In food these days there is a huge debate around authenticity. Restaurants often advertise their dishes as “Real Spanish Patatas Bravas” or “Authentic Greek Souvlaki,” etc. Enter the food critics, both professional and amateur (a-la-Urbanspoon), who scoff at such titles with critique such as “I tasted their souvlaki, and it is nothing like the souvlaki I had in Athens that one time! Zero stars.”
I generally feel terrible for the restauranteurs, who in many cases are native to the nation whose food they are selling. Who knows? Maybe the dishes they are serving are truly identical to those they ate in their home growing up, or maybe they’ve modified their recipes to what they perceive as the “North American palette,” whatever that is. I’m not saying the critics aren’t justified or correct in their opinions, but to me there is much more to a dish than authenticity. My only exception to this rule (and please call me a hypocrite if you like!) is when I order “Real New York-Style Cheesecake” and am presented with a pale, wobbly, no-bake variety of cheesecake…
To me, “authentic” is good, but inauthentic can be fantastic too. I don’t believe that sushi masters in Japan include deep-fried yams and spicy mayo in their maki (rolls), but I’m certainly happy that my local sushi restaurant does because it’s delicious.
I guess what I’m doing here is justifying the recipe I’m sharing today. Butter Chicken Pizza is about as inauthentic as you can get, at least the way I’m making it. Make no mistake: this is neither Indian food nor Italian food, a fact of which I am well aware. However, the combination of flavours and textures in the finished product is fabulous, so I am unconcerned.
I found this tandoori spice mix at a local spice shop near my house, and although I have no idea what’s in it, I absolutely love it on grilled chicken. It’s smoky, spicy and the vibrant bright red colour I’m used to seeing on tandoori chicken. Whatever it is that makes it so red also stains my hands for a day or so when I’ve used it, and I’m forever paranoid I’m going to spill it on my butcher block counter and forget to wipe it off before it stains the wood. The sacrifices I make for tandoori chicken at home!
The “butter chicken” part refers to the sauce component of this pizza, and is made of the butter chicken spice paste you can buy at most grocery stores. The sauce, the tandoori chicken, some assorted veggies and fresh mozzarella cheese bake together to a bubbly, golden, spicy pizza that I like to top with fresh cilantro. If cilantro isn’t your thing, feel free to leave it off.
I encourage you to make this pizza today and revel in its inauthenticity. I say if it tastes good, eat it.
- 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 2 tablespoons tandoori spice mix
- Dough for 1 pizza, homemade or store-bought
- ½ cup butter chicken spice paste (I used Patak's)
- 2-3 tablespoons milk or cream
- 1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
- ½ pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup bocconcini, sliced (or use shredded mozzarella)
- Handful of cilantro, for serving (optional)
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F and set a rack in the bottom third of the oven.
- Heat a grill pan or skillet to medium-high. Coat chicken in tandoori spice mix. Grill chicken until cooked through, about 10 minutes (depending on the size of the breast). Slice chicken into bite-sized pieces.
- Spread pizza dough onto round pizza pan or cookie sheet. In a small bowl, mix butter chicken spice paste with 2-3 tablespoons milk or cream; the consistency should be like regular pizza sauce (easily spreadable, but not too runny). Spread sauce evenly over prepared dough.
- Scatter the peppers, tomatoes and sliced chicken evenly over the sauce layer. Top with bocconcini slices (or shredded mozzarella).
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the crust is golden brown on the bottom and the cheese is melted and bubbly. Slice into wedges and top with cilantro to serve, if desired.