Pizza crust I actually want to eat

I’m not too much of a crust eater.  I generally tear mine up and give it to the dogs.  Sometimes, I dunk it in ranch dressing.  I don’t really care how thick and beautiful a pizza parlor claims to make their crust or if you can read newspaper through it.  I’m really here for the cheese.  And green peppers.  Matt had been a bachelor for some time when we met.  I never ate so much pizza as when we started dating.  Once we got married, it was his joke that when he “cooked” it came to the door in a box.  We always order Besta Fasta pizza.  I like that they make theirs fresh daily, so much so that sometimes, their sauce is super mild and other times, it’s so spicy that we are both sent searching for an antiacid!  

As much as I like the option to order pizza out, I still like to have the confidence to be able to whip up a batch at home whenever I like.  I keep pepperoni in the freezer, pizza sauce in the canning cellar and provolone in my fridge.  I like having provolone on my pizza.  If you ask, you’re going to find that many pizza places use a mixture of provolone and mozzerella on their pizzas.  I don’t know how I got started asking, but I did and was thrilled when I realized that that is why their cheese is so mouth-wateringly good!  I make this dough in my bread machine (on the dough setting) because it’s contained in there and I don’t have to worry about getting distracted by a diaper my increasingly dare-devilish child.  If you want to make this by hand, you only need to mix all the ingredients together gently, knead it well and let it rise for about 30-45 minutes in a warm place.  Nothing else needs to change.  Top it with your favorite sauce, toppings and cheese before baking it in a 450 degree oven for 20 minutes.  You can get 2 12-inch pizzas with a medium/thin crust out of this recipe or one giant, fluffy crusted one.

  • 2 1/2 tsp yeast
  • 4 1/4 cups plus 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons warm water
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil

**This dough is wonderful baked in the oven on a pizza stone or baking sheet.  It’s also sturdy enough to be prepared and grilled.  I also like this recipe because you don’t need to prebake it.  Just form it, top it and throw it in the oven.  The oven that is heated to 450 degrees.  This is my warning: a pizza stone coming from that oven is going to be hotBe careful.  I barely tapped my arm with fresh-from-the-oven stone 2 months ago and still have a nasty looking burn mark on my arm.  It’s embarrassing to have to explain that you were trying to go from the kitchen to the dining room and ducking around a Johnny Jump-up in the doorway when you burnt your arm.  Just so you know.

Chicken Parmigiana

I judge an Italian restaurant by it’s lasagna and by it’s parmigiana.  And if I like it, I go back.  If I don’t, well… I don’t.  I love eggplant parmigiana since that is the traditional Sicilian dish I grew up with.  My husband hates eggplant.  Loathes eggplant.  The only way I can get eggplant into a dish is to make it part of my tomato sauce and run it through a food mill.  I’m not kidding.  Since he is so adverse to the whole idea of eggplant parmigiana, I decided to compromise and settle for being really good at chicken parmigiana.  There is some debate over whether the dish is named for the Parmesan cheese in the breading or if it’s because it originated in the region of Parma, but I’m not really concerned over that.  My greatest concern is always the breading.  I’ve learned to take my time and season all the layers, but I wanted to come up with a recipe that works.  Every.  Single.  Time.  Below is the result of all my trial and error and the cause of the few extra pounds around my middle.  Apparently, the fact that I always serve this dish with green beans does not negate the fact that I always over indulge.

Chicken Parmigiana

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cups finely ground bread crumbs
  • 2 oz parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • flour
  • Pasta and basic tomato sauce to finish the dish
  • Fresh mozzarella

The first step in this recipe is to pound out the chicken so that it is about half of it’s original thickness.  This of course, is specific to each piece of meat, but it’s easiest done if you first put the chicken in a large freezer bag, seal it and then pound it out with a meat hammer or heavy ladle.  Once the meat is to the desired thickness, season it lightly with the salt and pepper and set aside while you prepare the breading.  You will note that I call for 2 oz of cheese and by that I mean a hunk of cheese, not the kind in the shaker can from the grocery.  You can use that, but it won’t be as good.  I’ve tried.  It’s not the same.

Cut the cheese up into smallish pieces and whiz them in a food processor until they are finely ground.  Then mix them in with the bread crumbs.  Whisk the eggs together until they are well beaten.  Heat a small amount of oil in a saute pan until it is hot.  Then, coat the chicken first in the flour, then the egg and finally the breading as pictured here.  Place each piece of meat in the pan and cook until it’s nicely browned.  Then, remove the meat to a baking dish.  I don’t recommend cooking more than 2 pieces of meat at a time so as not to crowd the pan and drop the oil temperature.  This part of the dish requires some time and loving care, but it’s worth it in the end.  Once all the meat has been browned and the breading has formed a lovely golden crust, it’s time to put it into a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes.  Don’t cover the pan, don’t poke the chicken, just put it in there and prepare some pasta to go along with the chicken.  The less you mess with the meat, the more tender and juicy it will be.  If you are serving this meal to people who must have their chicken parm smothered in cheese a la most restaurants, wait until the chicken is done cooking, them slice a bit of fresh mozzarella and run the chicken under a broiler until the cheese is melted.  This is a nice finish to the dish, but I didn’t feel it was totally necessary.  I liked it just with the tomato sauce and pasta.  But to each his own. 

Mise en Place not Mise en Mess

Anyone out there watched Worst Cooks in America?  Anyone actually pick a favorite and then sweat it out because your 2 team favorites were pitted against each other?  Ok, well I did.  I was glad to see Rachel win… of course, I’d have been happy with Jen, too though.  Anyway, I learned a lot from the series.  And I had the luxury of learning it curled up on my couch without Anne yelling at me.  

 Readying the pork to pound it out.

On the of the big lessons that the cooks learned with to get their acts together.  By which I mean, know what you need and have it.  Know what to do and do it.  I was a big fan of the episode when after the chefs asked the “recruits” over and over if they had read the recipe and “memorized it, they wiped it off the blackboard.  Nice.  I’m pretty visual, so I could have been ok.  But then, I might have used the wrong apples, too.

Bread crumbs, egg wash, base flour 

I took that lesson to heart and I also listened when I realized that one of the biggest complaints was in reference to seasoning.  Time and time again, the chefs turned away a dish because it was under seasoned.  Which I do believe, would have been my case.  Honestly, I feel that my food is oftentimes a little bland.  Pork Milanese was on my menu for a weeknight dinner.  And I decided to actually put forth the effort to season each layer of my dish.  It turned out so good, that I ate seconds.  And thirds.  

Notice the breading ON the pork, not burning in the pan! 

This recipe is really a simple, pound, bread and fry sort of meal but there was something about the added niftiness of finishing the pork in the oven.  And honestly, I realized that if you season the meat before you bread it, the flavor of the meat itself is much sweeter than if you only season the breading.  And if you dust the meat in flour before you dip it in the egg wash, the egg will stick better thus leading to a more consistent breading coverage.  Perhaps you already knew this.  And maybe I’m the last person on the planet to put this together in my head, but it’s finally there.  For once, I’m making breaded foods that still have the breading on them when I plate.  Small victories people, small victories.

Heaven, perfectly seasoned.