Mexican Pizza Alaska Style
Growing up in Fairbanks as a kid in the 80s, we didn’t exactly have access to the freshest ingredients or have the most diverse array of restaurants. I mean, when Boston’s Pizza came to town it made front page news. So…you get the idea. Despite that, my parents did their best to expose us kids to a broad spectrum of cuisines. Or rather, their idea of a broad spectrum of cuisines.
Which is to say, we ate a lot of Mexican food.
Not just any Mexican food, but my parents’ spin on Mexican. My parents met when they were very young in Los Angeles. My mother moved there in high school, but my dad was an L.A. native and has had an appreciation for Mexican cuisine ever since. Going out to dinner was a rare and expensive treat. If we did, we usually piled into the Suburban and went to a local Mexican haunt called Los Amigos off South Cushman, where I inevitably ordered a cheese enchilada and a chicken taco…for roughly 15 years. My sister Holly and I would fight with our brother Erik over who got to pick the song in the tableside jukebox. Yes, we would literally fight. (One time, we were so ill-behaved that my Dad made us get up and leave before the waitress came to take our order! You don’t have to teach kids that lesson twice.) But if Holly and I were allowed to order Shirley Temples with our meal, we knew Dad was in a good mood. Those were the nights we usually just let Erik pick the song (because let’s face it, he always won that battle anyway!)
At home, my parents each had their specialties. Mom made a delicious chili relleno casserole (I’ll dig out that recipe and post it sometime) and was constantly frying up quesadillas for us to scarf down. My dad made homemade tamales, enchiladas, and his unique specialty: Mexican Pizza. I remember it was around the time that Boboli pizza crusts became popular in the grocery stores. I have no idea where Dad came up with the idea, but it was one of the most requested recipes from our family kitchen.
Last week I was home in Fairbanks with my family and asked Dad if he would make his old specialty in order to post it here on the blog. He was more than happy to oblige, and came home from the grocery store with all the fixings for one of my favorite childhood meals. (He was astonishingly patient when I took all my pictures, asking things like, “Do you want me to move this over here for better light?” and “Wait until I scatter the green onion.”) My Mom was less so. (“How many pictures do you need of a slice of pizza? It’s a slice of pizza! I’m hungry already- let’s eat, people.” To those who know and love my Mom, this should come as no surprise.)
At first we hadn’t planned on adding any tomato, as you’ll see in most of the pictures. But Mom insisted that Dad used to add it, and I think she was right. The fresh tomato was the perfect finish. You could also add some fresh chopped cilantro if you happen to have it, but cilantro wasn’t exactly plentiful at Fairbanks grocery stores when I was a kid and I wanted to stick with tradition.
I have to say, taking a bite of this pizza for the first time in years brought back a lot of happy memories from a kitchen full of good food. Thanks, Dad!
(Makes 2 whole pizzas, which is just enough to feed a small Alaskan family)
2 Boboli thin pizza crusts
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 t. olive oil
1 pound lean ground beef
1 t. salt
1 T. chili powder
2 t. cumin
1 cup of salsa
1-15 oz. can pinto beans, drained & rinsed
1-2.25 oz. can sliced black olives, drained
1-4 oz. can diced green chilies
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
3-4 green onions, white and green parts both chopped
1 large tomato, diced (or two small)
hot sauce, to taste
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil to the pan and saute the onion for 4-5 minutes, or until soft. Crank up the heat on the stove a touch to medium-high, and add the ground beef, salt, chili powder, and cumin, making sure to break up the meat well with the back of your spoon. Cook until all the meat is browned nicely, about 8-10 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside.
Spread 1/2 cup of the salsa evenly over each Boboli crust. Divide the cooked ground beef, beans, olives, and green chilies evenly between both crusts. Top each pizza with 1 cup of the cheese. Transfer the pizza carefully to the oven (a pizza paddle would come in handy here, but it’s not necessary). Bake the pizza directly on the oven rack for 8-10 minutes, or until all of the cheese is melted and the pizza has a crispy bottom crust. We bake one at a time, for maximum crispyness.
Remove from the oven and top with as much of the diced green onion and diced fresh tomato as you like. Cut slices, top with hot sauce if you prefer, and enjoy a little Mexico in Alaska!
Enjoy! xo H
About Heidi Drygas
Heidi was born and raised in Fairbanks, and grew up in and around the waters of the Chena River. She graduated with a degree in History from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and received her law degree from Willamette University. A lawyer by day and self-taught home cook at night, she is passionate about cooking and creating tasty, uncomplicated food. She is also a firm believer in buying local produce and products whenever possible, and is an avid fisherwoman. She currently lives in Anchorage with her trusty terrier, Milo.