Friday, May 22, 2020

Mama Cozzi's Hot Honey BBQ Recipe Chicken Pizza (Aldi)

A weird misfire that's a couple tweaks short of brilliance.
I'm not quite sure why, but this is one of those products that I just knew I instantly had to try the moment I saw it appear in an Aldi ad. I mean, honey and pepperoni? With a "hot" thrown in there for good measure? That just sounded like a combination so weird that it just had to work, and while I wasn't too pleased with the pretzel crust (is that still a fad?), I was willing to put that aside to give it a shot. I'm generally a fan of the sweet and sour combo, but then adding some heat to it? Sign me up!

Well, all thanks to this damn virus sweeping the nation, my wife has declared herself the lone representative from our house that's “allowed” to go to the store. Part of this is her willingness to wear a mask and gloves (which I would feel too stupid to do), but also because I've long been practicing the art of social distancing, and try not to leave the house anyway; thus, it just makes sense to do it this way, since she doesn't mind public trips. At least, until I tell her to get me the pepperoni version, and she comes home with the chicken variety. What the hell woman, you only had one job! (Haha, she actually had a full list so I don't really fault her for the oversight.)

But hey, when life gives you lemons when you request oranges, you review lemons, so here we go: The pizza is actually really thick, and looks pretty delicious, with a pretty generous amount of toppings throughout. Even though it seems like a 10” pizza or so, by appearance, it has the dough volume of at least a 12” pizza, so there's plenty more of it to go around than it initially seems. Since it's thicker, it takes a little longer than average to cook, requring 20-23 minutes (at 400 degrees) to get the job done. I might have taken it out a little early (hey, it was getting late and I was hungry!), but everything was piping hot, and there was no “doughy” feel anywhere on the crust.

One thing I did notice: the cheese falls off the pizza way too easily. I don't know if slight undercooking was to blame, but the first bite of most pieces was just barbecue sauce, because the cheese ripped right off at the slightest hint of movement. It's more a first world problem than any sort of dealbreaker, but I feel it's worth mentioning, because it did get kind of annoying. And while this can be an issue with almost any piping-hot pizza, it definitely seemed to be more pronounced here, like the cheese was put on in patches, or something.

As much as I say I dislike pretzel crusts, I actually don't think I've ever had one; I just find the idea so pointless and stupid that I've gone out of my way to avoid them. I mean, what the hell is wrong with a normal bun/brust/bread? That's an opinion that's only been strengthened here, because it's by far this pizza's weakest link. For starters, even if this were a regular crust, there's just way too much of it. I'm one of those people that always eats the end crust, but even I had to walk away from this one; it's just too bland to eat without dipping sauce or other accouterments, and it wasn't really worth the time investment of having to walk to the refrigerator to look for something that would be compatible. Furthermore, while I will say the actual pretzel flavor was less imposing overall than I thought it would be, there are pockets of added pretzel salt that just take things way overboard. And, these bites aren't confined to the edge crust, as you might expect, but rather mixed in with random bites throughout the middle of the pizza. Couldn't we get an unsalted pretzel here? It's annoying when you hit one for the first time, because it distracts from the flavor of the pizza. Thankfully, there aren't many of these - I only encountered maybe four throughout the whole thing - but it's really just kind of a dumb thing that they're there at all.

As for the heat? It's noticeable, but not really all that memorable. In fact, I completely forgot it was a thing at all until I looked at the box again. It's mildly spicy, but nothing that had me reaching for a milk jug or anything and - as typical for this kind of "mainstream" fare - dissipates pretty quickly, without leaving any "heat residue" on the tongue afterward. It's something that will probably disappoint actual fans of spicy stuff, but is light enough that it shouldn't really bother the masses.

Pretzel crust aside, this is a pretty tasty, kind of original pizza, although I am still left pondering what the pepperoni version could improve upon. The chicken are large, uniformly rectangular pieces that pretty much taste like all such frozen chicken pieces, and thus, are rather pointless and uninspiring. The cheese is tasty, and pairs up well with the standard-issue barbecue sauce, similar to the kind used in virtually all barbecue pizzas Aldi sells, with a flavor that's more sweet than tangy.

I say it's "kind of" original because, up until now, this has been a pretty straightforward BBQ chicken pizza: Alas, the surprise “star” of the show are the tomatoes, which are unexpectedly pickled; they provide a somewhat sour “twist” to the proceedings, but are exploding with taste (and juice). I'm not huge into anything pickled (including pickles themselves), but their sweet and sour profile really helps to bring all the flavors together, while giving the pizza a much-needed injection of semi-originality.

I'd say this is a pretty decent pizza on the whole, but it's not one I'm really in a rush to try again, mainly thanks to the pretzel crust and non-descript chicken pieces, which provide little outside of a spongy chicken texture. Certainly the pepperoni would fix the weirdness of the meat, so would it manage to take this idea and make it a home run? I'm hoping to get my hands on it eventually to find out...

Overall: 5/10. The pretzel crust (an idea I've always been opposed to) thankfully doesn't interfere as much in the flavor department as I was expecting, but it does provide added pockets of saltiness that are both unwarranted, and distracting. There's also way too much of it on the edges; it might be good if I had some nacho cheese to dip it in, but is so bland as-is that I didn't bother eating the edge crust...and I always eat the edge crust. Outside of that, pickled tomatoes are the star of the show, adding an unexpected flavor edge to an otherwise relatively-standard BBQ chicken pizza. It's good, but not a pizza that I'm really eager to get my hands on again anytime soon.

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