~ Thai-Style Pizza w/Grilled Chicken & Peanut Sauce ~
Bread and cheese -- they're not part of a traditional Thai diet. Even the Thai-syle sandwiches and wraps we lovers of Thai food enjoy, are American or Thai-American creations. That said, in Thailand they do sell a very limited selection of bread and cheese in their bigger grocery stores (mostly manufactured Wonder-type breads and processed cheeses), to satisfy the cravings of Westerners living in Thailand. I know this from on-the-ground-in-Thailand experience.
When travelers return home from Thailand, it's almost impossible to wean themselves of the bold, addictive taste-of-Thailand. That said, as an all-American girl, I did miss bread and cheese by the end of our ten-day visit (as well as on our trips to China and Japan too). Generally speaking, on all my travels, I come home craving bread and cheese -- specifically, in the form of pizza. Traditionally, a slice or four of 'za is the first thing I eat on my return home from anywhere.
When Thai-Asian flavor meets the Italian-American Pizza -- Written in four easy parts: slaw, sauce, chicken & crust.
"Fusion cuisine" or "fusion food". Popularized in the 1970's, these words describe the preparation of a meal that combines two different culinary styles and/or traditions to create a new dish. Today's recipe teams traditional Thai-Asian flavors and ingredients with the Italian-American pizza. You have to go through a few steps to put a meal like this together, but none are hard, and, the first three can be done a day or three in advance. In the end, the effort is more than worth it.
Creating a Thai-style pizza was not a leap for me, and, surprisingly, I didn't find it the least bit hard to impart Thai-flavor into my American-style pizza dough. Choosing the toppings came next, and they too, all typical Thai ingredients, were easy to decide on: bean sprouts, an easy-to-make lightly-dressed broccoli slaw, a spicy peanut sauce, and, lightly-toasted peanuts and cilantro for garnish.* After a couple of experiments, I decided that melty, mild-flavored shredded Havarti cheese was the perfect rich, creamy "buttery" base to pull my Thai pizza together. Oh-my-Thai.
*Note: My marinated and grill-pan-grilled Thai-chicken strips are included as an optional topping.
No pretense here. The day I came across store-bought "broccoli cole slaw mix" (cole slaw mix made with crunchy green broccoli stems instead of green cabbage), my mind immediately raced to the flavors of soy sauce and sesame oil. Why? Broccoli is classic Asian. There's more. I didn't have to experiment with the perfect dressing for it -- I'd already come up with one for my Asian chicken salad recipe. After a quick mix of the vegetables and my honey-sesame dressing, Asian-slaw-perfection was revealed.
1 tablespoon sesame oil and Thai seasoning soy sauce + 1 teaspoon Thai fish sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1, 12-ounce bag broccoli slaw + 1/2-1 cup thinly-sliced scallions
Cover and place slaw in refrigerator for 2-6 hours (or overnight will work too), stopping to stir it about every 30-45 minutes in the beginning so that all the slaw gets to absorb the dressing equally. Note: This recipe yields 3/4 cups of salad dressing and 4 cups of broccoli cole slaw.
Part Two: Making My 5-Minute Spicy Peanut Sauce
If you love Thai food, having a recipe for Thai peanut sauce in your repertoire is a must. In Thailand, it's used in and on all sorts of classic-poultry, pork and noodle dishes, but, it's a great dip for raw vegetables and as a spread for Thai-style sandwiches and wraps too. My recipe yields 2 1/2 cups, and, while that might sound like a lot, it freezes great and thaws relatively fast. A little goes a long way, so I freeze it in 5, 1/2-cup-size containers, to have on-hand at a moment's notice.
A bit about peanut sauce: This sauce is widely used in the cuisines of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, China and Africa. The main ingredients are roasted peanuts or peanut butter (crunchy or smooth), coconut milk, soy sauce and palm sugar. Pulverized spices (red chile peppers, coriander, cumin, garlic, galangal and /or lemongrass, are almost always added. You can easily purchase your favorite brand, but, when you see how easy this is to make, I don't know why you would. My recipe, which came from my Thai girlfriend Kanya, contains one small can of Thai-style red curry paste, which provides all of the above named pulverized spices.
