Sunday, February 3, 2013

Buffalo Chicken Calzones

I'm not always around to make sure that Christa has something hot, fresh, delicious, and also nutritionally solid to help keep her going through the day.  Some days I don't get to see her at all (these aren't great days), and I wanted to cook something that would store easily in the freezer and take minimal effort to convert into a hot and satisfying winter meal...something that she could just grab frozen and toss in the toaster oven in between teaching swimming lessons and skiing lessons.  What I came up with is a variant of one of our favorite types of pizza that we had made last summer, but rather than make a bunch of little fragile and messy pizzas, I opted to roll them up into sandwich sized calzones.

I whipped up a batch of my favorite pizza dough and roasted a chicken the day before I was planing on actually making these.  The dough needs to rise overnight, and I find it much easier to work with leftover chicken that has cooled down (also the whole-bird roasting process makes it taste so much better than quick cooking chicken parts).

So to start, we have some dough that has come to room temperature:
This will make about 12 individual calzones
...and also some cleaned chicken meat that is a little bit colder than room temperature:
Oh the possibilities....
Now would be a good time to put a pizza stone in the oven and turn that oven up to 500F.  It's hot, but you really need a hot oven to pull off bread.  I have seen plenty of failed breads due to a fear of the application of serious heat.  While the oven heats up and the dough is resting, combine some cayenne pepper sauce, butter, and black pepper in a small saucepan like so:
Rich and least, it will be soon. 
Melt the butter while stirring every now and again until you have a buffalo sauce:
It really is that easy
Calzones need cheese...some kind of cheese.  For these I selected a buttermilk blue raw milk cheese:
This is entirely gratuitous....and so delicious.  Just enjoy it.

Now, it's time to actually make these sandwiches...whatever.  Assemble all of the ingredients:

rock and roll
Cut the dough into twelve or so small portions, depending on how large or small you would like the calzones.  I recommend going for 10, as I am making in this recipe.  Roll each ball of dough out very, very flat:

...and cover with toppings.  Resist the urge to pile them sky-high, or you will never be able to fold these things up and transfer them to the oven.  Show a little constraint with the filling and the results will be better for it.
that's about all this thing can hold without bursting
Fold the dough over and pinch it together in as neat or a shape as you can.  Some of these are neater than others, and while I would like to say that the messier looking ones were the first ones, I'd be I'll blame trying to do all of this while operating a camera.
it's not a tumor!
Once you have transferred the closed but yet uncooked calzones to a sheet pan that has been heavily dusted with corn meal (to prevent them from sticking to the pan and also later on in the oven), brush them lightly with oil, top with a pinch of sea salt, and then cut some small slashed in the top to allow the steam to escape (but not the cheese).
oiled and ready for heat treatment

Put the lumpy little loaves into your oven directly on the hot stone for about 10-12 minutes.  Because my goal was to make a sort of healthier option to a "hot pocket", I undercooked them ever so slightly so that they could finish browning in the toaster oven.  Let cool completely before wrapping in foil and then sealing tight in a freezer bag for cold storage.

Buffalo Chicken Calzones
  • pizza dough (that's a good recipe)
  • cooked chicken meat (some leftover roast chicken would be perfect)
  • 1/4 c butter
  • 1/4 c cayenne hot sauce
  • 1/3 lb or so of a very good blue cheese
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • corn meal
  1. Take dough out of cold storage and let warm at room temperature for about two hours.  Put your pizza stone into your oven and bring the temperature up to 500F.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the butter and hot sauce in a saucepan and just melt to combine.  Shred the chicken into bit size pieces and crumble the cheese likewise. 
  3. Divide the dough into about ten small balls, and roll them out very flat and thin.  Top with chicken, cheese, and sauce.  Fold over and crimp.
  4. Set uncooked calzones on a tray, brush lightly with olive oil and salt.  Cut slits in each calzone to let steam escape.  
  5. Put the calzones in the hot oven directly onto the stone for about 10 minutes.  You should just ever so slightly undercook these if you are planning on storing them for future meals as I did here, because they will finish browning when they're in the oven or toaster oven later on.  Dust the stone with corn meal prior to laying the calzones on it to prevent sticking.
Whenever you want a hot cheesy pocket of goodness, just pop one of these straight from the freezer into a 375F oven or toaster oven until it is slightly more toasted and heated through.  Enjoy, whether making them for yourself or the one that you love.


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