smoky braised chicken + goat cheese + pickled onion pizza

Pizza night has always been a big deal in our house, especially in the last year. We have finally come to terms with a sad fact; a few members of our household have had to admit defeat to dairy sensitivity. Of all of the food groups that we could have to limit, or remove from our diet, this one has to be about the worst. But, as with all things, we push on, and try to find a way to cope. We try to find alternatives.

So, that leads us back to pizza night. Gone are the days of "is there crust under that mozz!". Nowadays, it has become "your choice, feta, goat, or cheeseless". Surprisingly, removing the mainstay of our beloved pie has not really been much of an ordeal at all. However, it did lead us to a pretty stark realization. Most pizza hides under the cheese. Meaning, the more of the white stuff you pile on, the more mediocre the rest of the ingredients can be.

Without cheese being the star, the crust has to be on point, and the toppings have to shine bright. This recipe in particular, showcases both of these things perfectly. The crust comes out crispy and flavorful; so much so that the boys actually ate theirs without complaint. Bonus! The chicken is one of those things that you could pretty much eat in just about any variation and be really happy about it; pizza, pasta, tacos, by the handful. Add in some sweet and sour onions, a little freshness from the cilantro, and you've got yourself a serious pie!

smoky braised chicken + goat cheese + pickled onion pizza

for the chicken:
  • 2 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 can chipotle peppers in adobo
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper
for the dough:
  • 3 cups + 1/4 to 1/2  AP unbleached flour
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil + more for bowl
  • 1 1/4 cups warm, not hot, water
  • 1 tablespoon white wine ( optional) 
for the pickled onions:
(these can be mad the day before)
  • 1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon peppercorns
* you will need a mason or other wide mouthed jar for these.

 additional toppings:
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro
  • 1 -2 thinly sliced jalapeno
  • 2 logs of good quality goat cheese, sliced
The pickles can be made the day of, or the day before.  They are incredibly simple.
Place pickles in the bottom of you mason jar.  Combine sugar and vinegar over medium heat and cook until sugar is dissolved and mixture is boiling.  Pour over onions in jar.  Let cool to room temperature, put the lid on and pop em' in the fridge.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  In a dutch oven or casserole with fitted lid, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onion and cook for about a minute, add in your chicken and sprinkle liberally with kosher salt.  Dump (yes!  this is the technical term.) your can of adobo in, add your garlic and then cover with stock.  Cover with lid and cook for 2 to 3 hours.

Remove chicken from cooking liquid after 5 to 10 minutes (you don't want to burn yourself ) and thinly slice. Or attempt to.  It will be falling apart.  Season to taste. Put aside or in the fridge until you are ready to assemble your pizza.

Cool the cooking liquid and skim the fat off the top.  Pop into the fridge until ready to use.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine yeast and 1/4 cup of water.  Let stand for five minutes or until foamy.  Add in sugar, water, olive oil, salt, and vermouth.  Mix on the LOWEST setting until ingredients are just combined.

Add flour, 1 cup at a time until dough comes together.  After you have added the third cup, add flour 1/4 cup at a time.  Dough should be soft and tacky but not sticky.  You should be able to handle it without it sticking to your hands.

Mix on medium speed for 5-7 minutes.  The dough should be smooth and elastic at this point.  Oil a large bowl and plop the dough in.  Cover with saran wrap and allow to rise in a warm area until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down and preheat oven to 500 or 550 degrees.** If you are using a pizza stone, this needs to be done a half hour ahead of time.  I like this method just fine, but have recently discovered that a pizza pan is much simpler for me.  I can get the rolled dough onto it and arrange it before the dough sets into some weird blobby form as it tends to do for me on the pizza stone.  If you have a pizza peel and enjoy that method, then absolutely go for it.

Divide dough into 4 equal pieces.
Roll out dough into circles.  You want the dough to be thin, 1/4 to 1/8 inch.  Carefully move your crust to pizza pan.  Top with chicken, drizzle with reserved cooking liquid.  Add sliced jalapenos, and goat cheese.  Bake in oven until crust is dark, golden brown and cheese is melted, about 8-10 minutes, depending on the temperature of your oven.

Repeat with remaining dough.

Top with pickled onion, and fresh cilantro.  Serve immediately.  Enjoy!