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 4-ounce can Thai-style red curry paste
1 13 1/2-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk (briefly stir after opening the can)
6 tablespoons smooth or chunky-style peanut butter
2 tablespoons firmly-packed palm sugar (light or dark brown sugar may be substituted
~Step 1. Place the sesame oil and the red curry paste in a small 1-quart saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Continue to cook, stirring almost constantly, until the curry paste is bubbling rapidly and is very fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the coconut milk, peanut butter and sugar. Continue to simmer steadily but gently, stirring almost constantly, until smooth and thick, 2 1/2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside.
Keep leftovers stored in the refrigerator. Reheat gently in the microwave, prior to serving warm.
Part Three: Want Thai grill-pan-grilled chicken on your pizza?
I use chicken breast tenderloins because they stay juicier & moister than ordinary boneless, skinless chicken breasts do when subjected to the high, dry heat of a grill or a grill pan. Feel free to use what you like best, but in either case, lightly-pound them with a flat-sided meat mallet for added tenderness. That said, feel free to substitute thinly-sliced and lightly-pounded pork tenderloin for the chicken tender -- it'll be just as good.
2 pounds boneless chicken tenderloins, about 10 large tenderloins (pictured above)
1/4 cup each: honey, lime juice, &, Thai seasoning soy sauce
2 tablespoons each: Thai fish sauce & sesame oil
1 tablespoon each: garlic paste & ginger paste
1/4 cup minced cilantro leaves
1/4 cup thinly-sliced green onion, white & light green part only
1-2 small, hot, cayenne chile peppers, minced, or, 1 teaspoon Sriracha seasoning blend
~ Step 1. Sandwich tenderloins between two pieces of plastic wrap on a flat work surface. Using a flat-sided meat mallet, lightly pound them to a thickness of about 1/2" -- do not smash them to smithereens.
~ Step 2. In a 1-cup measuring container or a small bowl, stir together all of the marinade ingredients as listed. Pour the marinade into a 1-gallon food storage bag, add the pounded tenderloins, seal the bag and toss to coat. Set aside to marinate for about 2 hours at room temperature, or 4-6 hours in the refrigerator.
~Step 3. On the stovetop, heat a grill pan that's been lightly- with no-stick cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add half of the tenders (5) and grill until golden and cooked through on both sides, turning only once, 6-7 total minutes, about 4-4 1/2 minutes on the first side and 2-2 1/2 minutes on the second side, regulating the heat carefully as the honey in the marinade (like sugar) can scorch. Transfer the cooked tenders to a plate and repeat process with remaining tenders (5). Slice each tender into long thin strips, then, slice strips into thinner halves or thirds.
Part Four: Oh-my-Thai-Inspired Bread-Machine Pizza Dough
Every great pizza has a great crust, and, when it came to creating a Thai pizza dough, my decision to infuse Thai flavors into the crust, for an extra layer of flavor, made mine a great pizza. A glance through the ingredients reveals the common-sense substitutions and additions I made to my traditional pizza dough: sesame oil (in place of olive oil), and, the use of garlic powder, ground ginger, dried Thai basil leaves and Sriracha seasoning, in place of oregano and red pepper flakes on or in an Italian pizza.
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons sesame oil
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 generous teaspoon each: garlic powder, ground ginger, dried Thai basil leaves, Sriracha seasoning
1 packet granulated yeast
~Step 1. To prepare the dough, place all ingredients in pan of bread machine in the order listed, except for the yeast. Using your index finger, make a small indentation ("a well") on top of the dry ingredients, but not so deep that it reaches the wet layer. Place the yeast in the indentation. Insert the pan into the bread machine, plug the machine in, press the "Select" button, choose the "Pizza Dough" cycle, then press "Start". In about 55 minutes, you will have dough. While dough is mixing, oil 2, 12" round pizza pans with about 1 1/2-2 tablespoons vegetable oil on each pan.
