Achari Chicken Pizza
I am trying out a week of dining on pizza alone. Interesting ideas are popping out of the oven e.g.,harissa sauce and marinated eggplant or roasted garlic and pan fried padrone peppers. One of the most remarkable ones at the dinner table this week has been a curried chicken pizza that uses my favorite chicken recipe, achari chicken.
Achari means pickled. Chicken is not pickled here, this name is derived from the spice mix common to Indian pickles. This is one of the simplest chicken recipes and yet the result is highly consistent and extremely flavorful.
Ingredients for the achari chicken (8 servings):
- 1 lb chicken leg meat, cut into bite size pieces and trimmed of any excess fat (see substitution below)
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 1 tsp grated garlic
- 1/4 tsp each of the following seeds – cumin, mustard, fennel, fenugreek, and nigella
- 2 tsp tomato paste
- 2 Tbsp of sweet paprika (optional)
- 1/3 cup of hot water, reserved
- 1/2 cup sour yogurt
- Juice of one lemon
- 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
- 1/2 tsp sugar (or to taste)
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes (or to taste)
- 4 Tbsp vegetable oil
Sweat the onions in a pan or oven (250 F) until translucent. Puree and set aside. Heat oil on medium, sputter the seeds, fry the ginger and garlic paste in oil until aromatic, add the tomato paste and onion puree and fry for an additional minute. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Add the paprika if using. Add salt. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 20-25 minutes turning every 5 minutes or so. At this point aim for a dryish curry. If necessary, add reserved hot water a little at a time to achieve right consistency. Add the yogurt and mix. Adjust salt, sugar, red pepper and lemon juice to taste. Turn off the heat.
Substitution: If using chicken breast meat, follow brining technique and reduce cooking time to 10 minutes and omit addition of water. If you can’t source the different seeds, substitute with cumin. It will still taste fantastic although technically, the recipe should then get a different name. If tomato paste is not available, you are better off using tomato ketchup than fresh or canned tomatoes.
We will use 2 servings of this curried chicken for the pizza. The remaining can be used with rice or naan or chappati. This dish can be made ahead for up to 4 days. Before serving, warm gently and garnish with 2 Tbsp of chopped coriander leaves.
Ingredients for the dough (serves 2):
- 1 cup white bread flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp fennel seeds or nigella seeds (kalounji)
- 1/4 – 1/2 tsp yeast depending on freshness
- Filtered water to form a soft dough (~ 2/3 cup exact amount will depend on the flour)
Fennels seeds give the pizza crust a sweet aroma. Nigella seeds are more savory and traditional to Indian breads. If not using a gadget, prepare dough manually, let rest in a warm and draft free zone until size doubles (2-3 hours).
Putting together the neapolitan pizza:
- Pizza dough
- Sufficient flour to help roll
- 1 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
- 4 oz of mozzerella cheese cut into small slices
- 2 servings of achari chicken
- A handful of fresh young Mizuna leaves, washed, trimmed and dried (optional)
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
Heat the pizza stone in 500 F oven for 30 minutes. Shape the pizza with your hands for best results. This helps the bubbles to stay trapped and expand during baking. If using rolling pin, use gently. Get to the thinnest you can (~3 mm) – ease of stretching will depend on the gluten content of your flour. Brush with olive oil. Arrange the cheese and chicken on the pizza dough. Transfer to stone (if lacking a peel, you can assemble very quickly on hot pizza stone) and bake for 6-8 minutes until the cheese on top is browned to your liking. Optionally scatter red pepper flakes and mizuna leaves and serve.
Mizuna greens are not Indian but I find that the pepperiness of these crisp tasting leaves balances out the richness of the cheese. Radish mini-greens will serve similar purpose but are harder to find.