I am a pizza lover. Love, love, love it. My favorite meal is pizza and beer. Can you believe it? I am this foodie writer, I'll eat anything, and my favorite meal would be pizza. My sister affectionately calls pizza "Circles of Death." I say, ya gotta go somehow, why not with a delicious whole wheat crust, hot, stretchy mozzarella and delicious toppings?
I make a lot of pizza. Mardi Gras Pizza with crawfish, peppers and andouille, Muffaletta Pizza with meat and cheese and yummy olive salad, Grilled Pizza with anything on it, and a few weeks ago a Caesar Salad Pizza, stupendous. But this week I was at the grocer, and there on the shelf was Taco Doritos, they even came in the throwback bag from the 70's. Taco Doritos mean only one thing...Happy Joe's Taco Pizza.
Happy Joe's is an institution in Eastern Iowa. It started in 1972 in Davenport, Iowa in an area known as the East Village. A charming street of shops, bars and restaurants. Happy Joe's was an old time ice cream parlor up front, pizza restaurant in the back. The floors were wood, there were barrels of taffy and candy sticks and an old fashioned bar where you could order ice cream sundaes and banana splits in a tulip glass complete with a sugar wafer. In the old days, the wait staff girls wore the cutest red and white short dresses with a little fluff in the skirt. Red and white saddle shoes rounded it out and the guys wore vests and straw hats. On your birthday they would honk an old fashioned bike horn and they would all sing to you and bring you a sundae.
Times have changed, the ice cream parlor is gone, the original Happy Joe's is gone, but the pizza has not changed and they boast more than 50 stores in the Midwest. Thank the Lord. Their signature pizza is Canadian Bacon and Sauerkraut. Trust me, it is a tasty pie. But my all time favorite is Taco Pizza. Forget any Mexican type pizza you have ever had, there is no comparison. Until today that is, I have finally mastered the taco pizza at home. Now I would really rather be at a Happy Joe's, but boy was my family excited when we had dinner tonight!
You will notice this Taco Pizza has no jalepeños, no salsa, no cilantro. This is not a pizza of 2011, this is a pizza of my childhood. Don't mess with it!
One recipe I found online is here at Pizza Maniac posted way back in 2004. He puts black olives on his, although I can't remember them on the original, and I didn't have any on hand. He also never mentions Happy Joe's, but most of the comments do. You see, people like me, never forgot how delicious that pizza is long after we move away.
I started with this whole wheat dough ball from the Fresh Market. They are super easy and work great in the oven and on the grill. I like to thaw them overnight in the fridge, although a half hour or so on the counter will do it too. One dough ball will make a pizza big enough for about 4 people (or 3 really hungry ones). When we do build your own pizza night, we split the dough into 2 pieces and make individual ones, with pizza leftover.
Happy Susie's (Joe's) Taco Pizza
2 dough balls
1 can refried beans (best to find the kind that are smooth, my Rosarita were too chunky)
Taco Sauce (I buy Happy Joe's, but there are brands at the grocer. This is not salsa)
Pizza Sauce (less than 1 cup)
1 pound ground beef
1 packet taco seasoning
Mozzarella cheese, shredded
Colby jack cheese, shredded
Brown the ground beef, drain any excess fat. Add taco seasoning and a little water. When it is cooked through, remove from heat and let cool slightly.
Roll out, stretch, toss your crusts until they are the desired thinness. Preheat oven to 480° degrees. I baked my pizzas on a pan, but the crust did not get sufficiently crunchy, perhaps a stone would be better, or grilled is always good.
Mix taco sauce, beans and pizza sauce together. How much? Well, I used about ½ can of beans and ¼ cup taco sauce and ¼ cup pizza sauce. You can alter it to your own taste. Spread this over the crust. Top with a mozzarella, then ground beef, then Colby Jack.
Bake until cheese is bubbly and crust is golden, about 10 minutes in my convection. Let sit for a few minutes to allow cheese to set a bit and slice pizza. Then cover the pie with lettuce, tomatoes and Doritos (crush them into manageable pieces). Serve with additional taco sauce. It is, in many ways a taco salad on a pizza. It is not easy to eat, toppings fall off with every bite. But when you have nibbled the last of the crust, there is a little "salad" on the plate. I have to admit, I am quite enamored these days with salad on my pizza. The California Pizza Kitchen's Club Pizza is a perfect example. I am looking forward to my trip to Iowa this summer so I can indulge in the real deal at Happy Joe's. Until then, get in there and make it yourself!