Note: I know this isn’t, like, the most incredible culinary breakthrough ever and that I’ve had this combination of flavors before. I just haven’t DONE this before and I wasn’t sure it would work out the way I had in my head. But it did, so I sharing!
This was quite possibly my favorite experiment in the kitchen to date. I happened upon a log of really inexpensively-priced goat cheese on my Costco run earlier this week (the last one before my membership runs out!) and grabbed it! It wasn’t part of my meal plan for the week (I tried! I really did! So far, I made 2 out of 4 planned meals) but I didn’t care. It had to come home with me!
Two days ago I made an entree salad for dinner and served a loaf of fresh bread on the side. I made some extra bread dough and shaped a pizza crust out of it. If you’re making your own pizza crust but you don’t want to use it that night, you can par-bake it (5 minutes in a 450 degree oven) and pop it in the fridge overnight; that’s exactly what I did, and in addition to making the whole process easier I was also able to get a super-crispy crust by transferring the pizza to my pizza stone (far easier when it holds together!). But I’m getting ahead of myself…
I knew I wanted carmelized onions – their sweetness compliments goat cheese extremely well, and they were really easy to find. But then I went to FOUR grocery stores (including an Asian market, since I was in the area) to try to find duck and figs. Now, figs are out of season. That made sense. And I’m told most places don’t carry them even when they ARE in season. But duck? I didn’t realize it was so hard to find! In the end, I found a package of dried figs in the nuts section of my Vons’ produce section and a package of boneless skinless chicken thighs at Trader Joe’s (they were inexpensive, with rich dark meat, and overall a decent stand in for duck).
My goat cheese pizza was born.
For anyone who doesn’t really eat goat cheese, or who never has before, this has to be a slightly strange combo. But goat cheese is a little tangy (not like blue cheese, but it’s certainly not sweet like cream cheese) and plays so well with the sweet onions and figs… It’s incredible. I served it with a very basic salad and vinaigrette and a brut rose, which is not typically my favorite wine, but the fruity acidity ended up pairing extremely well with the rich earthiness of the dish. Anyway, enjoy!
Goat Cheese Pizza
I know it looks like a LOT of steps, but it’s really extremely easy! This serves 4 easily, or 6-8 if you’re making it as an appetizer.
- 1 large thin-crust whole wheat Pizza Crust (or, as my husband pointed out, lots of little ones… This would be an excellent appetizer for a party!), either a prepared one, or purchased dough (Trader Joe’s looks like they have a really good one!), or a basic bread recipe:
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 cup lukewarm-to-warm water
- 1 tsp salt
- about 3 cups flour (I usually use 1/2 white and 1/2 wheat)
- (mix together the first three ingredients and let them sit in a warm place for 10 minutes until they foam, then add the other three, mixing the flour in slowly until the dough isn’t very sticky but it’s not crumbly, and let it rise at least an hour, covered, in a warm place, before using… I think I need to do a blog post about making bread!)
- 4 oz goat cheese
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- herbs (I used about 1 tbsp fresh basil and about 1/2 tsp dried parsley; these aren’t absolutely necessary but I liked the fresh note they brought to the party)
- 1 large onion
- 1 tsp butter
- dash salt
- 3 boneless skinless chicken thighs (the thighs I used were about 1 1/2 oz each; you could also skin and bone your own, but this just made it really easy!)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- salt and pepper (I used lemon pepper)
- splash white wine or champagne (you can certainly use something nonalcoholic but it’s cooked so you really won’t be consuming the alcohol and this does give the best flavor)
- 4 oz dried figs (ok, I’ve never used fresh but I assume they’d work; I used about 6 large dried figs), sliced very thin and cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2-3 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
This pizza has several steps. First, cooking the onion:
- Slice the onion in long, thin slices. Try to be as consistent as possible but they’ll cook down so it’s ok either way.
