August 30, 2012

Mozzarella Done Killt My Pa
(+ Raspberry-Chipotle BBQ Chicken Pizza)

Mozzarella Cheese and I are just starting to come to terms with one another again.  This is one of those epic feuds, like the Hatfields and the McCoys.  But with cheese.

Mozzarella cost me a tooth.  An important one, not one of those wisdom teeth they’ll yank anyway.  Side note:  has it ever occurred to you how messed up it is that we call the teeth we’re going to toss “Wisdom” while keeping the ones called “Canines?”  Seems like human nature writ small, methinks.  Anyway, Mozzarella cost me a tooth – and, more importantly, taught me that things fall apart – and that sometimes, those things are you.   And no one should have to live with that kind of knowledge.

Once upon a time, I managed a movie theater: a job which offered no mobility, pay or dignity, but did offer all the free popcorn and fountain beverages you could carry.  At the time it seemed like a good idea.  Which is how I came to spend a full year with a Dixie cup of Cherry Coke in my hand.  Because if you can turn down a free Cherry Coke, you’re a better human than I.  Well, let’s face it, you’re probably already a better human than I.  But now you can point to a specific reason.

Up until that point, I’d been awesome in the tooth department.  Only one small cavity ever.  Dentist?  Drill away, my good man.  Doesn’t bother me at all.  That is, until a year after I started at the theater, when an ongoing toothache drove me to the dentist.  There I was informed that I needed two root canals and twelve smaller cavities filled.  Seriously.  Twelve.

I’m embarrassed to say that it hadn’t occurred to me that the Coke was bad for my teeth.  I’d always had such good dental health that cavities just weren’t really on my radar.  So much so that for two months after the toothaches started, I assumed they were recurring allergy-related sinus headaches.  I had thought about the dietary concerns of drinking so much soda, but since I was actually underweight at the time, I sort of considered that I was doing myself a favor.  Feel free to mock my folly.  I am.

Because I had no insurance, I’d ended up at the first inexpensive practice near my house that accepted weekend walk-ins - a choice I’d live to regret.  It was beyond ghetto, but my naïve self assumed that a doctor is a doctor, held to the same standards and expectations as any other, and that I had nothing to fear.  Silly monkey….  

The cavities were handled in order of urgency, but the pain only increased.  By the time the second root canal was finished, it was constant, agonizing, and, as the dentist irritatedly explained, make-believe.  A root canal, after all, kills the nerve – so any pain I was feeling must be all in my head.  It was only years later that another dentist discovered that the tooth had an extra root that had been missed and that, cemented over, was still infected.  The tooth from the second root canal, shaved down, needed to be capped.  But I never went in to have it done.  The other cavities went unfilled. The thought of letting anyone touch my throbbing mouth made me nauseous with anxiety.  It was a year before the pain finally stopped.

I went two years with no dental care and a fragile, uncapped nubbin of a biscuspid  to mark my cowardice.  Until, that is, I bit into a mozzarella cheese stick one night and felt half a molar shear off completely.  The events of the next few days are hazy, in large part due to the very nice and very expensive dentist who realized with one look at my pale, sweaty face that large amounts of sleeping pills were going to be necessary.  Fixing that tooth was a seven-hour procedure, and fixing the botched root canal took another seven and an oral surgeon.  I was blissfully, gloriously unconscious the entire time. 
What I do remember, with icy clarity, is the shock I felt when I fished that strange porcelain nugget from my mouth and recognized it as a piece of my own body, a piece that had broken off and was now just…matter…in my hand.  It was a shock that was (rare for me) completely unhyperbolic, an unexpected horror that made me sit down suddenly in the middle of the living room floor, recoiling from my own cupped hand, vaguely nauseous.  And behind it all, a sense of betrayal.  Your body parts, as it turns out, can up and leave if they choose.  I never wanted to know that.  And it’s all Mozzarella’s fault.

