Super Bowl Sunday.
Some folks realize that "Bowl," in this case, refers not to the bowl of Doritos sitting next to the TV, but to a football stadium.
The original bowl, the Yale Bowl, was shaped... well, like a bowl. Sloping sides, kinda round...
Since then, the Rose Bowl, site of the first-ever football playoff game (1902: Michigan over Stanford, 49-0), has lent its name to all kinds of other playoff (bowl) games.
The estimable (AT&T) Orange, (Discover) Cotton, and (Allstate) Sugar Bowls have been joined by a host of other, newer bowls, including the Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl; Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, and Little Caesars (Salad?) Bowl – the latter three of which would make a splendid meal, IMHO.
Which brings us to the Super Bowl. Super Bowl XLVI, as a matter of fact. (Wonder how many people can still read Roman numerals? They're kinda the buggy whip of the 21st century, unless you enjoy being able to read dates on 100-year-old buildings.)
The Super Bowl, our yearly national indulgence in junk "fun" food, might as well refer to a giant bowl of chips, or popcorn, or salsa or cookies or barbecued ribs.
Super, as in super-calorific.
You're planning on serving a big bowl of salad to your guests this Sunday, right?
Well, maybe on the side. But classic Super Sunday food is more the order of the day. Think chili. And nachos. Pizza.
And Buffalo chicken wings.
How about Buffalo chicken pizza?
Well, why not? Chicken tenders tossed with hot sauce, layered on a crisp/chewy pizza crust with blue cheese and scallions (standing in for the traditional celery), topped with a melting crown of mozzarella and provolone... It's not exactly a bowl, but it sure sounds super!
Better yet, you can bake the crust and prepare the ingredients a couple of days ahead. Then, 10 minutes before halftime, throw the toppings on the crust, bake for 7 or 8 minutes, and serve.
I promise, you won't miss a single second of Madonna.
Let's get this Super Bowl pizza ready, shall we?
First, the chicken. I'm starting with 3 pounds of tenders, which will make 4 or 5 medium (12" round) pizzas. Use more or less, as desired.
Now, I like to brine my chicken before cooking it; while not strictly necessary, it really helps it stay moist and juicy in the 450°F oven as it bakes atop the pizza.
For 3 pounds of tenders, I mix 4 cups cold water, 1 tablespoon salt, and 2 tablespoons sugar. I cut the tenders in 1 1/2" to 2" pieces, soak them in the brine for 30 minutes or so, then drain. Remember, no pressure - this step is strictly optional. If you don't have time, skip it.
Combine 1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour and 1 tablespoon salt in a large lidded container. Toss the tenders in the flour. Shake off any excess flour.
Heat 1" of vegetable oil (peanut oil preferred) in an electric frying pan set to 375°F, or in a heavy skillet, about 10" wide and at least 2 1/2" deep, set over medium heat.
Cook the chicken in batches, adding enough each time to fill the surface of the pan about half full. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes; the tenders will sink to the bottom, then float to the top and turn a very light golden brown.
Transfer the chicken to paper towels to drain. Break open the biggest piece, to make sure it's cooked all the way through.
As soon as each batch is cool enough to handle, transfer it to a large bowl, and douse it with hot or wing sauce, Frank's preferred. Continue adding just-fried chicken on top of the hot-sauced chicken, adding hot sauce, and tossing, until all the chicken is cooked and coated with sauce.
Refrigerate the chicken until you're ready to make the pizzas. In the meantime, it's perfectly OK to "test" a few pieces... you know, just to make sure they're cooked and seasoned exactly right.
OK, I hear you – do you HAVE to deep-fry the chicken?
No, not at all. I find that a quick deep-fry seals in the chicken's juices, making it perfect for topping a pizza. But poaching, then tossing with sauce would probably be just as effective.
How about simply laying raw, sauced chicken atop your crust?
I don't advise it; it's tricky to time it so the crust and chicken are done at the same time.
Next, the crust. I just love keeping a batch of ready-to-go no-knead pizza dough in the fridge, but use whatever crust you like best.
Three pounds of chicken will make 4 to 5 medium (12") round pizzas; if you don't want to make that many, simply serve any leftover cooked tenders with celery and blue cheese dressing, as an appetizer.
If you're using refrigerated dough, scoop out a hunk. For a medium-crust pizza (about 1/2" thick in the center, slightly thicker around the edge), use 12 ounces of dough. An 8-ounce piece of dough will make a thin-crust 12" pizza; 18 ounces, a thicker-crust pizza.
Next, pat or roll the crust to fit the pan.
I've discovered something interesting: if I roll or pat the crust and immediately lay it on my olive oil-drizzled pan, it shrinks back vigorously (above left).
But if I roll the crust between two pieces of greased parchment, and leave it sandwiched in the parchment for 30 minutes after rolling, the gluten has a chance to relax.
The result? When I peel off the parchment and lay the crust on the pan (above right), no shrinking!
Unless you want a super-thin-crust pizza, let the dough rest on the pan (uncovered is fine) for 30 minutes (or longer, for a thicker crust). Towards the end of the rest, preheat your oven to 450°F.
Place the pizza in the oven. Check it after 5 minutes; it may have developed a giant bubble. If so, simply stick it with the tip of a knife, and gently pat the bubble down.
Bake the crust until it's a light golden brown, about 15 minutes.
While the crust is baking, gather your toppings. For each pizza, I'm using about 1/4 to 1/5 of the chicken, which I've cut into bite-sized pieces; Gorgonzola cheese; chopped scallions, and one of my favorite pizza cheese combinations, mozzarella & provolone.
Remove the crust from the oven, and brush it with olive oil or garlic oil. Sprinkle with crumbled blue cheese, then some of the chicken, the diced scallions (I used 3 scallions for each pizza), and your favorite pizza cheese.
Return the pizza to the oven, and bake for an additional 5 to 8 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the toppings are warmed. Don't over-bake! You want to keep the chicken moist, and the scallions somewhat crisp.
Also, you don't want the cheese to become rubbery, as it's wont to do when baked too long.
Serve immediately. Don't want to miss Madonna! (Do you?)
For the meat-lovers in the group, serve additional tenders alongside, with blue cheese dressing and celery sticks.
Oh, my... you're going to LOVE this pie!
Enjoy your Super Sunday. And may the best team win. (Go Pats! Sorry, couldn't help myself...)
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