Here we are in round 5 of Project Food Blog! This week, the challenge was to put a new spin on pizza. Of course, pizza is all about the crust, sauce, and toppings. Read on to learn how a Southern California tradition inspired my pizza creation.
A Tale of Two Tastes
As I started getting ideas for this recipe, I must admit I was stumped. The effort that goes into Pizza time at my house usually involves picking up the phone and dialing for delivery or opening the package on something frozen and popping it into the oven.
I knew I needed to get an expert opinion and do some research.
I thought about my acquaintances in the pizza biz and immediately recalled Debbie of Fresh Brothers Pizza in Manhattan Beach. I put in a call to get some advice on what makes a good crust and sauce, and how to compliment the two with the right toppings.
I decided to stop by the Manhattan Beach Fresh Brothers to do a little bit more “hands on” research. As I pulled into their parking lot, I had an epiphany. Fresh Brothers is right next door to Rubio’s Mexican Grill. Rubio’s is famous for one thing: Fish Tacos.
Right then, I had my recipe. I’d take everything I loved about fish tacos — well seasoned fish, cripsy cabbage, and savory sauces — and transfer that to a cornmeal crust pizza. Yes!
The Crust — Building From the Bottom Up
I wanted my pizza to be reminiscent of a fish taco’s tortilla shell but to also have the crusty-flakiness of an Italian style thin crust pizza. To get that, I knew I was going to have to make a cornmeal crust pizza from scratch.
I found a few cornmeal crust recipes online and opted for one without yeast. I wanted a crust that was easy to make and also didn’t require time to rise.
The Sauce — Savory and Totally Green
I knew that a traditional, tomato-based sauce wasn’t going to work for this pizza. I imagined a sauce that mirrored the flavors of the salsas at Sharkeez, my favorite spot for fish tacos. Along with a traditional salsa they serve a salsa verde: a green salsa made from tomatillos, green chiles, and white onions.
On Food Network’s website, I found a great tomatillo sauce recipe penned by Tyler Florence. I appreciated the simplicity of his recipe: get fresh veggies, roast them, blend them, enjoy! My pizza sauce was locked in.
The Toppings — Best Two Out Of Three
While the makings of a fish taco are common — tortilla shell, sauces, and cabbage — the fish part varies tremendously. I’ve had a few fish tacos in my day (ha!) and have seen several different types of fish worked into the recipe.
My favorites have been red snapper, salmon, and mahi mahi. Not knowing which would be the best for a pizza, I decided to try all three and use the “taste as you go” method to see which one would be the best.
The red snapper was a clear winner. The taste off the grill was very reminiscent of a fish taco using a well seasoned white fish.
Not being able to find mahi at my local market, I substituted swordfish which has a similar texture and flavor. After cooking it though, I decided the texture was a bit too firm for the “mouth experience” I wanted to get from my fish taco pizza.
The salmon was tasty. It was the perfect middle of the road between the snapper and the swordfish in terms of flavor and texture. I wanted to have it on my pizza too.
In the end, I decided that I would have the snapper and the salmon costar in my fish taco pizza creation.
Pulling My Pizza Together
With my crust, sauce, and toppings all on deck, I focused on cooking my final creation, a baja-style fish taco pizza.
I made the sauce first, wanting the flavors to have time to combine and intensify. Letting the sauce rest overnight in the refrigerator was a hit; the flavor was tremendous.
Next, I grilled the fish. You know me! I love to grill so frying or baking was not an option. I seasoned all three varieties and grilled them over high heat for about four minutes on each side. Perfecto!
Finally, I started on the crust. Mixing the ingredients was easy enough. I had fun kneading the dough and rolling it out too.
When the dough was ready, transferring it to the pizza stone became problematic!
Thankfully, kitchen technology was on my side. I recovered from my dough-fail by rolling the dough out on a well floured, non-stick cookie sheet. I was able to transfer the dough with ease!
With the dough on the stone, I topped it with the tomatillo sauce and then the red snapper before putting it into an oven preheated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
The aroma from the oven was amazing. I could hardly wait for it to cook.
After 20 minutes of cooking, the crust was crispy and firm and the toppings were nicely browned. With the pizza out of the oven, I topped it with cabbage, the salmon, and a sour cream based white sauce — a must for fish tacos.
To accompany the pizza, I added a cool salad of corn, black beans, jicama, and red peppers, seasoned with a light dressing of fresh lime juice, salt, pepper, and a few teaspoons of cumin. Delicioso!
Of course, no fish taco is complete without a margarita to wash it down.
Watch Out Taco Tuesday!
As I enjoyed my fish taco pizza with Nicole and the kids, I was completely satisfied. My satisfaction was more than the crispy crust, tangy sauce, and tender, grilled fish.
I had taken the baja style fish taco — a Tuesday lunch time favorite in Southern California — and transformed it into something new: a fish taco pizza.
The next time Taco Tuesday comes around don’t look for me at Sharkeez. You’ll probably find me at home rolling out some dough.