Our new favorite pizza - Tequila-Marinated Shrimp Pizza with Chorizo and Cilantro Pesto

Besides making a lot of chilis, my recipe folder is full of pizzas. I added another unusual one to the file on Friday. Tequila-Marinated Shrimp Pizza with Chorizo, Onions, Bell Peppers, and Cilantro Pesto. Wow. At first you could think it suffers from ingredient-overload, but the depth of complimentary flavors is incredible.
More about the recipe but I wanted to share some pizza trivia I learned while putting together our pizza bake-off party booklet. American’s can’t get enough of it! On average, we consume 23 pounds, about 46 slices, of pizza per person per year. It’s a $30 billion business in the U. S., and we have over 60,000 pizza parlors, which account for 17% of all restaurants. “Pizza” is the number one search word on Google. And according to The San Francisco Chronicle, men wearing muscle shirts when answering the door order pepperoni three times more than any other topping. That made me chuckle.

Be forewarned:  you have to be a devoted cilantro lover because it is the jump-out flavor of this pizza, used in the pesto as the sauce. I lightened the pesto from the original Emeril recipe, and it tasted wonderful with less fat. The freshness of the lime juice, the heat of the red pepper flakes, the savory of the garlic, and the smokiness imparted by the tequila are in perfect balance with the sweetness of the shrimp and all quite agreeable with the cilantro. The original recipe calls for putting the raw marinated shrimp directly on top of the cheese, but I did a quick sauté in a skillet. The chorizo also provides a bite of spice, and the colored bell peppers add festive color. I substituted mellow cheddar for the Monterey Jack and omitted the goat cheese, something Craig strongly dislikes. I had fresh ricotta on hand, which I thought preferable since goat cheese can have such a strong flavor. While it takes a bit of time to get everything prepared, nothing is difficult. Craig decided this is yet another keeper pizza recipe. Too bad we hadn’t tried it prior to our pizza bake-off. It could have been THE winner.

Tequila-Marinated Shrimp Pizza with Chorizo, Onions, Bell Peppers, and Cilantro Pesto

Marinated Shrimp:
20 medium raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cut in half lengthwise
1/2 C tequila
1/4 C fresh lime juice
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 T chopped cilantro leaves, plus extra for garnish
Red pepper flakes to taste, at least 1 teaspoon
1 t kosher salt
1/2 t ground cumin

Cilantro Pesto:
2 C tightly packed fresh cilantro leaves
1 T (heaping) lightly toasted pine nuts (you can buy them toasted at Trader Joe’s)
2 large cloves chopped garlic
3-4 T freshly grated Parmesan (or queso fresco)
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 t salt
3 T olive oil

Cornmeal, for dusting peel
8 ounces Mexican chorizo, chopped
11/2 C grated cheddar cheese
1/2 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
1/2 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
1/2 medium white onion, diced
4 ounces fresh ricotto
Chopped green onions, garnish

Prepare your favorite pizza dough. At least 45 minutes before baking the pizza, put a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.

In a food processor, combine the cilantro, pine nuts, and garlic, and puree on high speed. Add the cheese, pepper and salt, and process to combine. Scrape the sides of the processor, and with the machine running, add the olive oil. Blend until well combined. 
In a large ziplock bag, combine the shrimp, tequila, lime juice, garlic, cilantro, pepper flakes, salt, and cumin. Let marinate for no more than 1 hour (otherwise the juice will start to cook the shrimp!).
In a skillet, cook the sausage over medium-high heat until the fat is rendered and almost completely cooked through, about 4 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels. Let cool. Remove all but 1 tablespoon or so of the rendered fat, add the shrimp and marinade, and sauté the shrimp one minute per side.

Dust a baker's peel or bottom of a baking sheet with the cornmeal. Roll or stretch the pizza dough to a 12-inch round and transfer the dough onto the peel and reshape as necessary without pressing down hard (so the dough will come away easily). Spread the cilantro pesto across the dough to cover, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge. Sprinkle the grated cheese evenly over the top, then arrange the cooked shrimp, bell peppers, onions, and cooked sausage over the top. Dot the pizza with the ricotta.
Transfer the pizza to the stove. Bake until the crust is crisp and golden brown and the cheeses are melted and bubbly, about 8 minutes. Transfer with the peel to a large cutting board. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Garnish with chopped cilantro and green onions, to taste.

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