Friday, April 17, 2020

Trader Joe's BBQ Recipe Chicken Pizza

It was a summer day in the early 90s. I wasn't even yet a teenager. It was a family vacation back when family vacations were still incredibly exciting, in those pre-internet days when you had little idea what to expect when you visited a new destination. We were on our way home from somewhere in Northern California, stopping for one last night of vacation in Santa Barbara.

We came upon a restaurant called California Pizza Kitchen. None of us had ever heard of it, though we were all big pizza eaters. As far I was concerned, there was only one kind of pizza: pepperoni. (I guess cheese would suffice if pepperoni were not available.)

So the CPK menu was a revelation: Goat cheese pizza? Teriyaki chicken pizza? Shrimp... on a pizza?

But I ordered the BBQ chicken pizza. I loved barbecue chicken then, as I do now, and besides, this restaurant was actually claiming to have invented the barbecue chicken pizza in 1985. How could I not?

Thus began my love affair with barbecue chicken pizza, one that has not faded one bit in almost three decades.

(Within a year, a CPK would open in my hometown and it became and almost weekly stop for my family. On Friday nights in high school, after basketball or baseball games, we would all go out to dinner at CPK and I would eat not one but two pizzas - the BBQ Chicken and the Teriyaki Chicken- and a large salad.)

But... it's a hard pizza to pull off in frozen variety. For starters, a great BBQ chicken pizza almost always includes cilantro and red onion, two things that lose most of their flavor when frozen. Second, the best BBQ chicken pizzas utilize Gouda, which is an expensive cheese. Though many frozen pizzas have gone upscale in the last few years, with the price tags that accompany such a move, for the most part, frozen pies eschew Gouda in favor of less expensive cheeses.

I don't even remember the first time I saw a frozen BBQ chicken pizza. It might not have been until the beginning of the century.

As with the Trader Joe's pizza about which I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I wish the toppings on this extended further towards the edge.

It had been many years since I had eaten one of these. It was a major disappointment. The chicken was not tender (as I had remembered it), the red onions were flavorless, and, though the cheese was good, there wasn't nearly enough.

The barbecue sauce was outstanding, however. Still... when the sauce is the best thing about a frozen pizza, that's not a great thing.

I added some fresh cilantro to a couple of slices. Which helped, but only barely.

I will try another one of these eventually and see if this pizza was an aberration, or if they're just not as good as the used to be. I'm guessing it's the later; here is a photo of a Trader Joe's barbecue chicken pizza I ate almost a decade ago:

Everything about it looks much better than this recent one.


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