Nicole Russell Makes Two Chicken Pizzas with One Dough Recipe
The founder of Last Dragon Pizza whips up tandoori chicken pizza and jerk chicken pizza on this week’s episode of Chefs at Home.
So far during our series Chefs at Home, we’ve learned how to make dishes including a twist on huachinango a la Veracruzana, hand-pulled biang biang noodles, and Caribbean bouillon—this week is all about homemade pizza, cooked by Nicole Russell.
Russell is the founder of Last Dragon Pizza in Far Rockaway, Queens, which she says specializes in “ethnic, globally inspired pizzas.” In today’s episode, she prepares two chicken pizzas—“7th Heaven” tandoori chicken pizza and “Kiss Mi Converse!” jerk chicken pizza—using the same dough recipe and two different baking methods, an indoor home oven and an outdoor gas-fired pizza oven. As she cooks, she explains how she became a pizza maker and how Last Dragon got its name (hint: it has to do with a movie). You’ll learn why letting dough rest is the key to great pizza, too.
Read on for Russell’s step-by-step method and follow along with the video above.
Get the Chicken Marinated for the 7th Heaven Pizza…
Russell starts off by prepping the chicken for the 7th Heaven pizza, which is one of Last Dragon’s signature pies. You’ll need Greek yogurt, salt, powdered ginger, tandoori masala, garlic powder, and chili powder—she folds the spices into the yogurt in a bowl and adds a little olive oil as well, to help coat the chicken and keep the meat moist when it bakes on top of the pizza. Once that’s combined, her mom, Dorothy, pops in to give her the chicken to stir into the yogurt-spice mixture. The chicken is left to marinate so it soaks up the flavors.
…and Prep the Jerk Chicken for the Kiss Mi Converse! Pizza, Too
Next up is the jerk chicken for the Kiss Mi Converse! pizza. Russell was born in the U.S. but her family is from Jamaica and she grew up on jerk chicken, so this pizza is an homage to her heritage. She makes the marinade using scallions, yellow onion, fresh ginger, a yellow Scotch bonnet pepper (you “can’t make jerk without yellow”), garlic cloves, allspice, fresh thyme, cinnamon, brown sugar, salt, black pepper, vegetable oil, a little soy sauce, and browning sauce—often used in Caribbean cooking “to add flavor and color typically to meat dishes,” per the video—combining everything in a blender on a “crush” setting. After some initial blending, she also adds some lime, sliced lengthwise and peeled, to taste. Note: Russell recommends de-seeding the Scotch bonnet pepper before adding it to the blender if you don’t want your chicken to be as spicy. (She likes it spicy, so she adds it whole.)
After the marinade comes together, she adds it to a bowl of cooked diced chicken and mixes it all up until it’s coated. Just like the tandoori chicken mixture, she sets the jerk chicken aside to marinate.
It’s Dough Time
After that, Russell gets started on the all-important pizza dough. (You’ll need a food scale for this.) She places a bowl on top of the scale, ensures it’s set to grams and “zeroed out,” and adds the flour—you need exactly 500 grams. Next comes 315 milliliters of water, 15 grams of salt, one tablespoon of organic raw honey, and lastly, one quarter teaspoon of active dry yeast, which you don’t have to proof beforehand. She grabs her stand mixer, outfitted with a dough hook, and starts mixing the dough on the first speed. When it starts coming together, she notes, slowly add in olive oil. You want to see the dough “coming away from the bowl,” and as you pour in the remaining oil, it’ll become more shiny.
Kick up the mixer to speed two. Russell explains that you’ll know the dough is ready when it stretches, signifying the gluten is starting to form. “The wetter the dough, the crispier the pizza,” she says.
Knead It and Let It Rest
Russell flours her countertop—not too much, you still want a moist dough—and places the dough on the floured surface, kneading it. As she works, she says she swears by Nuvola flour, which is a sturdier flour. (You don’t want to use a super fine flour here.) She seals the dough, folding it and closing it up to ensure there aren’t any holes.
Ideally, you want to make your dough the day beforehand and let it rest for 12 to 48 hours, Russell says. But before she lets it rest, she grabs the food scale once more to divide the dough into two portions for the two pizzas. For the pizza cooked in the indoor home oven, she wants 450 grams, and for the outdoor pizza oven, she wants 300 grams. After dividing, she ensures each piece of dough is sealed again.
Make the 7th Heaven Pizza
After the dough has chilled overnight for 12 hours, Russell grabs it and flours her countertop, placing the dough top-side down on the surface. A sprinkle of flour goes on top of the dough as well. She demonstrates how to stretch it out—if the dough springs back, the video notes, you can let it rest at room temperature for another 15 to 20 minutes “under a clean kitchen towel” to allow the gluten to relax more. Russell flours the pizza peel and places the dough circle on it.
Next, it’s time to add the toppings for the 7th Heaven pizza. She ladles on some marinara sauce, noting to leave space for the crust on the dough, and grabs 200 grams of shredded whole milk mozzarella, distributing it evenly on top. Then, she puts on the sliced red onions, dollops of the tandoori chicken mixture, and finally, the sliced grape tomatoes. She taps the pizza peel on the counter before putting it in the oven, which is set to 550 degrees Fahrenheit with baking steels inside (you can also use a pizza stone—whichever you choose, make sure it’s in the oven while it preheats). She sets the timer for five minutes, cooks the pizza, and then puts it in for another three minutes on convection. Once it’s out of the oven, a squeeze of lime and some fresh cilantro finish it off.
Make the Kiss Mi Converse! Pizza
Next, we head out to Russell’s backyard to make the Kiss Mi Converse! pizza with an Ooni pizza oven. For the toppings, you’ll need the marinated jerk chicken, onions, black olives, yellow pepper, and scallions (the latter will go on after the pizza has baked). Just like with the previous pizza, Russell stretches out the dough, and then adds marinara sauce. The cheese goes on, and then the chicken (she places it strategically to avoid getting the marinade liquid all over the pizza), followed by the onions, peppers, and olives. Onto the floured peel it goes—you can also wait to add the toppings until after the dough circle is on the peel, the video notes, but do it quickly so the dough doesn’t stick. She taps the pizza peel on the work surface and gives it a light shake, and then, places it in the Ooni oven. It can get to a really high temperature, so she says you need to watch the pizza—and indeed, this one cooks really, really fast. The back of the pizza cooks first, so be sure to rotate it as well.
Mere minutes later, the pizza is done. Russell says the color scheme of the toppings—black olives, yellow peppers, green scallions—is a nod to the colors of the Jamaican flag: gold, black, and green. She also adds the scallions in “crosses” to mimic the “x” design of the flag.
There you have it—two pizzas, two different baking methods, one dough recipe. Come back for our next episode of Chefs at Home on Monday, October 26 featuring food stylist Veronica Spera.