- If you have a lot of time on your hands, you can do what I did: pile all the slices in a covered Pyrex dish and toss them with the butter and a little salt and bake them at 250 degrees for four hours, stirring every hour and draining off the excess moisture. Yes, I know it’s a lot of time to spend on it… but they’re definitely worth it, since they just melt in your mouth.
- Otherwise, you can do what I usually do: add the onions, butter, and salt to a big pan on the stove and cook over low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring often, or until they’re golden brown. This method usually yields slightly more burnt onion, and it doesn’t melt the way the long-cooked stuff does. But it’s still yummy. I haven’t tried it before, but I’d guess you could probably start a batch of onions on the stove to get them all nice and translucent and finish them in the oven? You could probably also drop everything into your slow cooker and park it someplace on low for several hours… Just try to drain out the excess water when you get a chance!
Next, the chicken:
- Add the minced garlic to a small frying pan with a little olive oil, and turn the pan to medium-low.
- Let it heat up before adding the chicken thighs, sprinkled with a little salt and pepper.
- Spread them as thinly as possible (unroll them completely) and let them cook for about 3 minutes on each side before adding the mustard and the wine.
- Let the chicken cook another 3-4 minutes in the wine before removing it. It’s ok if the chicken is not 100% cooked at this point, since it’ll be going in an oven in a little bit!
- Cook the sauce by itself until it reduces by half (another 5 minutes or so).
- Cut the chicken in thin, bite-sized pieces and toss it in the sauce to coat it well.
Now, the goat cheese:
- Let the goat cheese stand at room temperature in a bowl for 10 minutes or until it softens.
- Add the herbs and the olive oil (and pepper, if you like – I don’t think it needs any salt) to the bowl and mash them around, mixing them into the cheese, until the cheese is smooth and studded with herbs. You might be able to do this without olive oil, but my cheese was a little thicker than I wanted it to be, without it.
Now, the pizza!
- Preheat your oven (and a pizza stone, if you’ve got one!) to 450 degrees.
- If you haven’t already done so (or if you don’t have a prepared crust like Boboli), par-bake your crust for 5 minutes. This will help the whole thing hold up better in the oven, the bottom of the crust will be crispier, and you’ll have an easier time putting on the toppings. Not to mention the toppings won’t burn! Let your crust cool so you can handle it without burning yourself. If you’ve got a refrigerated pre-baked crust, let it come to room temperature.
- Spread a thin layer of your goat cheese on your pizza. My pizza was rectangular, around 12″x14″, so you may have some leftover goat cheese when you’re done. Snack time! 🙂
- Add the onion – and yes, I used ALL of the onion in a layer that pretty much covered the whole pizza.
- Add the chicken (but not the sauce) and the figs. My husband and I like a bite of each topping every time we take a bite of pizza, so we added a lot of toppings.
- Finally, add the mozzarella. We just wanted a little brown meltiness and you can probably do without this (although your chicken and figs will be more prone to burning). We barely dusted the pizza, using less than half of what we would normally use for a pizza this size (and we’re not heavy cheesers, even normally). This is the one part of the pizza where I don’t insist on using the most incredible ingredients, because to me it all tastes the same when melted. Your Mileage May Vary, of course.
Woo Hoo! Your pizza is ready for the oven! I really should have taken photos of the assembly, if for no other reason than to break up this crazy long text… But you’re almost to pizza deliciousness…
- Carefully slide your pizza onto the EXTREMELY hot pizza stone (or pop your pizza pan or cookie sheet in the oven, if you don’t have a pizza stone… but seriously they’re worth looking into since they’re inexpensive and the texture of a pizza prepared on a stone is INCREDIBLE). Listen as it sizzles. Then close the door to let it cook!~
- Bake your pizza at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes; different sizes of pizza, different ovens, etc., may have an effect – so turn on your oven light and keep an eye on it through the window in the oven door. Ours was done right at about 10 minutes, with the cheese on top nice and melty, the crust turning a golden brown, and the edges of the figs just starting to carmelize.
Just try and resist this!