewarm water, and 1/2 cup bread flour. Mix well and let sit until bubbly, about 30 minutes.Whisk together the remaining 3 1/2 cups bread flour and salt in another bowl so it will be evenly distributed.
Once the yeast mixture is nice and bubbly and looks like foamybeer, add 3/4 cup cold water and olive oil. Using a dough hook, turn the mixer on and add the flour in increments.
Mix the dough for about 5 minutes, until the dough starts creeping up the dough hook and comes away from the sides of the bowl.

Place the dough in a large bowl lightly greased with olive oil. Turn to coat all sides of the dough with oil. Cover the bowl loosely with a clean tea towel. Let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours. Punchdough down, and let rise another hour.
Divide the dough into 4 equal disks. Lightly flour a work surface. Using your fingers or heels of your hands (and a rolling pin, if you prefer) stretch the disks out to a 10-inch round. Repeat with the remaining 3 pizza dough disks.

Topping Ingredients:
2 chicken breasts cut into bite sized strips
1/2 cup thinly sliced crimini mushrooms
1 ball fresh buffalo mozzarella
2 cups packed fresh THOROUGHLY washed basil
2 cloves garlic
2/3rd cup extra virgin olive oil plus extra for sauteing
1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
juice of half a lemon
good pinch of salt to taste
freshly ground cracked black pepper

Throw the parm cheese, basil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, garlic and oil into a food processor and blitz to your desired pesto-like consistency. Reserve.

Sprinkle salt and pepper on chicken and add to a skillet with about 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Add one tablespoon of pesto and cook until the chicken is almost fully cooked (you want it undercooked because it will finish in the oven). Toss in the mushrooms and reserve. With a fork poke holes throughout the dough and spread about 1/4 cup pesto (don't use it all at once..eyeball it as you may need less) on your prepared pizza dough. 
Bake in the oven until the dough is golden and almost ready to be removed. If it's dry add a bit more pesto and top with chicken and fresh mozzarella. Put in the middle rack with the broiler on high. The cheese will bubble and melt and Presto Pesto! You're ready to feast!

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