~Step 2. Using lightly-oiled fingertips, remove dough from pan. Dough will be slightly sticky, yet very manageable. Divide the dough in half (you will have about 2 pounds, 2 ounces) -- the best way to do this is with a kitchen scale. In between the palms of hands, form each half of dough into a ball, and then a disc, then place one disc on each pan and allow to rest, about 15-30 minutes, to give the gluten time to relax. Pat and press dough evenly across bottoms and evenly up sides of oiled pans.
Top & bake pizzas, one-at-a-time, as directed below:
3-4 cups, warm Thai-Asian Grill-Pan-Grilled Chicken Strips
8-10 ounces shredded Havarti
1 cup, chilled bean sprouts
3 cups, chilled & drained Asian-Style Broccoli Slaw
1 1/2 cups, warm Thai-Style Spicy Peanut Sauce for Poultry or Pork
1 cup minced cilantro leaves
1 cup chopped, unsalted peanuts, lightly-toasted as follows: Place 8-12-ounces chopped peanuts in a shallow baking pan. Roast in 350º oven, until fragrant and golden, tossing with a spoon every 4-5 minutes, 12-15 total minutes.
Note: Cool completely and store leftover peanuts tightly-covered in freezer to have on-hand.
~ Step 1. Working one-at-a-time, top each pizza with about 1 1/2 cups grilled chicken (6 ounces), followed by 1 1/2 cups, "go easy on the cheese", shredded Havarti (4 ounces) -- it's important to put the chicken down first and top it with the cheese, just enough to keep the chicken from drying out and hold onto the toppings after baking. If you are omitting the chicken, that's fine, simply start with the Havarti.
~Step 2. Place pizza on a pizza stone that has been heated on center rack of 375º oven. Bake for 8-9 minutes. With the aid of a spatula, slide pizza from pizza pan to pizza stone and continue to bake 6-7 more minutes, for a total of 14-16 minutes. Using a pizza peel transfer pizza from oven to wire cooling rack to cool a few minutes while continuing to top, in order, as follows:
~Step 3. Distribute 1/2 cup bean sprouts over the pizza, followed by about 1 1/2 cups well-drained broccoli slaw -- the bean sprouts were not mixed into the slaw in order to keep them crunchy. Transfer pizza to a plate. Drizzle with warm peanut sauce, then garnish with a sprinkling of cilantro and peanuts. Slice and serve ASAP.
Oh my sweet, sour, spicy, salty & crunchy topped Thai pizza:
Mel's Thai-Style Pizza w/Grilled Chicken & Peanut Sauce: Recipe yields 4 cups broccoli slaw/2 1/2 cups peanut sauce/5 cups chicken strips/2-pounds, 2-ounces pizza dough/2, 12"-round pizzas/8 slices per pizza/4 servings per pizza.
Special Equipment List: 1-2-cup shaker container w/tight-fitting lid & pourer top; plastic wrap; 1-quart saucepan; spoon; food storage container(s) w/tight-fitting lid(s); flat-sided meat mallet; cutting board; chef's knife; 1-gallon food storage bag; grill pan; 2-cup measuring container; bread machine; kitchen scale; paper towels; 2, 12"-round pizza pans; pizza stone; wire cooling rack; pizza peel
Cook's Note: Over the years, I concluded that tacos should be defined as a style of eating rather than specifically associated with Tex-Mex fare. Let's face it, the tortilla, just like the pizza crust, is a great foil for any cuisine to land its food on. In my recipe ~ Thai-Style Grill-Pan Chicken Tacos w/Spice Peanut Sauce ~, Thai-Asian flavor hooks up with the Tex-Mex tortilla, and it is superb. Yes, you have to go through a few of the same steps to put this special sandwich together, but, oh-my-Thai, that's a wrap.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)