I suspect that someone’s going to protest that I’m looking at this backwards: that Mozzarella was little more than an innocent bystander, the final straw, and that Cherry Coke is the real mustachioed villain here.  Lashing my tender teeth to the railroad tracks, awaiting the oncoming train of…you know, let’s just drop that metaphor, okay?  The point is, some of you are probably thinking that I should be railing against Cherry Coke, and not Mozzarella.  To those people I say: have you not been paying attention?  Two points you seem to have missed:  (1) Cherry Coke is the nectar of the gods, and (2) Rationality just isn’t my strong point.  Need I remind you of the Martha Stewart debacle?  Or the time I thought I was Lactose Girl?  Try to keep up, people.

It’s been many years since then, and Mozzarella and I have formed a shaky truce.  I let my husband bring him over sometimes, so long as Sausage and Pineapple are there to chaperone.  But today I invited him myself, and made this glorious beast of a pizza.  And I found myself relenting.  Nothing so melty could possibly mean me harm, could it?  And he keeps such delightful company.  Seeing as how all my parts made it through the meal intact, I might just let him stay.

Raspberry-Chipotle Barbecue Chicken Pizza 
adapted from Pillsbury

This pizza gives a lot for such a small effort.  If you made the sauce and sautéed up the chicken in advance, you could have it in the oven 15 minutes after walking in the door from work.  But more importantly, it tastes fantastic: sweet, spicy, tangy, and dripping with cheese.  Don’t be tempted to leave the cilantro off – it gives the pizza the perfect fresh bite.

Vegetable Oil  [ 1 teaspoon ] 
Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast  [ 6 ounces ]
Refrigerated Pizza Dough  [ canned,  13.8 ounces, such as Pillsbury ]
Raspberry Preserves  [ ¼ cup ]
Barbecue Sauce  [ your favorite, ¼ cup ]
Chipotle Chiles in Adobo Sauce  [ canned, chopped, 1 teaspoon ]
Red Onion  [ ½ medium, cut into thin strips ]
Mozzarella Cheese  [ shredded, 6 0unces – about 1 ½ cups ]
Parmesan Cheese  [ grated, ¼ cup ]
Cilantro  [ chopped, ¼ cup ]

1.   Heat oven to 425 degrees.

2.   With a mallet, pound Chicken Breast until slightly flattened and of an even thickness.

3.   Heat Vegetable Oil in a nonstick pan over Medium-Low Heat. 

4.   Season Chicken Breast with salt and pepper.  Add to pan.

5.   Cook until first side is dark golden-brown.

6.   Flip and cook until second side is dark golden-brown and chicken is cooked through.

7.   Remove to a plate and rest for 10 minutes.

8.   Meanwhile, spray a 13x9-inch pan with cooking spray.

9.   Open Pizza Dough and lay in prepared pan, stretching and pressing to fit entire pan.

10.  Stir together Raspberry Preserves, Barbecue Sauce, and Chipotles.

11.  Spread Sauce over Pizza Dough, stopping ½ inch from the edges.

12.  Roughly chop Chicken Breast into ¾-inch cubes.

13.  Sprinkle Chicken, Onion, Mozzarella and Parmesan onto pizza.

14.  Bake until cheese is melted and pizza edges are deep golden brown - this will take about 15 minutes.

15.  Sprinkle with Cilantro before serving.

[ Notes:  (1) If you like things spicy, feel free to toss more chipotles in there.   The 
amount here is half of what the original recipe recommended, but that’s because I’m 
a wuss.    (2) Yes, this uses refrigerated pizza dough.  If you want to use a homemade 
dough, I’m sure you’d be rewarded for your effort.  But sometimes you want to get 
dinner on the table without having to proof yeast.  Judgment-free zone here. ]


  1. 1. This story made my day. As do all of your posts.
    2. I enjoy making weird pizzas and will have to try this one as soon as I can get to the grocery store. Where do you find all of these wonderful foodnesses?!?!

    1. This one was such a fluke find - I think it was in the Pillsbury Bakeoff cookbook, or something. I dug it out of my random "here are recipes I ripped from magazines/photocopied from cookbooks" file. It's fairly massive. :)