Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Chicken sausage & broccoli pizza

Somewhere in the middle of all of this summer fun and travel, we totally lost sight of one of our favorite weekly traditions -- Friday night pizza.

Well, maybe not completely; we did devour two tasty pies on Friday but they weren't homemade; I'll get to those bad boys in a second.

Continuing the recent trend of pack, unpack, do laundry, repeat, we ventured out of the city this weekend to Deep Creek, Maryland.  Our goal was simple: have a good time with good friends.  Mission: accomplished, despite mostly foggy and rainy weather.  The skies parted and the sun peeked out for a few hours on Saturday, which was perfect for an afternoon of hiking and scoping out a few spectacular waterfalls.

The rest of the time was spent lounging, competing for the top score in skee-ball (yes, the house we rented had an arcade skee-ball machine in the basement!), and playing board games until the wee hours of the morning.  Do you know how exhausting sitting and laughing can be?  Leisure really works up one's appetite ;)

Besides demolishing the hoard of snacks we brought (can't wait to share a new cookie recipe with you soon!), we convinced ourselves that actual meals were necessary.  We sampled some of the best BBQ at Archie's (OMG, the pulled pork), closed down the local Perkins with late-night pancakes, and started the weekend right with two gigantic pizzas from Brenda's Pizzeria.  Thanks to everyone's suggestions, I have two new favorite topping combos: green peppers and mushrooms, and pepperoni and banana peppers.  So good it's criminal, you guys.

The pizza was delish, don't get me wrong, but it totally took a backseat to the pie I made just a few nights earlier: chicken sausage & broccoli pizza for MVP!   (That's Most Valuable Pizza, friends.)

This pizza was a little different than the plethora of pizzas I've made in the past because it had no sauce whatsoever.  Before you click that X in the upper right-hand corner, hear me out, please!

I've found that thin crusts aren't as doughy and in need of moisture from sauce.  Thanks to my go-to Barefoot Contessa dough recipe, the crust for this white pizza crisped up beautifully and was still sturdy enough to support the hefty, meaty toppings.  My first attempt at a white pizza was a overwhelming success!

A layer of hot and gooey layer of mozzarella cheese dotted loaded with slices of sweet Italian chicken sausage, tender broccoli, and a sprinkle of the good stuff: dried oregano, pepper, garlic, and red pepper flakes.  I don't think I've ever been so impatient for a pizza to be finished.  I'm pretty sure I was pacing as this cooked!

One bite and I was all, "Why hadn't I thought of this sooner?  Why haven't I made white pizza before?  Why isn't there an infinite supply of this pizza?  PIZZA!"

Sorry for yelling.  Wait, no.  I'm not sorry for yelling.  Because this pizza is it.  Between you and me (and Matt, too), this is the best pizza I've ever had/made/eaten.  Even better than my beloved smashed potato pizza.  I mean business, y'all.

This pizza is the only reason you need to buck the Friday night pizza trend.  I say start a new tradition -- chicken sausage & broccoli pizza night :)

One year ago: Chicken, blueberry & brie grilled cheese
Two years ago: Thin & crispy chocolate chip cookies
Three years ago: Bacon-wrapped potato wedges
Four years ago: Tequila lime chicken

Chicken Sausage & Broccoli Pizzas
-makes 4 single-serving pizzas or 1 large pizza

A few notes: Feel free to use another kind of sausage to suit your tastes.  If it's not pre-cooked, you have two options: 1) Cook in casing in a skillet and slice, 2) Remove from casing, crumble into skillet and cook, draining when finished, or 3) Remove from casing, crumble directly onto pizza and cook in oven.  Personally, I'd choose option #1 or 2; if you try this, leave a comment with your experience, please!

Also, you can choose to make one large pizza or less than 4 small pizzas.  Unused risen dough can be sealed in plastic bags and frozen for later.  Simply allow dough to thaw in fridge for a day and rest at room temperature for 30 minutes prior to baking.

1 pound pizza dough (here's my go-to recipe)
All-purpose flour, for dusting
Extra virgin olive oil
4 links pre-cooked sweet Italian chicken sausage (I used al fresco)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cups fresh or frozen/thawed broccoli florets
Dried oregano
Ground black pepper
Garlic powder
Red pepper flakes, optional

Preheat oven to 450 degrees with pizza stone on low rack.  (If not using a stone, place a large baking sheet in oven instead.  Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit baking sheet onto which you'll later assemble pizzas.)

On a lightly floured surface, divide dough into four equal parts and roll out to roughly 8-9 inch rounds.  Dust pizza peel or parchment paper with cornmeal and transfer dough to it.  Brush edges of dough with olive oil.  Top each dough round with 1/2 cup shredded cheese, broccoli, and sausage slices.  Season pizza with oregano, pepper, garlic, and red pepper flakes, if using.

Carefully and quickly transfer pizza from peel to stone.  (If using baking sheet, remove from oven to a wire rack, transfer pizza on parchment paper to baking sheet and return to oven.)  Bake for 10 minutes or until crust begins to turn golden and cheese is melted and bubbly.  Remove and allow to rest for a few minutes.  Cut, devour, and enjoy!

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