Growing up in the Philippines, we didn’t have a wealth of choices of pizza places. We had a favorite restaurant called The Italian Village, and we’d get to our table, order our food, grab a few breadsticks, then my brothers and I would rush to stand in front of a giant glass pane in front of their kitchen, watching the pizza guys fling the dough in the air. Forget about crayons and connecting the dots. The only thing that could pry us away from that sight was the wafting scent of our pizza as it arrived.
But when it came to pizza parlors (that’s what we called them), just about the only popular chain then was Shakey’s Pizza. It really did have a parlor feel, with player piano music, servers in red and yellow striped attire with brimmed hats. My younger brother and I loved the Hawaiian Pizza, but my older brother? His favorite was the Friday Special, which I never understood. It had shrimp, mushrooms, and anchovies. Really? Mushrooms and anchovies versus pepperoni, sausage, and pineapple?
His choice of pizza only cemented our belief that he was weird. (After all, who brings a linear algebra book to a summer vacation trip up in the mountains? At the age of 9! Seriously? Only freaks are that smart.)
The one thing we did agree on, though, was root beer. Pizza was always washed down with a pitcher of root beer. To this day, drinking root beer with a slice of pizza always makes me feel like a kid again.
Last year, for a pizza party at home, I decided to re-create the Friday Special just for my brother. (Because I love him, weirdness and all.) I guess the years must have matured my taste buds, because after one bite, I finally understood why he loved it so much. Either that, or his freakishness has finally rubbed off on me.
Side note: Of course, clueless me, I only realized last night that it was called “Friday Special” in honor of Lenten Fridays, when most of the predominantly Catholic Filipinos avoided meat. So there’s no “meat” in this pizza—just vegetables and seafood.
This is my grownup, slightly fancier version of Friday Special. Shakey’s Pizza made theirs with canned sliced button mushrooms, but I happened to have a basket of gourmet organic mushrooms from Gourmet Mushrooms. Sweet, no?
The chopped tomatoes add a nice tang to counter the earthiness of the mushrooms, the saltiness of the anchovies, and the garlicky shrimp. You can prepare everything while the oven is preheating, and by the time you’re done pre-cooking the mushrooms and shrimp, the oven should be ready.
Friday Special Pizza
Makes 1 large pizza (serves 4)
Use your favorite pizza dough recipe, or even store-bought. My favorite store-bought pizza dough comes from Corrado’s in NJ.
2 large tomatoes
Preheat oven to 500ºF. If using a pizza stone, leave the stone in the oven while preheating.
Slice the tomatoes in half and scoop out the inner core with the seeds. Gently squeeze to remove excess juice. You only want the outer flesh off the tomato (the inner portions will produce too much liquid when cooked). Dice and set aside on paper towels to continue drawing out the moisture.
Season the shrimp with paprika and about 1/2 teaspoon salt. Set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add mushrooms and cook for about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Continue cooking until the liquid given off by the mushrooms has evaporated, about 3 to 4 minutes more. Remove mushrooms to a plate. Add another tablespoon of oil and cook the shrimp until barely pink but still fairly raw inside, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove shrimp from the skillet and set aside.
Spread out your dough on a baking sheet greased with some oil and dusted with cornmeal. (If using a pizza stone, omit this step and instead roll out the pizza dough and place on a pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal.) Spread the tomato sauce on the dough, avoiding the edges. Sprinkle the chopped tomatoes on top. Evenly distribute the cheese over the dough, followed by the cooked mushrooms. Take the anchovy fillets and cut or tear into small pieces and distribute over the pizza.
Place the pizza in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until cheese just starts to bubble. Take the pizza out and add the shrimp on top. Return to the oven and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, until cheese is brown and melted.