Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Happy Joe's Taco Pizza Returns

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2022.  I tiptoe into this new year.  The last 2 Januarys have been harbingers of rough years.  Without detail, trust me, things really can go only get better.  I've been rethinking the blog, and wondering do I stick solely to cookies?  But no.  I faithfully post them all on my Instagram, go there! I am so much more than sugar cookies.  I love everything about making them, love selling them, love being a part of so many celebrations.  But oh do I love to cook.  So cook we will.  Let's continue this journey.  But I promise, there'll be no scrolling past multiple ads and senseless writing.  Recipes and stories, that's my life. I am happy to continue to share.  Let's start with a family favorite.

A few years back I wrote about my favorite pizza of all time, Happy Joe's Taco Pizza.  It turns out there are a LOT of you who feel the same way!  I have an old friend associated with the Happy Joe's Pizza of my childhood and he went to that blog post and admitted....I'm pretty close.  So I decided since I found some throwback Taco Doritos we may tweak this recipe.  

Hot out of the oven!

First a little history.  My first trip to Happy Joe's was in Clinton, Iowa.  It was my birthday, and I know that because we never really ate out in a restaurant unless we were traveling or a special occasion, and everyone said you had to go to Happy Joe's on your birthday.  After our pizza they brought me a sundae with a candle on it and they honked this big brass horn,  "May I have everyone's attention, we are celebrating a special birthday tonight at Happy Joe's, Susie is 12 years old today!"  I assume they all sang happy birthday as well.  The waitresses in their iconic short red dresses with crinoline fluff underneath and the red and white saddle shoes.  The guys wore red and white stripe shirts.  For the 70's it was vintage and nostalgic.  For 2021, it seems even more nostalgic.  

The costumes of course are gone, probably replaced by polyester polo shirts and baseball caps.  There's been times when the menu offered oddities like sit down dining with onion rings and burger fare, a frozen yogurt bar, and their new breakfast pizza (which I am not opposed to).  I miss the charming ice cream shop feel up front, barrels of penny candy and hand scooped ice cream, sundaes with whipped cream and cherries, and a model train running the rails around the ceiling, and lets not forget the horn and the singing.  But all things change, no wait staff anymore, order at the counter, fill your own drink, no trains, no horns, no ice cream parlor feel.  I miss the old ways, honestly.  But the pizza hasn't changed.  I still order an extra taco pizza and freeze it for the trip home.  I still ask for extra taco sauce because it's delicious and I can never have enough.  

My Happy Joe's friend is coming to visit, so I thought we'd brush up on the pizza before I made it for him.  Here's how this version went. Note that the Publix dough is one of my favorites, and the last time we had it was on a pizza oven outdoors on a Camp Chef Grill.  It was amazing.  We discovered this dough is not good for high heat oven cooking.  Its so fluffy it was impossible to get a thin crust, and it was a little doughy inside.  I need to just bite the bullet and make it from scratch.  However, Because of the nature of this pizza, a premade crust would not be terrible, a thin and crispy type crust is what it needs.  This crust was yummy, but very airy, big bubbles (which are the best with traditional sauce) but we ate all of it.  Every bite.  And we declared it the best version yet.


1 1/2 pounds ground beef

Taco seasoning for the beef

2 pizza dough balls from Publix

cornmeal for dusting

1 can traditional refried beans

1 jar pizza sauce

1 bag shredded mozzarella

1 bag shredded cheddar 

shredded iceberg lettuce

chopped tomatoes

Taco Doritos

Happy Joe's Taco Seasoning

Brown the ground beef in a little olive oil and add the taco seasoning to it.  I am not opposed to a packet, but homemade is easy and delicious. Set the cooked and seasoned meat aside.

Take your room temperature crust and stretch and shape to desired size. We tossed and spread out the crust to about 12-14" so it would fit the pizza stone preheating at 500ยบ in my oven. We did it on a pizza peel with a dusting of corn meal. A pre bake would have been a great idea here...but we didn't.

Mix the refried beans and the pizza sauce together.  The last time I added the Happy Joes Pizza Sauce, and I think it has no place here.  It is a topping and not an ingredient! Cover the crust with the sauce mixture.  I had about 1/3 of a cup left over, we ate it with some chips while the pizza cooked. 

Cover each pizza with the ground beef, then both cheeses.  Gently slide onto a preheated stone and bake, carefully watching.  I found with the fat crust baking for about 8 minutes and then cranking the heat down to 300 and continue to bake worked the best.  The dough was not totally raw, but it will be better with thinner dough and a fast bake.  

Remove the pizza and top with shredded lettuce and tomatoes and crunched up Taco Doritos. Serve with the one and only Happy Joe's Taco Sauce. 

As a footnote, we used Trader Joe's dough and the above recipe and cooked it on our Ooni.  The thinner dough is much better, but that Ooni is making me nuts.  We need some practice on it!  What are you waiting for?  Get in there and cook!

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