Growing up we never ate pizza from a pizza parlor, my dad made all our pizzas. It was the thick crust topped with tomatoes and onions that he sautéed in a pan with olive oil, cheese and anchovies on top. It was so good, it is so good. He still makes it for us, in the same pan we used growing up, and it is delicious. His pizza is one of our New Year's Eve traditions.
This pizza is pretty common but I think the addition of putting a cheese sauce over the pizza makes it even more special. The combination of flavors will delight even the pickiest of people. The addition of the celery leaves at the end is the pièce de résistance!
1 ½ cup warm water
2- ¼ ounce packages of dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
4 cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 tbsp. olive oil
For the pizza toppings
8 chicken tenders
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. butter
4 tbsp. flour
1 ¼ cup milk
1 ½ cup creamy jack cheese shredded
1 ½ cup mozzarella cheese shredded
¼ cup crumbly blue cheese (optional)
¼ c Franks hot sauce
2 tbsp. butter
¾ cup celery leaves
2 small or 1 large tomato sliced thin
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400°
Stir together the water, yeast and the sugar. Let rest until the yeast blooms, about 7 minutes.
Place 3 cups of the flour and the salt in a mixing bowl. Add the yeast mixture and the olive oil and stir together to form a sticky dough. Place ball on a clean countertop or a large cutting board and knead, adding the remaining flour a little at a time until the dough becomes a smooth, elastic ball, about 5-8 minutes. If you prefer to use an electric mixer, combine the ingredients with the paddle attachment and then change to the dough hook. Add the flour a little at a time until the dough is smooth and comes away from the sides of the bowl, about 2-4 minutes. Turn the dough into a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 30- 40 minutes in a draft free spot to double in bulk.
Prepare the Pizza top:
While the crust is rising, begin making the topping for the pizza. Season the chicken tenders with salt and pepper and then dust them with 2 tablespoons of flour. Put enough olive oil just to coat the bottom of the pan over medium high heat. Cook the chicken in the pan for about 4 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and set aside. Melt the butter in a sauce pan then add 2 tablespoons of flour to the pan and cook 1 minute. Stir in the milk and whisk until the milk thickens and is slightly bubbly. Turn off the heat and stir in the creamy jack cheese. Let sit while you slice up the tomato thinly. Then pull or cut your cooled chicken into bite size pieces. When your crust has risen (about double in size), place it on a lightly floured very large board or on a clean counter top. Punch it down and then begin to roll it out. Being Sicilian, I like a thick crust for a pizza with sauce on it, so I used the whole ball of dough. If you like a thinner crust pizza, I suggest you cut the dough in half and freeze half for later. I use a rolling pin and then stretch it with my hands. Shape the crust however you feel most comfortable. Put your crust on a pizza pan or a baking sheet. Push down on it with your fingertips so you have small indents in the crust and then drizzle with olive oil.
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a small bowl and stir in the hot sauce, and then pour the hot sauce mixture over the prepared pizza dough. Put the pizza in the oven for 5 minutes to prebake the crust slightly. Remove from oven and spread the pizza with the cheese sauce. Depending on how big you stretched your crust will depend on how much of the cheese sauce you use. Make sure you put enough on to cover the pizza and then add extra to make it saucy. Then add the slices of tomato, the chicken, the crumbled blue cheese and then the mozzarella to the pizza. Drizzle again with a small amount of olive oil over the top, salt and pepper as desired. Place the pizza in the oven and cook approximately 9 – 14 minutes depending on your oven. You want the top to be bubbly and slightly golden. As soon as the pizza comes out of the oven sprinkle it with the celery leaves. Serve while cheese is gooey, hot and Mangialicious!