Often itâ€™s the little things that provide the greatest inspiration: the first autumn leaves swirling in the breeze, the laughter of children, the ethereal glow of crashing waves in the full moonlight, etc. And now, Freschetta hopes youâ€™ll add BBQ chicken pizza to that list, along with the seven other new varieties not found at my local Target as of last week. Thatâ€™s right folks â€“ branch-clinging kitten poster levels of inspiration can be yours, instantly, for the low, low price of five dollars.
With it youâ€™ll also get inordinate levels of pretension, free of charge. In my head, Iâ€™m pronouncing Target as Tar-zjay. Thatâ€™s how pretentious Iâ€™ve become just a few hours after my discovery of the Simplyâ€¦ Inspired Pizzas, which supposedly feature larger and more prevalent toppings, a crispier crust and come in a more form-fitting box. This makes me instantly better than you by association. I feel like scoffing at the Red Baron and flippantly ignoring Wolfgang Puck as he calls to me from down the way. Digiorno? California Pizza Kitchen? Tombstone? Amateurs, the lot of them.
If I had to peg one element that truly elevates this pizza above those with cookies, dips, budget-rate price tags, and garlic crusts, Iâ€™d sayâ€¦ itâ€™s the ellipses in the title. Hands down. As far as I can tell, nobody else in frozen food section has yet taken advantage of the grandeur and enticement of this rare bit of punctuation. In a world of keyboard bashing neurotics, the ellipses falls dangerously close to becoming the snootier, desperately more boring cousin of the interrobang. It hangs there mid-sentence as if to say, “Oh, sorry there. Didnâ€™t mean to start off too overwhelmingly fast (for idiots like yourself). Letâ€™s take a pause, shall we. And you know what? It might be time to skim over the really dull, academic bits. Itâ€™s the least I can do, really, without adding footnotes and visual aids.”
Inspired? Really? By all the other previously existing BBQ chicken pizzas you mean? Whatâ€™s that? Oh, of course: youâ€™re different. This apparently isnâ€™t the California-born taste revolution youâ€™ve naively fallen for. Oh no. This oneâ€™s a unique blend of “classic flavors of the south”, meaning the cilantro is almost non-existent and the “sweet and tangy” sauce pretty much tastes like KC Masterpiece.
Peeling open the package initially reveals large white meat chicken chunks and thick cut onions, true to the pompous package promises. This gives me tragically high hopes, which immediately began to droop and melt away along with the pizza as soon as I toss it in the oven.
I sit on my kitchen floor in denial for the first few minutes, staring vacantly as the crust buckles and cheese drips into the abyss.
I followed directions! I normally donâ€™t abandon the tray unless the particular line of pizzas has proven its structural integrity to me on numerous occasions in the past, but this time I threw caution to the wind and went by the book on my first go-round. This will certainly even out. Everything will be okay. It just has to. Itâ€™s such a pretty pizza!
I snap back to reality as the first beautiful chicken chunk tumbles to its crispy death between the grates. A rescue is in order. Preparing for battle, I grab two metal spatulas, a cookie sheet, an oven mitt, and a potholder. Brazenly and triumphantly flinging open the oven door yields a first good look at my apparent wax replica of a classic southern pizza. With one hand, I press the cookie sheet up against the bottom of the rack. With the other, I begin coaxing the pizza forward. At first the pizza merely responds with a resounding “fuck you” and refuses to budge. I burn my hand and retreat hastily, leaving the cookie sheet on the rack below the pizza to catch falling toppings.
Time to regroup.
For round two, I reinforce my tender digits using a larger, thicker potholder and the second, non-slotted spatula. This time the game plan is to pry as I coax. Pliability will be its downfall.
I ease the pizza forward ever so slowly, bending it to my willâ€¦ and my spatula. Eventually it oozes over to the cookie sheet, like the creature in The Blob, only with crust.
Hot, sweaty, and battle scarred, I nonetheless emerge victorious. Once on the tray, the pizza magically loses its malleability and holds its abhorrent mutant shape. Amazingly nothing appears too burnt, aside from the scattered casualties on the floor of my oven.
With the dearth of cilantro, a hidden Midwestern side takes over, reminding me of momâ€™s grilled BBQ chicken, minus the frantic race to light the grill and complete cooking in 50 mile per hour gusting winds ahead of the weekly oncoming thunderstorm. What this thing really needs is a side of potato salad.
For all the hype, itâ€™s a let down, but without all that it wouldnâ€™t actually be too bad. The sauce is never too rich or overwhelming. The topping distribution is generally above par. For all the drama, the crust is surprisingly crisp and chewy. My only qualm is the cheese, which starts out decent then disintegrates and slides around a bit, nearing vegan cheese texture as it cools. This is most noticeable in places where the cheese is thickest. It was just weird. Not terrible, but a bit fake.
If youâ€™re a BBQ chicken fan, youâ€™ll find this difficult to hate, unless you burn yourself horribly as I did. But if youâ€™re a tried and true BBQ Chicken pizza addict of the CPK ilk, youâ€™re setting yourself up for disappointment by getting Inspired. Sorry.
(Nutrition Facts â€“ 1/3 pizza â€“ 360 calories, 140 calories from fat, 16 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 820 milligrams of sodium, 200 milligrams of potassium, 39 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of fiber, 31 grams of sugar, 17 grams of protein, 4% vitamin A, 2% vitamin C, 25% calcium, and 10% iron)
Item: Freschetta Simplyâ€¦ Inspired Southern BBQ Recipe Chicken Pizza
Price: 2 for $10
Size: 14.84 ounces
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Tastes like the Midwest. Gaining pretension like a super power. Thick, juicy chicken chunks. Interrobangs. Chewy, crispy thin crust. Footnotes. Visual aids. Inspiring kitten posters.
Cons: Undersized potholders. Cheese cools to oily faux-cheese texture. Screamingly pretentious, yet oh so unrefined. Similar to a crusty blob monster while cooking. Thunderstorm battle almost unwinnable with charcoal grill. Condescending ellipses.