Pizza and calzone are closely related, with a calzone generally described as a pizza folded in half. In fact some people choose to eat their pizza slices folded over. Of course others use a fork and knife to eat pizza, which you would need for a calzone, usually. But if the calzone is HAND PIE size, then you can eat it with, well, your hands. And of course there are thin crust pizza pies and deep dish pizza…lots of variables here. Stromboli is another name for calzone, which is something I learned at a pizza joint in Pennsylvania.
My favorite way to use shredded chicken on pizza or in a calzone is with barbecue sauce, instead of traditional tomato sauce. Following the lead of my favorite local pizza shop, I add a little bit of sliced scallion/green onion along with the chicken, (they toss on some diced sun dried tomatoes too) all topped with a blend of cheeses. You can’t go wrong with mozzarella, of course, but cheddar, gouda and Monterey jack also make good companions for BBQ flavors. Whatever you have on hand or whatever suits your taste.
That’s my ‘take’ on pizza toppings in general. There are no rules. I love pizza using pesto as the sauce (and remember, pesto can be made with herbs and ingredients other than the classic basil…guess that’s a post for another day). I also enjoy the cholesterol special of an all white (four cheeses) pizza. Shredded chicken would be delightful atop either one of those. But really, you can do up a fantastic homemade pizza using what you (& your family) like or whatever leftovers you find in the fridge. Pizza time here usually includes one traditional tomato sauce & mozzarella pie, with pepperoni; one pie with fresh tomato slices, spinach & goat cheese (maybe a little mozz); and one with a random mix: sauce, cheeses, leftovers (veggies, shredded chicken, crumbled sausage – use up those two sad little sausages left from Sunday breakfast) and extra garlic.
Okay, I said no rules, but there is one. Don’t overload the pizza, until you have practiced enough to be sure of how much weight the crust can carry. Depending on the crust method, you could be disappointed by an inedibly soggy crust or a pizza that is just too sloppy to enjoy. Brushing the dough with olive oil can create a barrier that will help to prevent the topping from making the crust soggy. Another answer might be to put all that filling into a calzone, where it is (ideally) sealed inside the folded crust.
I’ve already talked about how simple it is to purchase pizza dough. It’s also easy to make, in a standing mixer, a food processor, by hand or even in a bread machine (if you still have one around). Not something I do much anymore, so I will post recipes for three different methods here on the Recipes page.
So, one way or another, you have your dough. Now, let’s return to construction and baking. I have a pizza stone and a pizza peel, for baking and moving, respectively. That’s the tried and true way, but over the years, I’ve encountered a few other methods that are tasty, fun and easy. With a peel and stone, you are making a somewhat freeform pizza, ideally round. There are also many styles of round pizza pans out there, some perforated, for a crispier crust. They will make it easier to achieve a circular pie and of course a sheet pan with low sides can make a rectangular pizza, which has a character of it’s own. (Ah, savory memories of sheet pan pizza in Boston’s North End…)
Pizza can be successfully cooked on a grill, as my friend Vito does, spectacularly. If you are inclined to try it, ‘ask’ Bobby Flay of Food Network. He’ll have some tips. I don’t. I have, however, been playing around with my indoor, tabletop grill. One of my favorite new methods is using the Indian bread, nan, which you can get fresh or frozen (Trader Joe’s…) Pita bread will work too, but I’m liking the ‘chew’ of the nan. I heat the bread/crust first, closed inside the panini grill, then when it’s HOT, I open the grill up flat, put some sauce, cheese and toppings on the crust and pop a cover (foil or a lid from a good size pot) to help the cheese melt. Voila!
Another recent innovation: using the trusty, cast iron frying pan. The cooking begins on the stove top, with a finish in a HOT (500° )oven. Brush the pan with a little olive oil and then press your dough flat, spreading it to the edges. On with the sauce, then cook over medium heat for 3 minutes, until the bottom of the crust is nicely browned. Pop the pan in the oven for another 3 minutes. Please remember to use a good pot holder when you remove the pan! Pile on the toppings and cheese and, using that potholder, put the pan back in the oven for 6-8 minutes, until the edge of crust is golden.
Many years ago I created a summertime appetizer pizza that is always a hit. Ingredients are: olive oil, peaches, goat cheese, prosciutto and fresh rosemary. Using a crust of your choice (I started with flour tortillas, but cooked pizza dough, nan, pita or even toasted slices of good bread – you could make them individual servings…), brush lightly with olive oil and then top with the rest of the ingredients, to taste. Heat through in a 400 oven, toaster oven or on a grill. Summer heaven.
For someone who’s avoiding gluten or bready carbs: try slicing a large zucchini (easy to find in August) about 1/4” thick, brush (or spray) the slices with olive oil and broil or grill for a couple of minutes on each side. Top with a bit of sauce, some cheese and a lightweight topping, broil for another minute and enjoy your zucchini pizza!