What do you do when a local chef challenges you to recreate one of his signature dishes as a pizza? Well, in my case, I just suck it up and see what I can do.
Tonight’s challenge was brought to me by local Kansas City Chef Jasper Mirabile. He wanted to see if I could make his signature Chicken Parmesan (yeah, the one that is Paul Rudd’s favorite dish and has been written up by almost every publication there is).
My response: Challenge accepted, sir.
I started off with a homemade dough using Italian 00 flour. Next, I topped the dough with some red sauce and red pepper flakes — for a little kick. I put down shredded smoked chicken and then topped the chicken with mozzarella. This is reversed from the normal way that I make pizza, but this is the way the dish is presented.
Then I had to figure out how to recreate the breaded chicken texture of the original dish, so I decided to top the mozzarella with a mixture of Italian seasoned breadcrumbs and shredded Parmesan cheese. That should do it.
And for extra flavor, we added grape tomatoes on top.
Put this in a preheated oven and then cooked until ready. Before serving I decided a little basil was in order … for both color and flavor.
When my wife took her first bite, she exclaimed, “You Did It.”
“This pizza tastes just like the dish …. breadcrumbs and all.”
OK, so my wife, Gay, is not as famous as Paul Rudd, but with her palate I’ll take her endorsement any day.
Chicken Parmesan Pizza
1 ball of your favorite pizza dough
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 cup of Grill Mayor red sauce (recipe follows) or store bought pizza sauce (plus extra for garnish)
1 cup of shredded cooked chicken
4 ounces fresh grated mozzarella (from a block)
3 tablespoons of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
3 tablespoons of Italian seasoned bread crumbs
If using a refrigerated pizza dough, remove from the refrigerator at least two hours before baking and turn out onto a floured surface. Shape the dough into a ball by gathering dough towards bottom and pinching shut placing the seam side down. Flour well and place each one in a separate medium mixing bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise at warm room temperature.
Center a pizza stone on the top rack of an oven — 8 inches from the broiler. Heat oven for at least 45 minutes at 550 degrees.
Press out dough into rough 8-inch circle, leaving outer 1 inch higher than the rest. Gently stretch dough by draping over knuckles into a 12 to 14-inch circle about 1/4-inch thick. Transfer the dough to a pizza peel, or the back of a sheet pan, that is covered with parchment paper.
Lightly salt the pizza dough with garlic salt, brush the dough with a light coating of olive oil, and then sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper evenly.
Evenly distribute the red sauce around the pizza leaving at least an 1/2-inch border around the edges.
Scatter the chicken on top of the sauce. Sprinkle the mozzarella in a single layer over the chicken.
In a small bowl, mix together the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and the bread crumbs. Then evenly sprinkle the mixture on top. Trim the excess parchment paper.
Leaving the pizza on the parchment paper, slide the pizza on the preheated pizza stone. Cook at 550 degrees for 4 minutes. At the 4 minute mark, turn on the broiler and cook for an additional minute. At this point, check the pizza every 15 seconds until your desired brownness has been achieved.
Using the pizza peel, transfer the pizza from the stone to a wire rack and let the pizza rest for 5 minutes. Will the pizza is resting, drizzle two more tablespoons of red sauce on top, and then top with 4 or 5 basil leaves. Cut into wedges and serve warm.
Grill Mayor’s Favorite Pizza Red Sauce
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup grated onion, from 1 medium onion (use the large holes in a box grater)
1 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves or 2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon leaves
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh ground pepper
Heat butter in a large saucepan over medium heat until melted. Add onion, oregano and kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated and onion is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes, sugar, dried basil (if using), onion powder, garlic powder, thyme and tarragon. Increase heat to high, and bring to simmer. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer until reduced to 2 1/2 cups, 25 to 30 minutes. Off heat, stir in oil and fresh basil (if using). Finally, season with salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.
Craig Jones is a live-fire cooking expert, the Grill Mayor for Food Network (2012), and owner of Savory Addictions Gourmet Nuts. He’s also a certified BBQ judge, a master student in the art of pizza crafting, and an enthusiastic supporter of the greater Kansas City food scene.